Consultation begins into Scotland’s own social security system

Angela Constance 2
Angela Constance

The Scottish Government is to launch a consultation giving people the chance to help shape the country’s first ever social security system.

A 13 week consultation was launched this morning looking for views on the benefits being devolved to Scotland, as well as how they are delivered.

The process of transferring power, for the Scottish Parliament to make legislation in relation to a limited number of benefits, including disability and carers payments, passed an important milestone this month when regulations were laid at Westminster to begin the transfer.

The Scottish Government is now a step closer to bringing forward its own social security legislation, to implement these changes over a number of years.

Once fully devolved, these social security powers will account for around £2.7 billion, or 15 per cent of the total Scottish benefit bill. The remainder of benefit spending in Scotland will remain under control of the UK government.

To mark the launch of the consultation, social security secretary Angela Constance and minister for social security Jeane Freeman this morning visited the Macmillan Hub at the Pearce Institute in Govan, where people living with cancer can access benefits advice and support.

They met with staff and service users to hear about their own experiences and what they would like to see from a future Scottish social security system.

Ms Constance said: “We are already working to use these powers as quickly as possible to improve people’s lives in Scotland, and the launch of this consultation is an important step in this process.

“We have already committed to a number of measures that will benefit people in Scotland, including increasing Carer’s Allowance to the level of Jobseeker’s Allowance, and replacing the Sure Start Maternity Grant with an expanded Maternity and Early Years Allowance (now called the Best Start Grant).

“However, we want to gather views from as many people as possible from across Scotland about their own experience of benefits, and how they think the system could be improved in the future.

“While the Scotland Act does not go as far as we would wish in devolving powers – leaving 85 per cent of benefit spending in the hands of the UK government - we will always use all of the powers available to us in the best interests of Scotland.”

Ms Freeman said: “We want to build a fairer social security system that treats people with dignity and respect.

“We have already committed to bringing forward Scotland’s first social security bill before the end of the first year of this Parliament, and evidence gathered during this consultation process will inform the development and drafting of the bill.

“We are well aware of the scale of this task and the handover of powers to deliver these benefits is of a level not seen in Scotland before.

“The Scottish Government has committed to consulting as widely as possible, and I want to make sure we hear from those people who have experience of receiving the benefits which are being devolved.

“It is important that we gather views from as wide a range of people as possible in order to help shape the future of social security in Scotland.”

Macmillan’s senior partnerships manager Trisha Hatt added: “Being diagnosed with cancer brings financial problems for 80 per cent of Scots. Too many tell us that navigating the benefits system is extremely difficult.

“This is why we have set up benefits advice services across Scotland and why we’re grateful the Scottish Government has funded our benefits advice services in the five cancer centres.

“We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to make sure the new welfare system is as fair and efficient as possible and works very closely with the health service to ensure no patient misses out on vital financial support or faces unnecessary delays.”

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