In Scotland, social security is the assistance provided by the Scottish Government to those in financial need, including disability benefits, carer’s allowance, and child payments. The Scottish Government has control over welfare policies and has introduced its own schemes and benefits.
Devolved areas like housing and social care are under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Parliament, leading to the creation of Social Security Scotland to manage devolved benefits. The Scotland Act 2016 granted additional powers to the Scottish Parliament to develop new policies addressing inequality and poverty through social security.
Powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament:
The Scottish Government has now the power to create new benefits and make changes to the existing one, but it cannot reduce the amount of any UK benefits that have already been paid. It has pledged to create a new social security system that is fairer and more compassionate than the UK wide system, hence it focuses on dignity, respect and human rights.
Most common benefits devolved to the Scottish Parliament include:
- Scottish Child Payment: financial benefits that provide support to families with children under the age of six.
- Best Start Grant: a set of three payments for families on low incomes who are expecting a child or have a child under the age of six.
- Funeral Support Payment: financial assistance to cover the costs of a funeral.
- Carer’s Allowance Supplement: top-up payment for people in Scotland who receive Carer’s Allowance from the government.
- Disability Assistance: replacement of the Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independent Payment and Attendance Allowance.
Powers reserved by the UK Parliament:
The UK Government Department for Work and Pensions is responsible for administering most of the social security benefits in Scotland, not including those devolved to the Scottish Government. It includes the benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance, Universal Credit or Jobseeker’s Allowance.
The DWP is still responsible for, among others:
- Assessing eligibility for benefits: whether individuals meet the criteria for benefits such as those aforementioned.
- Making benefits payments.
- Enforcing benefits conditions: ensuring that individuals still attend appointments or actively look for work.
- Managing appeals and disputes.
What Graeme can do:
- Provide information: provide accurate and up-to-date information about Social Security Scotland. This includes information about the benefits available, the eligibility criteria, the application process or the different procedures to claim benefits.
- Advocate: when one of Graeme’s constituents is facing some challenges in relation to social security, he can support them by raising their concerns and to communicate with the worker, alongside pushing for changes to be made when mistakes have been made.
- Applications: Graeme can assistance and guidance to the constituents struggling with their applications, particularly by being in touch with Social Security Scotland on his constituents’ behalf.
What Graeme cannot do:
- Go against the decisions made by Social Security Scotland: while Graeme is able to support his constituents to provide them with help regarding their applications, the decisions lie with Social Security Scotland.
- Intervene where the power lies within DWP.
- Provide legal advice: this applies to any matter Graeme can help with. As an MSP, Graeme is not able to provide legal advice, assistance, representation or even opinion.
- Interfere with the appeals procedure.
- Guarantee a preferred outcome: while Graeme can provide help and assistance, the decisions are always made by Social Security Scotland and Graeme does not have a say in them.