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CAS "disappointed and bewildered" by UK Government response to Smith

22 Jan 2015

Commenting on the publication today of ‘Scotland in the United Kingdom: An enduring settlement’ by the UK Government, following the Smith Commission recommendations, Citizens Advice Scotland’s Chief Executive Margaret Lynch said:

“It was clear that following the referendum that all parties recognised the need for change, and despite the short timescales, organisation and individuals were energised about the chance they had to take part in the Smith Commission  - as was seen by the huge number of submissions received.

“CAS went into this process excited about the chance to influence policy on behalf of our clients and to ensure some areas of policy and power had the opportunity to be more responsive, fair and equitable for the people of Scotland. We welcomed the Smith Commission recommendations and since they were published have looked to how the transfer and transition of power can be done in the best interests of the people of Scotland.

“There is much to be welcomed today. A transfer of powers over some benefits which I hope will mean the Scottish Government can set up new processes and practices that will deliver a more responsive and fair system of benefits for people. I also welcome the joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare to oversee the transition of these powers. Communication on these areas between the governments and with stakeholders will be critical in the months ahead. For these reasons the joint arrangements for the oversight of DWP development and delivery of Universal Credit between both governments is to be commended.

“However I am deeply disappointed that the paper states that the migration from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independent Payments (PIP) will continue under current timescales and process[1]. As CAS has already outlined, we believe the migration for current claimants should be halted. This is not possible under this legislation. I have to question why the intransigence and why the door has not been left open for discussions on this important matter.

“To put up to 190,000 people in Scotland through two benefit upheavals is both uncaring and reckless. I am concerned that the real reasons behind the forced transition is to reduce the benefit pot before it is transferred to the Scottish Parliament – just as was done with the social fund previously[2].

“I’m also left bewildered that the Smith recommendations stated ‘The Scottish Parliament will have new powers to create new benefits in areas of devolved responsibility’ yet the draft legislation seems to have changed this to be within ‘areas of welfare responsibility that are devolved’[3]. Therefore the powers that are being made available to the Scottish Government are those already outlined as being transferred from the UK Government such as such as benefits for carers and disabled people, social fund payments, cold weather payments, and DHP. This effectively ensures that the Scottish Government can do little more than mirror the welfare provision determined by the UK Government.

“The Smith Commission led us to believe the Scottish Government could craft its own welfare system, outside of Universal Credit, taking into account the needs of Scotland. It seems now that offer has been withdrawn.”

The CAS call for the migration of DLA to PIP can be found here.

 [1] Section 4.3.2 states 'However until such time as devolution has taken place and the Scottish Parliament and Government have put in place any new arrangements, claimants in Scotland, like those in the rest of GB, will continue to receive support through either DLA or PIP in accordance with existing legislation and plans.'

[2] In the CAS submission to the Smith Commission, we stated ‘We also firmly believe that any areas that are to be devolved must be alongside the correct funding to allow for those powers to be established and then run. We do not want to see a situation like that of the devolution of the council tax reduction and the social fund which came with effective cuts at the point of devolution’.

[3] Section 4.3.10

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