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Human rights at heart of new Scottish social security system

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Human rights will be an integral part of Scotland's new social security system

Scotland’s new welfare system could become a model for progressive nations, campaigners have claimed.

It comes as the Scottish Government published its consultation on a Scottish social security system following powers transferred as a result of the Scotland Act last year.

The paper makes clear that social security should become a human right and that every person entitled to benefits will be treated fairly under the new system.

Two of the major concessions are that Universal Credit payments will be fortnightly instead of monthly and that rent payments will go directly to landlords.

And women’s groups welcomed plans for the splitting of Universal Credit payments, to prevent imbalances of power in abusive relationships.

Jeane Freeman, Scotland’s social security minister, told MSPs: “There was clear support for our commitment to a rights based approach and continuing Scotland’s longstanding tradition of support for human rights, which is why we will enshrine these principles in the new system’s legislation.

“We are taking this further by including a charter within the bill – it strengthens our guarantee by going beyond warm words and creating a binding contract between the system and the people who use it.

“I will also announce further details on our experience panels in the next few weeks, and these will see us work with people who use the current system to design, build and refine a new and better model.”

Bill Scott, director of policy at Inclusion Scotland, said: “Inclusion Scotland very much welcomes the Scottish Government’s recognition that entitlement to social security is a human right.

“The Scottish Government is certainly talking the talk - the next four years will show whether they can also walk the walk.

Layla Theiner, from Disability Agenda Scotland (DAS), added: “We welcome the statement. The analysis of the consultation has highlighted the importance of, and overwhelming support, for a human rights based approach to benefits, and key areas for improvement.”

Engender and Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA) called for the Scottish Government to use its newly acquired devolved powers over welfare to offer individual payments of Universal Credit.

The Scottish Government is certainly talking the talk - Bill Scott

Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of SWA, said the plans to split payments for households with abusive partners was a progressive move that would help women greatly.

“Research suggests that 89% of all women who are abused by a partner, experience financial abuse as part of domestic abuse.

“By deciding not to endorse UK government policy measures such as the single household payment for Universal Credit the Scottish Government is supporting women’s financial independence and will reduce the ability of perpetrators of domestic abuse to control their partners and their children,” she said.

Dr Jim McCormick of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation will chair an advisory group of experts on disability and carers’ benefits.

He said: “Devolution of key disability and carer benefits marks a significant change for Scotland. Ensuring the process is safe and secure for the many people who rely on these payments now, and who will claim them in future, is the first priority. We will need a system that raises take-up, reduces poverty and significantly improves communication.

“I am delighted the social security minister has asked me to chair this independent advisory group which will work for the duration of this parliament. It will draw on many types of expertise, with the diverse experiences of disabled people and carers as its consistent core."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “We are devolving significant new welfare powers to the Scottish Government, and we will continue to work together to ensure that devolution works for the people of Scotland and the UK.”