Scottish ministers seek welfare and employability powers

Roseanna Cunningham
Roseanna Cunningham

Scotland’s fair work and social justice ministers are to press UK ministers to fully honour the Smith recommendations on powers over welfare and employability.

Roseanna Cunningham and Alex Neil will be in London today for a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare.

The ministers will be pushing the UK government to devolve further powers and services beyond those currently proposed which they argue do not meet the recommendations or spirit of the Smith Commission.

A key issue on today’s agenda for Scottish ministers is that work must now begin on how best to strengthen Scottish Government involvement in the operation of Job Centre Plus north of the border. The Smith Commission report made clear that although Jobcentre Plus may remain reserved, the UK and Scottish Governments should work together to share services and governance of the network in Scotland.

Ministers will also criticise the UK government for its “inexcusable” welfare cuts as new Scottish Government analysis shows that families in Scotland who rely on tax credits will face nearly £700 million worth of cuts.

Cabinet secretary for fair work, skills and training Roseanna Cunningham said: “This meeting is vitally important as we seek to secure the best deal possible for Scotland.

“The watered down Bill simply doesn’t give us the powers we need to provide seamless employability services to support people into work. It is absolutely essential we start to see some progress to strengthen the Scotland Bill so that it reflects the true spirit of the Smith recommendations.

“We have consistently called for full devolution of all employment services and shared responsibility for Jobcentre Plus. This is absolutely the best way to join up services, deliver the full range of support services which focus on the needs of the individual, and to align Jobcentre Plus with our Scottish approach of fair work, equality and respect for unemployed people in Scotland.

“As we look to develop Scotland’s future employment support services, it is important we agree the principles around shared governance of Jobcentre Plus to ensure effective and seamless delivery of services.

“I look forward to making progress on that and other key issues at today’s meeting - it’s time for the UK government to start delivering what they said they would for the people of Scotland.”

Alex Neil
Alex Neil

Cabinet secretary for social justice Alex Neil said: “We want to work with the UK government to ensure the Scotland Bill, as a minimum, delivers the Smith recommendations in full. It is clear though that the Bill as it stands simply does not go far enough on social security and there are further areas of responsibility that should be devolved.

“We have long pushed for more powers over social security and the potentially catastrophic UK government budget highlights why Scotland needs increased powers over social security and job creation.

“Tax credits can be a lifeline for families on low incomes that rely on them to get through daily life, put food on the table, heat their home and pay their bills. By cutting those credits, households across Scotland will be faced with nearly £700 million cuts and additional worries and stress about caring for their families.

“The independent analysis of the Budget that has been carried out by the IFS and others shows the shocking reality is its measures will lead to an increase in child poverty and push more families into desperate situations. I will be highlighting these concerns at today’s meeting and urging the secretary of state for Scotland to call a halt to the UK government’s inexcusable attack on low-paid families.”

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