A report said that the United Kingdom welfare system was deeply unjust, and proposed a system of basic income security, involving the integration of income tax and benefits into one system, and the payment of a basic income for all United Kingdom citizens at a rate that would be high enough to end poverty. The recommendations were discussed in the context of Scottish independence, or further fiscal autonomy, which the authors suggested would create the conditions for changes to the existing welfare system.
Source: Simon Duffy and John Dalrymple, Let's Scrap the DWP: The case for basic income security in Scotland, Centre for Welfare Reform
A paper examined the efficacy and ethicality of conditional forms of welfare in England and Scotland, bringing together evidence collected during the initial stages of an ongoing study on the topic. It said that benefit sanctions disproportionately affected young people under 25 and had severe impacts on vulnerable groups, while causing a range of unintended consequences, such as causing hardship or destitution, and having a negative impact on children. The paper said that a review of international evidence on the use of sanctions had indicated unfavourable longer-term outcomes for earnings, job quality, and employment retention. A series of short briefing papers were also published, outlining the 'state of play' regarding conditionality in a range of policy areas (anti-social behaviour, disability, homelessness, lone parents, migrants, offenders, social housing, and unemployment).
Source: Beth Watts, Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Glen Bramley, and David Watkins, Welfare Sanctions and Conditionality in the UK, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
A paper outlined data collected as part of the process of developing the measurement framework for Scotland's Child Poverty Strategy that was from sources considered, but not included, in the measurement framework.
Source: Child Poverty Measurement Framework the Wider Evidence Base, Scottish Government
A report examined options for creating a new welfare system in an independent Scotland, building on an earlier report that had considered the costs, delivery and transition, and priorities for welfare reform in the event of constitutional change. The report made recommendations for the short-term that included: re-establishing a link between benefits and the cost of living, with benefits and tax credits increased each year by inflation; for the national minimum wage to rise in stages to equal the living wage (subject to certain economic conditions having been met); the abolition of the size criteria (commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax'), and the replacement of benefit sanctions with a new system; a new social security allowance, to merge existing benefits (except housing benefit) into a single payment; an increased carer's allowance; new employment initiatives to replace the work programme; and a new assessment system for people with disabilities, together with a new social security benefit to replace disability living allowance and the personal independence payment. In the medium term, the report recommended focusing on supporting people with long-term disability and illness into work, a more supportive housing market, a more personalized approach to welfare, and the renewal of trust.
Source: Re-thinking Welfare: Fair, personal and simple, The Expert Working Group on Welfare
The Scottish Government published a Bill designed to place a duty on local authorities to maintain a welfare fund to provide day-to-day living expenses to those on low incomes who were in crisis, and to provide essential household items to those in need. The Bill would also give new powers to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to allow for the review of local authority decisions.
Source: Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill, Scottish Government, TSO
A report by a committee of MSPs appended a report from commissioned research on the local impact of welfare reform. The report said that, when the reforms came into full effect they would remove over £1.6 billion a year from the Scottish economy, equivalent to around £460 a year per adult of working age and broadly on a par with the Great Britain average. However, the report said this was spread unevenly between areas and there was a clear relationship between the extent of deprivation and the scale of the financial loss, with the most deprived wards most affected. The report said that some households and individuals were affected by several different elements of the reforms.
Source: Report on Local Impact of Welfare Reform, 5th Report 2014, SP Paper 563, Scottish Parliament Welfare Reform Committee
An article examined whether an independent Scotland would set a different poverty standard compared with the rest of the United Kingdom, based on a consensual or democratic poverty measure (defined by majority views of the 'necessities of life'). The article said that attitudes were similar in Scotland to the rest of the United Kingdom, and the analysis suggested that, at least in the short term, Scotland would be unlikely to set a different social minimum.
Source: Maria Gannon and Nick Bailey, 'Attitudes to the "necessities of life": would an independent Scotland set a different poverty standard to the rest of the UK?', Social Policy and Society, Volume 13 Issue 3
A report provided an overview of poverty-related issues in Scotland, and of the work of the Poverty Truth Commission to date. The report issued a number of 'challenges' to government, employers, landlords, and communities to address key issues, including calls to reduce food and fuel poverty, to avoid judgmentalism and stereotyping, to campaign for the living wage, and to end the use of zero-hours contracts
Source: Turning Up the Volume on Poverty, Poverty Truth Commission
A report by a committee of MSPs said that, although the United Kingdom government's Department for Work and Pensions said there was no direct link between the increase in use of food banks in Scotland and welfare reform, the Committee was convinced by the volume and strength of evidence it received that there was a direct correlation. It said that benefit sanctions were one of the key components of welfare reform that had led to an increase in need. The Committee praised the work of food banks, but said that they should not became part of the welfare infrastructure. It called on the United Kingdom government to recognize the impact of policy, and supported the Scottish government's Emergency Food Aid Action Plan.
