A large number of amendments to the Social Security Bill have been tabled by the Scottish Government, along with a smaller number from opposition parties. The Scottish Government amendments, which are more likely to pass, include:
- a duty to promote takeup
- provisions relating to aid and advocacy
- the constitution and operation of an independent Scottish Social Security Commission, which will scrutinise proposed regulations
- qualification of the provision to allow some benefits to be paid in kind, so that it will be dependent on the consent of the recipient
- clarification of rules for reconsideration (but not, regrettably, the two-stage mandatory reconsideration)
- not reclaiming overpayments from people innocently receiving them,
- rules about appeals, and
- uprating for inflation.
Other constructive amendments from opposition parties are less likely to pass, but they are constructive: they include, amongst other things:
- extension of the general principles to cover the relief of poverty and the protection of rights
- definition of the functions of the Scottish Social Security Agency
- reporting issues
- the power to create new benefits, and
- a duty to inform people about their entitlements.
This doesn’t deal with all the issues I’ve previously raised; I am still concerned about the adoption of the Mandatory Reconsideration, and the lack of reference to alienability or diversion of benefits – but the overpayments rules and the provision for detailed scrutiny are much better. It speaks well of the government that they have listened to many concerns, and of the opposition that the amendments are considered and show an evident desire to make the Bill better.