Westminster MPs launch inquiry into impact of UK welfare policies on Scotland
A Westminster committee has launched an inquiry to examine how Scotland is impacted by UK welfare policies.
The Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry will look at how policies such as Universal Credit (UC) and the two-child limit impact the country.
It will also consider the possible implications of the transfer of welfare powers to Scotland over the next few years.
The Scotland Act of 2016 set out that welfare powers including disability and carers benefits would be devolved to the Scottish Parliament as part of the biggest transfer of powers since devolution in 1999.
Launched on Tuesday at Citizens Advice Scotland in Glasgow, the inquiry is now open for submissions regarding a number of aspects of welfare policy, such as evaluating how UC is working in Scotland and whether any issues created by it are specific to the country compared with the rest of the UK.
It will also seek views on how the benefit cap has impacted people in Scotland and will consider whether some communities have been disproportionately affected.
The level of co-operation between the UK and Scottish governments regarding the devolution of new welfare powers will also be scrutinised as part of the inquiry, as well as how these can be transferred safely and securely.
Stakeholders will have until 5pm on August 2 to submit written evidence to the inquiry.
Committee chairman Pete Wishart MP (pictured) said: “Universal Credit is designed to make claiming benefits simpler and more beneficial, but most of us are aware that the policy has been fraught with issues from the start.
“Scotland was one of the first places UC was trialled and my committee wants to find out what impact it’s had on the everyday lives of Scottish people, and what the UK Government can do to make it better.
“We’re also going through the biggest transition of powers since devolution in 1999 and it’s vital that welfare responsibilities are transferred smoothly to ensure continuity of payments for benefits claimants.”
Citizens Advice Scotland chief executive Derek Mitchell said: “The Citizens Advice network in Scotland helps and advocates for hundreds of thousands of people each year, and we welcome this inquiry.
“We have seen on the front line the impact of social security reform on vulnerable people and low-income families.
“The new powers over social security offer the chance to design a fairer system in Scotland but we also want to see change across the UK.
“People need to know that if they are struggling, then their local Citizens Advice Bureau is there to help. We can assist people in making claims around Universal Credit and ensure people are getting the benefits they are entitled to.”
Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP said: “I welcome this investigation from the Committee. There is a mountain of evidence that Universal Credit is pushing people into hardship, rent arrears and poverty.
“In Scotland alone, policies being pursued by the UK Government are expected to lead to a reduction in social security spending of £3.7 billion in 2020-21 and we have invested more than £125 million in 2019-20 to mitigate the damaging impact of welfare cuts for people and protect people on low incomes.
“We continue to call on the UK Government to fix the fundamental flaws within Universal Credit and estimate that every month around 7,000 claimants on average in Scotland are being transferred by the DWP to a broken Universal Credit system that is not fit for purpose – and this must stop.
“We’ve used the very limited powers we have over Universal Credit to give people more choice – to pay housing costs directly to landlords and to change the frequency of payments.
“We are also working towards getting agreement from the DWP to introduce split payments to give everyone access to an independent income.”
A UK Government spokesman said: “Universal Credit is a force for good and over 1.8 million people are receiving the benefit successfully.
“The UK unemployment rate is at its lowest level since 1974, 14.8 million people are now employed in higher skilled roles and wages continue to outstrip inflation.”
“Meanwhile, Scotland has significant welfare powers, can top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits altogether.”
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