I’ve spent today discussing issues about the transfer to Scotland of responsibility for the regulated Social Fund, focusing on maternity payments and funerals. They have in common an application process obviously designed without users in mind, though in fairness the 15 pages of administrative gobbledegook required for maternity payment pales into insignificance against the monumental 36-page form used for funerals. The core of the problem is a common one in selective benefits: it has too many moving parts. To claim a funeral payment under the existing rules, the form has to find out about the claimant, the claimant’s financial circumstances, the person being buried, the claimant’s relationship to that person, the resources of that person’s estate, and who else might have responsibility for the funeral. There’s no way of asking so many difficult questions without intrusiveness, arbitrary decisions and unfairness.
The way forward may not be through benefits. At root, these needs are both about making resources available, and for funerals in particular there may be other ways of offering resources besides financial ones.