Historic legislation to establish Scotland’s first social security system has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament.
The Social Security (Scotland) Bill will give the Scottish Government the powers to deliver eleven benefits devolved as part of the Scotland Act 2016.
It also provides powers to top up reserved benefits and provides a mechanism to pay a Carer’s Allowance supplement at the earliest opportunity.
Chairperson for the Social Security Committee, Sandra White MSP, agreed with the Social Security Minister, Jeane Freeman, who said it represented a significant milestone in the process of transferring these social security powers safely and securely.
Ms White said:
“This is an extremely important day in both this Parliament’s history but more importantly for Scotland and the history of devolution. The Social Security Bill provides this Government and this Parliament the opportunity to make different choices – and shows that we can create a fairer and more just society when we take matters into our own hands.
“I believe strongly that everyone has a right to social security – so much so that I have put these principles on the very first page of this Bill.
“The core principle that everyone has a right to social security are embedded throughout this Bill – whether it is how entitlement to benefits is determined, a more just review and appeals system, or the Government’s decision to remove the private sector from disability benefit assessments.
“As the First Minister has often repeated, dignity and respect are at the heart of our social security policy – a marked contrast to the approach that the current UK Government is taking, as their unjust welfare cuts continue to cause misery, push more people into poverty and attract international criticism.”
The Social Security (Scotland) Bill is available online
The Bill sets out an over-arching legislative framework for the administration of social security in Scotland, making provision for operational functions such as overpayments, fraud, error, re-determinations and appeals.
It places a duty on the Scottish Ministers to give assistance to persons who are entitled to it and provides a brief description of each type of assistance that Scottish Ministers will give. Secondary legislation will provide detail on what assistance will be available and how the system will work. This will follow once the Bill has been agreed by the Parliament. The legislation is expected to come into force within the current Parliamentary term.
The first social security payments to be delivered by the Scottish Government from summer 2018 will be the increased Carer’s Allowance, followed by the Best Start Grant and the Funeral Expense Assistance from summer 2019.
The full list of the eleven benefits being devolved to Scotland can be viewed on the Scottish Government website. 10 of the 11 devolved benefits, totalling around £2.9 billion of annual payments, will be delivered directly by the new social security agency itself. Discretionary Housing Payments will be delivered by local authorities.