Benefits consultation launched
A consultation was launched today as part of the Scottish Government’s continued drive to mitigate against draconian reforms to the benefits system.
The consultation will look at ways of ensuring people in Scotland continue to receive passported benefits – those which are devolved –once the reforms being pursued by the UK government take effect.
Passported benefits are a range of Scottish Government- controlled benefits like free school lunches and concessionary travel which people are eligible for if they receive one or more UK welfare benefit.
The Scottish Government will also consult in the autumn, via a series of stakeholder meetings and policy events, on the immediate changes required to maintain access to passported benefits. These events will take place as soon as the UK Government publishes its full suite of regulations for the new Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment.
The consultation was launched as the Welfare Reform (Further Provision) (Scotland) Bill passed the final stage of the Parliamentary process. The bill was necessary to ensure that passported benefits can continue once the Westminster reforms take effect from April 2013.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said:
“My vision is for a progressive welfare system that reflects our nation’s values and ensures fair and decent support for all our people.
“However, because of the Westminster Government’s reforms to the welfare system, there are challenges ahead for us in ensuring continued access to those who most need the benefits that the Scottish Government does control. The criteria that we currently use to assess eligibility to free school meals and other Scottish Government benefits will no longer be available to us, and we must think afresh.
“We are determined to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure we maintain access to passported benefits for the same groups of people who receive them now. We also have an opportunity to identify where we can deliver these services in more transparent and efficient ways.
“Passported benefits have developed in an ad-hoc manner so I believe the time is ripe to ensure that Scotland has the range of benefits which meets the needs of our people, delivered in ways that make sense to those who receive them.”
Speaking about the passing of the Welfare Reform Bill, Ms Sturgeon said:
“I’m glad that my parliamentary colleagues have voted through these measures, which will help mitigate against the changes being brought in by the UK government, measures which will penalise the most vulnerable in our society. The Scottish Government will continue to do all it can to protect Scots from the impact of these reforms.”
The Scottish Parliament refused legislative consent to the UK Welfare Reform Bill, now a UK Act. This meant that the Welfare Reform (Future Provisions) (Scotland) Bill became necessary to ensure that passported benefits could continue.