A new ‘Social Security Agency’ is to be set up to administer the delivery of newly devolved benefits in Scotland, the Scottish Government has announced today (Tuesday).
Scottish ministers say they remain committed to the introduction of a Social Security Bill in 2016-17, which includes the creation of a new benefits agency to oversee the administration of devolved benefits outlined in the Scotland Bill.
The Scottish Government has already reiterated its intention to ensure that dignity and respect is at the heart of how the new agency works, including a more rounded assessment of people’s needs and the streamlining of administrative processes.
Responsibility for over 11 existing social security benefits is being devolved to the Scottish Parliament, including Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Carer’s Allowance, and a number of other benefits such as Sure Start Maternity Grants and Cold Weather Payments.
The Scottish Government will also receive new powers to top-up and create completely new benefits through the Scotland Bill, as well as the flexibility to alter the way Universal Credit is paid by the Department of Work and Pensions.
Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil has confirmed the Scottish Government’s intention to abolish the UK Government’s hated ‘bedroom tax’, which is currently being challenged by disabled people at the Supreme Court in London.
Those who look after elderly and disabled loved-ones can look forward to Carer’s Allowance being increased to the same level as Jobseeker’s Allowance, while Universal Credit claimants will be given the opportunity to ask for payments to be made twice-monthly, rather than monthly, and rent paid directly to social landlords.
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.”