We are building a system based on people’s human rights, not just what’s right for the system
A recent Appeal Court ruling that dismissed the case of Jayson Carmichael, who cannot share a bedroom with his wife Jacqueline due to her severe health issues, is yet another example of the UK Government putting barriers in the way of disabled people.
Mr and Mrs Carmichael, from Merseyside, have been fighting their case against the DWP since 2014. Despite Mrs Carmichael’s disabilities, the DWP continued to charge the couple bedroom tax for what they saw as the under-occupancy of the couple’s second bedroom. The couple rightly challenged this as a breach of their human rights.
Both the First Tier Tribunal and then the Supreme Court found in favour of Mr and Mrs Carmichael, stating that it was unjustified, discriminatory and ultimately a breach of human rights to force them to pay the bedroom tax.
And yet, despite these rulings, the DWP decided to appeal, ignoring the couple’s human rights so they could push ahead with their damaging welfare cuts agenda. An agenda that has been described by the United Nations as a “grave and systematic violation of human rights” for those with disabilities.
In Scotland, we are of course fully mitigating the damaging and unnecessary bedroom tax at a cost of £50 million per year. In 80% of cases where the bedroom tax is applied, it affects a disabled person.
Scotland is now only months away from having its own social security service, one built with dignity, fairness and respect at its core. Ours will be a rights based system and with human rights embedded in our founding legislation.
More than half a million people in Scotland are in receipt of the main disability benefits that will be devolved. Every single one contributes to their family, their community and their society. But so many face unnecessary barriers in their daily lives. Barriers that don’t need to be there and barriers we need to remove. Governments should help to do that, not put more in the path of disabled people. We have listened and worked with people who are living this experience day in, day out. Instead of forcing people to fit into a poorly designed system, our system will have the individual at its core.
Take assessments as an example. Under our new system no-one in Scotland will be forced to have an assessment carried out by a private company. Where we can, we will use existing information we have about a person to support our decisions, and we are exploring the introduction of long-term awards and automatic entitlement for those with severe conditions. Our approach will be fairer, more dignified and more person centred than the current one.
And we in government will be subject to scrutiny on how well we match our actions to our words. The new Scottish Commission on Social Security will have a legal duty to look at anything a Scottish Government proposes and check that it complies with human rights and standards. That is so very different from the UK Government. Here in Scotland, Scottish Ministers will be held to account for meeting our human rights obligations.
We believe Scotland is at its best when equal rights are secured for everyone living here and the creation of a new social security service is an important part of that. But we are acting now in other areas, we are committing a further £50 million in Discretionary Housing Payments in the next financial year to protect people in low income households affected by UK Government welfare cuts.
We will always put people at the heart of how we design and deliver social security in Scotland – it is an investment to create that safety net for all of us, there when we need it.