History made as the Scottish Parliament passes landmark Social Security Bill, improved by cross-party co-operation

Last Wednesday the Scottish Parliament passed the Social Security Bill which gives power over many disability and carers benefits as well as some aspects of Universal Credit. It was a marathon debate with over 120 amendments. One of the really good things about the Scottish Parliament’s modern systems is that you can have many more votes. Unlike the House of Commons where each vote means 15 minutes of queuing, at Holyrood, it’s a second of button pushing. This has meant a much more wide-ranging debate. To the SNP Government’s credit, Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman engaged with the opposition parties and not only listened to what they had to say but took it on board as well.

One particular issue was the issue of terminal illness. At the moment, to access benefits if you are terminally ill, you have to have six months or less to live. In a move even supported by the Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament, there will be no limit.

The Liberal Democrats have no representation on the Social Security Committee, but worked with Green and Labour MSPs to ensure that there will be no unnecessary disability benefit assessments, and for those that have to take place, the person involved will have a say in when and where they should take place.

Unlike south of the border, the Bill provides for the housing element of Universal Credit to be paid directly to the landlord and, as the result of an amendment, to be split between joint claimants in a household. The latter is an important point. If there is domestic abuse in a relationship, there will likely be financial abuse as well, so it is important that everyone has some level of financial independence. That is going to be a difficult one to implement because the DWP will drag its heels. I hope, though, that they will find a way to do this for the whole of the UK.

The DWP also needs to address issues with the direct payment to landlords. At the moment, payments are being delayed. They are aware of the fault but not seeing a sense of urgency about fixing it.

You can read the whole debate here and you can see all the documents related to its passing here.

The passing of the Bill is the beginning, not the end of the story, though. The Scottish Government’s social security agency must have a very different, more compassionate and enabling culture than the Department for Work and Pensions from the start.

This Bill must be used to tackle inequality and poverty and give everyone the chance to get on in life. People need to feel that they are treated with dignity and respect and that the organisations supporting them have confidence in the system. This is the measure against which they must now be judged and there can be no hiding from it.

There are still huge challenges ahead to get the IT infrastructure and skills in place to put these powers to good use.

With a million people in Scotland living in poverty, including one in four children, people are relying on ministers to get this right and they can’t afford for payments to go astray or be delayed.

This is a massive opportunity to show the rest of the UK how a fair social security system can work. This will then create pressure for similar changes across the whole UK.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

5 Comments

  • William Fowler 29th Apr '18 - 1:23pm

    “There are still huge challenges ahead to get the IT infrastructure and skills in place to put these powers to good use.”

    If they actually get one that works properly, they can sell it back to the English govn as they seem to have been running around in circles trying to get theirs working (hence I would guess all the irrational and often stupid bits of implementation). I suspect a small core of competent people rather than the layers of hapless bureacrats would be a step in the right direction.

    Love to see Scotland get full tax and spend powers, show the existing system up for the creaking mess it is.

  • You don’t have to have 6 months or less to live, you must have a pregressive disease which is reasonably expected to cause your passing away in 6 months or less. “Reasonably expected” allows there to be wiggle room. Where many clamour for assessment process to be scrapped and judged on evidence of specialist or GP who knows you best the Special Rules is the closest example to that happening

    Whether it’s still an imperfect policy or not now much improved by the Scottish parties is a separate question, but seems an odd one to bring up regarding cruel DWP practice.

    Good, joined up, work nevertheless.

  • 2nd post:

    Special rules are more cruel in that DWP offices don’t communicate to each other (therefore information has to be gone over again) and that UC seemingly hasn’t the function of uploading it onto the system rather than strictness of 6 months prognosis.

  • That is indeed good news, Caron.

    Now let’s tackle the job of getting rid of all the outsourcing to the likes of ATOS and their successors – and start tackling the issue of social care for the elderly.

  • @ William Fowler ” I suspect a small core of competent people rather than the layers of hapless bureaucrats would be a step in the right direction.”

    It’s good to hear of your expertise, Mr. Fowler, and reassuring to know that you don’t count yourself as a hapless bureaucrat.

    For myself, I would walk 500 miles (bad hip’nall) to give a decent system of Social Security to England and Wales…. and if you stick around long enough you might discover that not everything has to be bought and sold in the market place in the social Liberal world.

    PS After years of NHS Wales bashing by the Tory Party……. how refreshing to learn that NHS Wales leads the way in organ donation, and this week with a safer and more accurate test for Down’s syndrome. The Welsh Health Minister Rebecca Evans has confirmed the Welsh Government has agreed to the introduction of non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) within the antenatal screening .

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User Avatarnigel hunter 24th Aug - 3:14pm
    ECOCIDE----- The policies are a start but this is a World wide concern . I hear that at one time a paragraph was written into...
  • User AvatarNigel Sarbutts 24th Aug - 3:08pm
    Hi Paul Barker, new services from Blackpool to Euston are about start, LNW who operate services on the busiest part of West Coast will increase...
  • User AvatarPeter Hirst 24th Aug - 3:02pm
    We are generally a cautious nation and actions by our politicians are often for political rather than policy reasons. Revoke is the cautious approach as...
  • User Avatarnigel hunter 24th Aug - 3:01pm
    Infrastructure projects are fine as long as the benefit the WHOLE country. Go ahead with HS3 with branches elsewhere. By being forward thinking development in...
  • User AvatarMartin 24th Aug - 2:45pm
    Peter Martin: (Brexiter, unconvincingly claiming to be left wing) Martin Schulz? He resigned in January 2017, then it was Antonio Tajani, but since the new...
  • User AvatarDavid Warren 24th Aug - 2:20pm
    Insert the word 'Labour' after the word 'reasons' in the first line of the second paragraph.
Sat 24th Aug 2019
Thu 29th Aug 2019
Mon 9th Sep 2019