Scottish Parliament to assume powers on social security and employability

Regulations laid at Westminster today will begin the transfer of powers to enable the Scottish Parliament to start legislating on social security and employability.

The powers will include the ability to implement new arrangements to support people in receipt of benefits to be devolved, and the long term unemployed, including those with disabilities and health conditions.

The transfer gives the Scottish government the power to start the process of implementing these changes over a number of years, including bringing forward the necessary legislation.

The regulations being made today set out a timetable for the transfer to Holyrood of a number of welfare powers, including the ability to:

  • Create new benefits in devolved areas
  • Top up reserved benefits (such Universal Credit, Tax Credits and Child Benefit)
  • Make discretionary payments and assistance
  • Change employment support
  • Make changes to Universal Credit for the costs of rented accommodation
  • Make changes to Universal Credit on the timing of payments and recipients
  • Make discretionary housing payments
  • The majority of these powers will be in place when MSPs return to Holyrood in September after their summer break. Discretionary housing payments will transfer on 1 April 2017.

    The timescale for implementation will also start from 1 April 2017, when the first employment support schemes will start operating.

    For social security, the regulations transfer the powers to create new benefits or top up existing ones. The transfer of powers over benefits currently being paid to people in Scotland will be at a later stage.

    Once all of the powers are transferred the Scottish government will have control of 15 per cent of current social security spend in Scotland, including the support given to disabled people and carers, and the ability to introduce new benefit payments.

    David Mundell
    David Mundell

    Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, said: “The Scotland Act 2016, which delivered the Smith Commission recommendations in full, makes the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved legislatures in the world.

    “The transfer of a range of welfare powers is a key milestone in giving the Scottish Parliament the ability, for the first time, to legislate on benefits and create a welfare system tailored to local needs. This includes the ability to create entirely new welfare benefits – a very significant new power, and I look forward to seeing how the Scottish Government will use this.

    “Crucially, these powers are being transferred while maintaining for people in Scotland the benefits of being part of a United Kingdom. Scotland has two governments, each with different but complementary responsibilities, and it is vital that we continue to work closely together in the national interest.”

    Economy Secretary Keith Brown said: “The Scotland Act is the most substantial change to the powers of the Parliament since devolution and, while we are already working to use these powers as quickly as possible to improve people’s lives in Scotland, we are well aware of the scale of this task and our top priority is the safe and secure transfer of these powers to ensure anyone in receipt of benefits receives the right payment at the right time.

    “We will work closely with Westminster ministers to ensure the transfer of these powers takes place as smoothly and as quickly as possible. This is the start of a process and these changes will be implemented on a phased basis over the coming years.

    “New powers on employability are among the most exciting of the new areas to be devolved as it gives Scotland the chance to create services that help long term unemployed Scots find work and stay in work.

    “We want to build a fairer social security system that supports the vulnerable in society and treats people with dignity and respect.

    “Devolving powers over Discretionary Housing Payments will allow us to have full control over the funding allocation for Scotland, in addition to the funding we are already providing to mitigate fully the negative impact of the bedroom tax.

    “We have already committed to extending winter fuel payments to families with severely disabled children and reform assessments for disability benefits.

    “While the Scotland Act does not go as far as we would wish, we will always use all the powers available to us in the best interests of Scotland.”

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