Press: Scotland Bill criticised over lack of key social security powers
Press Release: 06 October 2015
Single parent charity criticises the Scotland Bill amid concerns that it fails to go far enough in delivering key social security powers to Scotland
In its evidence today (06 October 2015) to the Welfare Reform Committee on the ‘Future Delivery of Social Security in Scotland’, the charity and campaigning group One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) will say that it is disappointed that the Scotland Bill would “limit the Scottish Parliament’s ability to develop newly devolved powers in an autonomous way”.
In its evidence to the committee OPFS made three key recommendations. It says that given the negative impact of welfare reform and austerity on single parents it is crucial that the new powers in the Scotland Bill are used to tackle poverty and inequality, and that they are underpinned by clear statutory targets and duties.
OPFS’s submission also states that to ensure high quality services which put the needs of parents and children first, services should be provided by not-for-profit providers. It does not think that the provision of essential services to families who are in poverty ought to be provided by the private sector whose primary duty is to their shareholders rather than service users.
The evidence also states that to make the new ‘Work Programme’ more effective and to minimise the impact of benefit cuts on already impoverished single parents, we need to see an end to the sanctioning regime and at the very least implement safeguards which minimise the impact of sanctioning.
OPFS regularly supports single parents who have had negative experiences of the social security system. One single mother with an autistic child was incorrectly threatened with sanctions when she could not find childcare to attend a work-focussed interview for Employment and Support Allowance and she was unable to bring her child with her because of her condition. OPFS intervened and the DWP withdrew their threat and another appointment was arranged once appropriate childcare was found.
Another single parent mother who had previously received high rate care Disability Living Allowance was invited to apply for Personal Independence Payment as her case was due for review. There had been no change to her condition nor to her need for assistance with mobility. The new award reduced her mobility award down to standard rate, a financial reduction of £35.65 per week. OPFS supported her through the appeal process but it took six months to resolve, during which she suffered severe financial distress.
Satwat Rehman, Director of OPFS, says:
“The Smith Commission proposed new devolved welfare powers across a number of areas. However, the Scotland Bill currently being debated at Westminster appears to restrict these proposals in various ways, such as the ‘no detriment’ clause which would give the UK the right to claw back monies if variations in expenditure in Scotland were deemed to be detrimental to the UK budget.
“Welfare benefits should work for Scotland and areas of reserved social security must take account of the different legislative housing, childcare, education, social care and training landscape in Scotland.
“In addition, we would like to see newly devolved social security powers adhere to the basic principles of dignity, respect, support, equality and common sense and would welcome the Welfare Reform Committee’s focus on how these powers can be developed to ensure these principles are embedded in the new social security system.”
Notes to Editors
- In Scotland there are 170,000 single parents looking after 291,000 children – one in four families.
- The majority have just one child.
- The median age of single parents is 38.
- Fewer than 2% are teenagers.
- 8% of single parents are fathers and the numbers are increasing.
- 65% are in work and the overwhelming majority of the rest want to work.
Established in 1944, One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) is a national charity dedicated to supporting Scotland’s single parents and their children.
OPFS helps thousands of single parents every year through its free Lone Parent Helpline and information services. It also runs services in Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh, Aberdeenshire, Falkirk and Lanarkshire.
For further information please contact:
Sarah Barclay, PR Consultant
Tel: 0131 313 4283
Marion Davis, OPFS Policy & Research Adviser
Tel: 07794 226484
Image credit: Brendan Howard