Date lodged: 18 January 2017
To ask the Scottish Government how it plans to use new social security powers that have been devolved.
Answered by: Jeane Freeman 30 January 2017
The Scottish Government has always been clear that we will use our new powers to build a fairer social security system, founded on the principles of dignity, fairness and respect. We have already set out some of the steps that we will take to achieve this. For example:-
We will introduce a new Best Start Grant which will extend support for qualifying families, from the £500 payable only for the first child under the existing UK Government Sure Start Maternity Grant to £1,100 for the first child and £800 for second and subsequent children over the term of the benefit;
We will effectively abolish the UKG’s punitive bedroom tax in Scotland as soon as we can;
We will extend Winter Fuel Payments to families with severely disabled children; and
We will use our limited powers over Universal Credit to offer Scottish claimants a choice over how often they receive their payments and if their rent is paid direct to their social landlord.
In terms of immediate next steps - in the coming weeks, we will publish the independent analysis report on our social security consultation and provide a Scottish Government response to the main findings.
We will launch our recruitment drive for the ‘Experience Panels’, to involve at least 2,000 people who have recent experience of receiving benefits in helping to design and test the new system to ensure it works for them.
And, we have published our consultation on the Universal Credit (Claims and Payments) (Scotland) Regulations, to seek people's views on how we might best use the important flexibilities available to us - on the frequency of payments and direct payments to landlords - to make sure that the delivery of Universal Credit in Scotland will be better suited to meet the needs of the people of Scotland.
In all of this work, our overriding priority is to ensure the safe and secure transfer of benefits to those who receive them and to ensure that no-one slips through the net or misses a payment.
This is something that many stakeholders have stressed to us - it is much more important to have a safe and secure transition over a periods of years, than to risk failure by adhering to arbitrary, politically driven timescales.