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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Smith: hopes dashed over welfare

This news post is over 7 years old
 

Welfare campaigners attack report's failure to devolve welfare

Disabled groups and anti-poverty campaigners believe Lord Smith has missed an opportunity to make Scotland a fairer and more equal society.

Leading charities Child Poverty Action Group and Inclusion Scotland expressed disappointment at the Smith Commission’s failure to cede control of welfare powers to Scotland.

Key levers for tackling poverty, including the national minimum wage, child benefit and wider economic and fiscal powers, are to remain at Westminster, despite leading charities arguing for control to be given to Scotland.

The report, however, states that Scotland should be given powers to create new benefits in devolved areas and make discretionary payments in any area of welfare.

A range of other benefits that support older people, carers, disabled people and those who are ill should also be fully devolved – namely attendance allowance, personal independence payments and the disability living allowance.

John Dickie, head of CPAG Scotland, said the devil will be in the detail on the potential benefits and risks of devolution.

“The commitment that any new benefits must provide additional income and not result in reduction in entitlement to reserved benefits will be crucial to ensuring additional support is not lost through means-testing of carers’ and disabled peoples’ UK benefits,” he said, adding that "Scottish benefits must still act as a passport to extra entitlements within reserved means-tested benefits."

Dickie welcomed specific recommendations that the Scottish Government will be given administrative powers over universal credit payment options and the power to vary the housing costs element of the new UK benefit.

Hopes have been dashed - Bill Scott

However, Inclusion Scotland, the disability rights organisations, said it was particularly disappointed that the commission’s failed to recommend that control over the notorious Work Capability Assessment regime and benefit sanctions had not been passed to the Scottish Government.

Bill Scott, the charity’s director of policy, hit out: “Hundreds of thousands of disabled people have been wrongly deprived of their benefits by being classed as fit for work when that was simply not the case.

“They have then found themselves forced to sign on at the Job Centre where they have been unfairly and disproportionately subjected to benefit sanctions that have deprived them of the means to survive.

“Disabled people told us about the misery of assessments and sanctions and their hopes that these could be ended but those hopes have been dashed.

As for all the other recommendations we’ll have to wait and see what happens then we’ll know whether the glass is half full or half empty.”

Earflier the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) criticised the report as tepid, saying it ignored dozens of third sector groups calling for full control of welfare to stave off the worst effects of Westminster austerity policies.

 

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