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.