A historic moment
Last night the Scottish Parliament voted unanimously to pass the Social Security (Scotland) Bill.
This was a historic moment for our Parliament. Not only does it mark the biggest transfer of powers since devolution began, it heralds the first social security system in Scotland and a new public service for the people of Scotland. That is something we should all be very proud of.
We are now responsible for 11 benefits worth around £3.3 billion a year, affecting 1.4 million people. And the Bill has been an opportunity to set up a new service and do things differently – to re-make the system in a way that better fits the ambition we have for ourselves as a Parliament, and for our country. Our shared ambition to live with dignity, fairness and respect.
Over the last two years thousands of people have contributed to this legislation. Since the formal consultation began in July 2016, right up until the final days before last night’s vote, we have been listening to people who have lived through the current system and the stakeholders who represent them.
Their input – your input – has made this a stronger Bill and your contribution has helped make better legislation, and I thank you for all you have done.
It will be rights based, with a right to independent advocacy for those who need it; fast-tracked arrangements and no arbitrary timescale for people with terminal illness; the right to have a supporter and the right to challenge decisions without having your money cut.
For many this may feel like end of the process. We will now continue the work that’s already underway to create a social security service and what matters for the people – the delivery of benefits.
We will start later this year by investing over £30 million per year, to benefit over 70,000 carers, as we start paying our Carers Supplement taking it to the same level as Job Seekers Allowance – a 13% increase. Next year will see the introduction of the new Young Carer Grant – a £300 annual payment for young adults with significant caring responsibilities who do not qualify for Carer’s Allowance
Also in 2019, we will start delivery of the Best Start Grant delivered to low income parents across Scotland – a much improved version of the current system. We will pay a one-off £600 grant for the first birth of a child in low income families and provide two further £250 payments in the early years of a child’s life. We don’t do caps on our future generations so we are reintroducing grants of £300 for further children.
Next year will also see the first Funeral Expense Assistance delivered to people. We will simplify the access people have to gain the financial support they need to pay for a funeral. And we have increased the eligibility so we can reach more people.
And we have started recruiting the first of the staff that will deliver those benefits. When fully operational, our new agency, Social Security Scotland, will have created 1,900 new jobs across Dundee, Glasgow and local communities across Scotland.
So we are very close to the point where our new Scottish social security system will be in action, and the ways in which it will be different will be clear.
Under the new system, social security will be recognised as a human right and there will be an independent scrutiny body to ensure the system protects people’s rights.
The passing of this bill provides the foundation for our new social security service, built on dignity, fairness and respect. And now we are building a social security service that will meet the needs and the ambitions of Scotland. And one we can all be proud of.