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Call for early progress on welfare powers

First meeting of Ministerial group to steer implementation of Smith recommendations.

Ministers will seek further clarity and greater pace on the devolution of new welfare powers last week.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil is calling for early progress on powers to scrap the ‘bedroom tax’ and consideration of the options for Personal Independence Payments in Scotland.

The Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare will meet for the first time to discuss implementation of the welfare-related aspects of the Smith Commission. Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Mr Neil will meet with UK Government Ministers on Wednesday.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said:

“This forum has been agreed to get the transfer of welfare powers right and ensure UK legislation is clear, fit for purpose and reflects the spirit and intention of the Smith Agreement. Above all, it must give us the tools to help people on benefits.

“I want to abolish the ‘bedroom tax’ as soon as possible. Reflecting significant concerns across Scotland, I also believe that the roll out of new Personal Independence Payments should be stopped and we should consider options for the future of disability benefits in Scotland, as they will be devolved in the near future. More generally, the UK Government should not take decisions on areas identified for further devolution without the Scottish Government’s agreement.

“I want to use the administrative flexibilities offered around Universal Credit to do things differently, more quickly and on Scotland’s own terms. In consultation with our partners, I want to consider paying housing costs direct to landlords and changing how frequently benefits are paid. I also expect to receive further clarity on the timescales for devolution of employment services, in particular the Work Programme.

“Through the Ministerial Group, we will work constructively with the UK Government to transfer these powers to Scotland smoothly. The UK Government must give us the clarity we need in all of these areas, before the pre-election period, to get the best deal for the people of Scotland.”


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