Delivering social security to Scotland’s people
Last week we marked the 20th anniversary of the devolution referendum.
In that 1997 referendum vote the majority of people in Scotland made it clear that they wanted decisions that affected them to be made closer to home to meet the needs of our communities and all those who choose to live and work in our country.
No-one has looked back. We now are able to take action on issues that would not have been possible without the Scottish parliament – free personal care, ending tuition fees and prescription charges and investing significantly in our infrastructure with new roads, schools and hospitals all spring to mind. None of this would have been possible without devolution.
So to have more powers devolved, such as social security, means we have more opportunity to support people and across Scotland.
There is no doubt that the new power over eleven benefits that the Scottish Parliament will have devolved to it in this term, means we are dealing with the largest, most complex programme of change in the history of devolution. But it’s also an opportunity to create our own social security with fairness, dignity and respect at its heart.
It is a big task. We are building a brand new public services for Scotland and one where we will make more payments each week than the Scottish Government currently makes in a year. Our top priority, for the one in four of us in receipt of these benefits, is to make sure that people receive the right payments at the right time. And there is one common thread binding it altogether – we are investing in the people of Scotland
We will protect disability benefits and ensure that they remain non-means tested. Private sector providers will not carry out medical assessment for the devolved benefits.
From the summer of 2018, we will increase the Carer’s Allowance to the level of Job Seeker’s Allowance, an investment of more than £30 million per year.
Our Best Start Grant for new families brings a significant increase in financial support with £1100 for the first child over the pre-school years and no limit on the number of children we help.
We will use new powers to reach more of those in need with the Funeral Expense Assistance, making sure people know the support is there and reducing some of the stress that comes from borrowing to pay for the funeral of a loved one.
And we have guaranteed an extension of the Winter Fuel payment to families with severely disabled children.
We are building on four years’ experience of delivering the Scottish Welfare Fund, and using Discretionary Housing Payments – which were devolved earlier this year – to mitigate the Bedroom Tax.
Our new social security services will make payments totalling £2.9 billion every year. It’s a huge and complex task, but with the active involvement of those with and experience of the UK benefit system and the expertise we need from folks on benefits to welfare advisers and others, we are making sure our new public service is built on strong foundations. We have made good progress and the coming months will see us take the next significant steps towards Scotland’s fully devolved social security system. We will deliver – and we will deliver in a way that ensures that people will always come first.