OK I have a confession to make, I’ve been to more events at other SNP branches than my own this year. Tonight I was at Eastwood to hear Jeane Freeman MSP talk about the new powers for setting up a Scottish Social Security system (oooh alliteration)
First up was Kirsten Oswald MP who introduced the night, during which she mentioned Jeane setting Andrew Neil right on the risks to the Health Service during the 2014 IndyRef campaign – I was planning to include the footage anyway as I love watching his face change, but this has given me a valid excuse.
Then Deirdre Parkinson gave an excellent briefing on the WASPI campaign, one that I’m pleased to see SNP MPs support. As she stated it’s not the equalising of pension age that is the issue, it’s the process of implementation and lack of information sent out to women effected – being those born between 6th April 1951 & 5th April 1960 – 4,420 women in East Renfrewshire)
The legislation was put through in 1995 but letters only sent out (and not to all) in 2012. The pension age also has been increased and the implementation dates shortened from 2020 to 2018 since then.
CLARIFICATION: the letters started in 2009, 14 years after the 1995 Pensions Act. They stopped in 2011 while the coalition government passed legislation to speed up the process and then restarted in 2012. Whenever they were sent, none of the letters gave sufficient notification to allow the women affected to make alternative arrangements to cover the money lost by extending the state pension age.
When asked how women were to know the government response was that information had been displayed in Benefit Offices (no use to those not signing on) and women’s magazines such as Good Housekeeping and the Financial Times – those really cover the majority of women’s reading habits.
The National Insurance pot currently has a surplus of £20 billion, more than enough to put in mitigating measures. I think the government would find it less painful to give in now; that generation is not one you really want to piss off. They hit target of £75,000 in 6 days for their legal challenge crowdfunder.
Jeane continued with some details of WASPI campaigning in Ayrshire before moving on to the new ScotGov powers.
She explained that we are getting 15% of the welfare budget covering the following:
- disability allowance
- carers allowance
- cold winter payments
- funeral poverty
- sure start grant
- industrial injuries
NOT ESA or Universal Credit although we will be able to offer “administrative flexibility”
- choice of benefits paid 2 or 4 weekly
- rent to go direct to social landlord
- split payments, not all go to one in the household.
These changes will affect 1 in 4 Scots about 1.4 million people
She stated it will have 3 premises
- Change of attitude – Social Security not Welfare
- Based on dignity, fairness & respect
- Based on the view that people who apply need help and are not out to con the system
Time for your scheduled reminder on the levels of fraud benefit vs tax & the number of staff investigating.
Jeane stated the need to set up a brand new system, to get it right so it works for the public. A consultation has been running which closes on Monday, bu she has said that if you miss the deadline you can email her at MinisterSocSec@gov.scot
In addition there has been consultation meeting (over 130) with those that use or have used the current UK system, plus those who work in welfare right organisations and those working in the system, such as the PCS union members.
The next step after looking at the consultation is to continue working with those groups to ensure the new system works before it is rolled out. The Bill will be set before Holyrood next summer.
Points that resonated with me (especially after watching I, Daniel Blake this week) were that the Scottish Government has said:
- devolved work programs will be voluntary
- they will not pass on information which will result in sanctions
- assessments will be based on medical & social care information
- there will be long-term & lifetime awards
- process will speed up for terminal patients
Current appeal success rate is 65%; no one should be making a profit from a social security system. Jeane eventually wants a system where there are no need for security guards.
When you look at the farce of the DWP we have to be able to produce something better and hopefully world leading. Their process for Cold Weather Payment relies on 11 separate IT systems and the Industrial Injuries system (20,000 claimants in Scotland) is paper based!
It will take 4 1/2 years to build an effective system, but the aim is to produce one that is right first time and does not put the people applying through additional mental strain.
So why the flag at the top of the page? The signed Saltire was raffled off and raised £127 for winter aid for refugees and a school uniform bank.
Also I have to mention the scones, they were beautiful and made by the First Minister’s Official Scone Maker. So good Peter Bell travels the country to get them.
I ONLY HAD ONE!
Nearly forgot, Yes Eastwood are now up and running if anyone wants to give them a follow.