The Expert Working Group on Welfare reports

The Expert Working Group on Welfare was set up by the Scottish Government to examine the future of benefits in an indepndent Scotland.  Independence, the group comments, “provides Scotland with the opportunity to design a social security system afresh”. In that light, their report Rethinking welfare, published today, is disappointing; like many documents considering the prospects for independence, it tries hard not to startle the horses.   The approach they argue for is well-meaning – they want a kinder, gentler system.  However, it is very similar to the pattern of welfare reform  to date:  emphasising the role of benefits in supporting people into work,  treating welfare as a ‘safety net’ and a ‘springboard’ rather than a right of citizenship.  When it comes to details, a lot of the emphasis falls on putting back the clock a few months – stopping sanctions, abolishing the bedroom tax, replacing PIP with another disability benefit.  In the longer term, they suggest movement towards a  single working age benefit, to be called Social Security Allowance.  This is  a rather bad idea: if it’s simple, it will be crude and unfair, and if it’s sensitive to different needs, it will be just as messy and difficult as the present system.

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