A new delivery agency will be set up to administer social security payments worth £2.7 billion when they are devolved to Scotland.
Speaking in the first Scottish Parliament debate on social security since the fiscal framework to transfer welfare powers was agreed, Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil confirmed there will be a phased transition of the administration of powers over the next few years.
As set out in the Programme for Government, Scottish Ministers have already committed to the introduction of a Social Security Bill in the 2016-17 parliamentary session – that bill will establish a new Scottish social security agency to oversee the administration of the devolved benefits.
The Scottish Government has outlined its new social security powers will be founded on treating people with dignity and respect. Mr Neil confirmed this ethos will be at the heart of the agency, which will aim to give a rounded assessment of people’s needs and streamline the administrative process.
The Scottish Government continues to work with stakeholders and recipients of social security to identify the most appropriate means of administering and paying benefits, and to identify priorities for reform.
Through the Scotland Bill the Scottish Government will receive powers over 11 existing disability and caring benefits including Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Carers Allowance as well as control over funeral payments, Sure Start Maternity grants and cold weather and winter fuel payments.
It will also receive the power to top-up and create new benefits through the Scotland Bill and will have several flexibilities to alter the way in which Universal Credit is paid by Department for Work and Pensions.
The Scottish Government has already confirmed it will use its new powers to:
- Increase Carer’s Allowance to the same rate as Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Abolish the bedroom tax
- Introduce flexibilities around how Universal Credit is paid including giving people choice to be paid twice monthly, and direct payments to social landlords
- Scrap the 84 day rule which removes income from the families of disabled children.
Mr Neil said:
The transfer of some limited responsibility for social security to the Scottish Parliament gives us a real opportunity to transform the service people receive and to provide the protection and support that individuals need.
The Scottish Government has already set out our intention to support carers by increasing the Carer’s Allowance to the same level as Jobseeker’s Allowance. We will abolish the bedroom tax at the earliest opportunity and we will support those on Universal Credit by introducing new flexibilities on how it is paid.
In taking on responsibility for social security payments our priority is to ensure that everyone receives the payments they are entitled to, when they are entitled to them.
Our new Scottish social security agency will be the flagship organisation that oversees the delivery of benefits in Scotland. It will be underpinned by our commitment to principles that will treat people with dignity and respect. We want to take a fairer approach to social security that tackles inequalities.
Our aim is to ensure that social security delivery is accessible and commands the confidence of users by being cost effective and well-managed. Longer term, this agency will also ensure that services are aligned and work together for the benefit of the people of Scotland.
Our immediate priority is to make sure there is a smooth transfer of these benefits and that households continue to receive them on time and in the right amount.
We have already carried out extensive consultation and discussions with service users and stakeholders and we will continue that work as we develop our policy approach to the delivery of our new benefits.