Some snippets on the Scottish variations in benefit rules

I have spent a little time this week preparing for an evidence session of the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, which was reviewing the development of social security in Scotland.  The hearing, scheduled for next Tuesday, has now been cancelled, because everyone is currently more concerned with High Politics; the process may resume in due course, or it may not.

I’d been focusing on the back half of the committee’s remit, which was concerned with the relationship between the Scottish system and the UK system.  In the process, I’ve spoken with people from a range of organisations, including the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, Glasgow Welfare Rights, Citizens Advice Scotland, Clydebank Independent Resource Centre, Child Poverty Action Group and One Parent Families Scotland.  I’ve also seen the written submissions from Inclusion Scotland, Poverty Alliance and the Scottish Campaign on Rights to Social Security: the written submissions should be published more generally  shortly, but publication has to be approved by the Committee first.  Thanks to you all.  I also found a SPICE paper, on administrative costs and relationships with the DWP, particularly helpful.

There have been very positive things said about a couple of the new benefits that rely heavily on the cooperation of the DWP, particularly the Carers Allowance Supplement and the Best Start Grant.  There are more reservations about the operation of variations in Universal Credit, partly because the system from direct payment of rent to landlords isn’t adequately integrated,  and because there seems to be some hesitation about applications.  That may reflect advice from housing associations, and there have been some problems with some rent being paid monthly while income is bi-monthly; but I’d guess that it may also be because bi-monthly payments don’t get over the outstanding problems of an unpredictable, fluctuating level of benefit.

Additional note, 30th October: I have just received notice that, following the announcement of a General Election, the Committee’s review of the Scottish social security system will not now take place.

One thought on “Some snippets on the Scottish variations in benefit rules”

  1. Pity the meeting was postponed. The Scottish benefits devolution process is very complex and one aspect which probably hasn’t been looked at properly is the UK/Scottish interaction. Many of the key issues on this are being discussed via the Joint Ministerial Group which means that any parliamentary and expert scrutiny is taking place after the fact? Any hopes that the Scottish system could be significantly different (eg different types of disability benefit, different rates etc) seem to have been quashed from the outset. We will have Scottish versions of PIP etc but there will be subtle differences and a better assessment process etc – seems good but it’s all a bit “soft” and hard to define in terms of outcomes? Entitlement to Scottish passported benefits will be dependent on uptake of DWP primary benefits. Scot Gov (and SS Act) only talks in terms of encouraging take up of the Scottish benefits, leaving it to local authorities and third sector to encourage “take up”. Only time will tell whether the effort and expense will prove worthwhile at a time when all constitutional possibilities are in flux.

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