The SNP has hailed a “historic moment” for social security in Scotland, as the Scottish Government laid out its timetable for the delivery of all devolved benefits.
From 1st April next year (2020), the Scottish Government will take full responsibility for the remaining devolved benefits and Social Security Scotland.
By the end of 2021, the Scottish Government will be delivering new claims for all Disability and Carer’s Assistance, and supporting families with their winter fuel bills.
Social Security Scotland made its first payments in September 2018, delivering the Carer’s Allowance Supplement, which has paid out over £33 million to more than 77,000 carers, and the Best Start Grant, which has put £2.7 million into the pockets of more than 7,000 families in just its first two months.
Commenting, Bob Doris MSP said: “With almost daily reports of the impact of cuts to welfare at Westminster, last year’s Social Security Act was a golden opportunity to develop a social security system with dignity, fairness and respect at its heart.
“The SNP in government has grasped this opportunity with both hands, successfully delivering the Carers Allowance Supplement and the first Best Start Grant payments ahead of schedule, and with further benefits to be rolled out this year.
“I am delighted to see that claims for disability and carer benefits will start next year and the transfer of cases will begin following that. Within 2 years, Social Security Scotland will have made over £210 million in benefit payments.
“The SNP has always been clear that our ambition is a person-centred approach, which puts the needs of the people of Scotland first.
“So I was particularly pleased to see the government has prioritised the protection of people and their payments, and ruled out reassessments and reapplications when cases begin their transfer from the DWP.
“While the majority of social security powers remain reserved to Westminster, we’re determined to use our powers to make the system fairer where we can, get decisions right first-time, and build a system that the people of Scotland can rely on and be proud of.
“In stark contrast to the UK Government’s approach to welfare – which has been described by the UN as ‘punitive, mean-spirited and often callous’ – we are determined to do things differently here in Scotland; building a social security system that works for people, not against them.
“The creation of Social Security Scotland and the progress made in such a short time only goes to show that with new powers, Scotland can follow a path which is better than the old Westminster way of cuts and austerity.”
However, opposition leaders criticised the decision to delay taking full control over 11 social security benefits until 2024, during which time they will continue to be managed by the DWP.
Scottish Conservatives welfare spokeswoman Michelle Ballantyne accused the Scottish government of “utter hypocrisy”.
She added: “For two years, the SNP has slammed the DWP, you have used highly charged language on the UK Government’s administration of benefits, you have raised expectations and promised the earth to some of Scotland’s most vulnerable people.
“And after repeated promises that the new system would be up and running by the end of this Parliament, we now learn that it will be 2024 before PIP’s successor is in place.
“And this is from the party that said it could set up an independent country in 18 months.
“Can the minister not see that this is deeply embarrassing? She must apologise to the Scottish DWP staff she has repeatedly denigrated”.
Scottish Labour social security spokesman Mark Griffin said: “The SNP Government has left vulnerable people at the mercy of the callous DWP and the Tories for far too long already.
“Delaying full control of the powers until 2024 is a betrayal of vulnerable people who were told the Scottish Government would assume responsibility within this parliamentary term.”
He added: ““It also makes a mockery of SNP promises in 2014 that a separate Scottish state could be set up within 18 months – vulnerable people will have been waiting a decade for the devolution of social security powers.”
Last updated at 17:10 (GMT) on February 28th to include comments from the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour.