Future provision of social security in Scotland should be primarily about ‘preserving the dignity and respect of benefit claimants’, say MSPs.
A new report published by the Scottish Welfare Reform Committee, set up to monitor the impact of welfare reform and other social security legislation, says a ‘huge cultural shift’ will be required if Scotland is to create a fairer and better welfare system.
The report says people on benefits should be treated ‘similar to the way people are normally treated if they need to use the NHS’.
MSPs have been examining proposals for the devolution of certain welfare powers to the Scottish Government, in parallel with the UK Parliament’s consideration of the Scotland Bill.
However, the Committee says strong leadership will be required to create a more compassionate social security system in Scotland, from both the Department of Work and Pensions and the Scottish Government.
The report recommends the ‘introduction of long-term Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment for people with severe, long-term disability or illness’.
Carer’s Allowance should also be increased to the same amount paid in Jobseeker’s Allowance, whilst the housing element of Universal Credit should be paid fortnightly directly to landlords.
The Committee has also recommended the immediate abolition of the so-called ‘bedroom tax’, the worst effects of which are currently being mitigated by the Scottish Government.
Hugh Henry MSP, Convener of the Welfare Reform Committee, said: “For three years, our committee has heard evidence of the devastating impact of welfare reform, from the ever-growing reliance on food banks to working parents having to choose between heating their homes and feeding their children.
“Creating a better social security system for Scotland will probably be one of the biggest tasks facing Scotland over the next decade and it’s important that we get it right. This is not about party politics but people.”
Clare Adamson MSP, Deputy Convener of the Welfare Reform Committee, said: “We need to move away from the negative stereotyping of benefits recipients as ‘skivers’ and design a system of social security that places the dignity and human rights of service users at its heart.
“Our report underlines the key principles that we consider should be included in the delivery of social security in Scotland.”