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Evidence on the Social Security (Scotland) Bill

Scottish Parliament Social Security Committee call for evidence

 In 2016/17, Scotland’s CAB network provided advice on 94,301 new issues relating to the benefits being devolved, representing 37% of benefits advice given, or 16% of all advice given by Scotland’s citizens advice bureaux in that year. CAS has provided a substantial body of evidence based on CAB clients and advisers’ daily experiences of engaging with the current system, together with their priorities for the new Scottish system.We look forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government to ensure the new system is fair, equal and responsive with Scotland’s citizens at the heart of it.

Key points

  • CAS believes there are a number of areas that could be included on the face of the Bill as opposed to being left to Regulations and guidance. Examples of this include details of the complaints and redress process for the new system; details of common residency requirements for the new system; further details of how decisions are communicated to them; and details of peoples’ right to access independent advice and advocacy.

  • Given the level of detailed scrutiny of Regulations required, and the importance of these, CAS would recommend that an equivalent body (or bodies) to the existing UK Social Security Advisory Committee should be an essential feature of the new system.

  • The system of redeterminations and appeals could be improved by making it one seamless process from the perspective of the claimant. In our view, the best way to do this is to have the review decision passed directly from the Agency to the Scottish Tribunals Service, rather than the claimant having to lodge an appeal themselves.

  • CAS believes that the Bill should include a duty on Scottish Ministers to make provision for access to free, confidential and independent benefits advice. Additionally, the Ministers should also be required to ensure that the advice sector is adequately resourced to provide any advice needed through this provision. This would help support people to understand and secure their rights in the new system, and to maximise take-up of the devolved benefits.

  • The Bill would appear to make provision for overpayments as a result of an error by the Scottish Social Security Agency to be repaid by the claimant, which is of concern to CAS. Where the error was made by the Agency, and has led to an underpayment or an overpayment the Agency should pay the claimant any underpayment or backdate the payments accordingly, and the claimant should not be required to repay the overpaid benefit.

  • Whilst CAS agrees that people are offered the option of direct deductions from benefit to repay debt, we recommend that they should not be deducted at more than 10% of their total benefit entitlement.

  • Whilst CAS agrees that the new social security system should offer the option of providing goods or cash, we would be supportive of clarification within the Bill that people will always be given a choice of cash payments, even if an in-kind option is offered.

  • A common system for uprating the values of devolved benefits may be an area more suitable for the face of the Bill than in regulations.CAS would recommend devolved benefits are uprated in line with inflation as measured by the Retail Prices Index (RPI) as a base, with additional uprating based on the annual increase in particular costs that the benefit is intended to meet the cost of.
Rob Gowans
Publication date
August 2017
Publication type
Number of pages