Scottish Affairs Committee: Inquiry into the impact of welfare policy in Scotland
LITRG highlighted the risks and complexity facing Scottish claimants of welfare benefits, with a particular focus on universal credit. These arise in part because, although universal credit is reserved to the UK Parliament, there are interactions with income tax, which is partially devolved to Scotland. Risks that affect Scottish claimants in particular are likely to arise if universal credit policy is made without giving consideration to the differences between UK and Scottish Income Tax.
With this is mind, LITRG suggested the ideal would be for the welfare system to be designed holistically and to take account of the income tax system.
Moreover, as a result of devolution, Scottish claimants of Universal credit may be confused about which government department to contact in relation to their social security benefits. Since some benefits have been devolved to Scotland, there is now another benefits authority, Social Security Scotland. Claimants may therefore mistakenly contact Social Security Scotland, or the Scottish Government, if they have a query about their universal credit. LITRG says that it is essential that all government organisations that might be contacted by claimants have procedures in place to ensure that a claimant is passed to the appropriate contact in the correct organisation.
LITRG noted the arrangements in place to ensure effective co-operation on the devolution of welfare powers to Scotland, and the fact that when consequential changes to UK legislation have been necessary as a result of devolution, this appears to have been a relatively trouble-free process.
While acknowledging the existence of agency and service level agreements between the Scottish Government and the Department for Work and Pensions, LITRG said that these all need to be published and available, for the sake of transparency and accountability, on both GOV.UK and the Scottish Government’s website.
Our submission can be found here: Scottish Affairs Committee – Inquiry into the impact of welfare policy in Scotland – LITRG response