Source: Food Banks and Welfare Reform, 2nd Report 2014, SP Paper 537, Scottish Parliament Welfare Reform Committee Committee
A report by a committee of MSPs said that there were many weaknesses in the United Kingdom benefits sanctions regime and in its application, leading to a climate of fear around jobcentres. The committee raised particular concerns about the way in which sanctions were applied, and made a range of recommendations, including: for greater warning about the consequence of sanctions, with a written warning at first breach; for clearer communications about the use of sanctions, and about the expectations on claimants; for clearer identification on government systems of clients' disabilities, and the provision of appropriate support; and for a fundamental and public review of the purpose of the sanctions regime.
Source: Interim Report on the New Benefit Sanctions Regime: Tough love or tough luck?, 4th Report 2014, SP Paper 552, Scottish Parliament Welfare Reform Committee
A report examined the operation of the Scottish Welfare Fund, which was put in place in Scotland as an interim measure when the United Kingdom government terminated the discretionary social fund. The Scottish Welfare Fund consisted of two elements: crisis grants to alleviate periods of disaster or crisis and alleviate risk to the health or safety of the applicant or their family; and community care grants to support independent living among key groups, or to help families in need of essential household items. The report said that the majority of interviewed applicants were, overall, satisfied with the operation of the interim scheme, but made a range of recommendations, including for the profile of the scheme to be raised, and for increasing the speed of decision making for crisis grants.
Source: Filip Sosenko, Mandy Littlewood, Ailsa Strathie, and Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Review of the Scottish Welfare Fund Interim Scheme – Final, Scottish Government
The Scottish Government published two reports on the impact of the United Kingdom Government's welfare reforms on people in Scotland. The tracking study report recommendations included: for improvements in benefit administration; for the level of benefits, and the need for crisis intervention, to be considered; for other areas of policy, and specific circumstances such as lone parenthood, to be considered in light of welfare reforms; and for greater action to counter stigmatizing messages from the media about welfare claimants.
Source: Billie Lister, Helen Graham, Valerie Egdell, Ronald McQuaid, and Robert Raeside, The Impact of Welfare Reform in Scotland Tracking Study: Interim report to the Scottish Government on 1st Sweep of interviews, Scottish Government
Source: Franca MacLeod and Zak Keene, Financial Impacts of Welfare Reform – Illustrative Working Age Case Studies, Scottish Government
A paper examined the implications of Scottish independence for social security – including state, private and public sector pensions – and supporting people into work. It said that Scotland saw current benefits from some areas of devolved policy, but there was mutual benefit for people and employers from United Kingdom-wide aspects such as uniformity of benefits, a single job market, pooling of risks, and an established social security infrastructure that would be costly to reproduce and run in Scotland. It said that expenditure on pensioners would rise more over the next 20 years in Scotland compared with the UK as a whole, and outlined the potential consequences for spending, taxation, and benefits levels.
Source: Scotland Analysis: Work and pensions, Cm 8849, Department for Work and Pensions, TSO
A report examined people's experiences of the impacts of poverty and deprivation on mental health in Scotland. It called for decisive and urgent action to reduce poverty and deprivation, including actions to mitigate the impact of welfare reforms. It also made recommendations to the government for changes in welfare policy and practice.
Source: Worried Sick: Experiences of poverty and mental health across Scotland, Scottish Association for Mental Health
The Scottish Government published experimental statistics on the operation of the Scottish Welfare Fund. The fund was established to allow local authorities in Scotland to provide crisis grants or community care grants in cases of need, following the United Kingdom Government's abolition of elements of the social fund. The report said that 65 per cent of community care grant applications were successful, resulting in 22,400 awards with an average value of £640, that were most commonly spent on white goods, beds, or floor coverings. For crisis grants the figures were 71 per cent, 53,700, and £69 respectively, and the grants were mostly for food, essential heating costs, or other living expenses. Around 60 per cent of all applications were from single person households and one quarter of the households contained children.
Source: Scottish Welfare Fund Statistics: 1 April to 31 December 2013, Scottish Government
A report examined the ways in which women in Scotland would be affected by welfare reform measures. It said that 74 per cent of benefit cuts had been taken from women's incomes, and this was explained by women's pre-existing inequality. The report considered the impact of reforms across policy areas, including welfare benefits, work, and domestic violence, and it considered the cross-cutting impact of multiple forms of disadvantage. It made a range of recommendations to the Scottish government, and called for the development of a broad action plan to mitigate the impacts of reform on women.
Source: Engender, Close the Gap, Scottish Women's Aid, Scottish Women's Convention, Zero Tolerance, and Scottish Refugee Council, Gender and 'Welfare Reform' in Scotland: A joint position paper, Engender
A report by a committee of MPs said that it remained in favour of abolishing the spare room subsidy (commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax') and, in the meantime, remained in favour of mitigating the effect of the tax through changes proposed in its earlier report. However, it said that the committee disagreed with the use of discretionary housing payments to mitigate the impact in Scotland, since it was ineffective in reaching difficult-to-access groups. The report called on the Scottish government to rethink its plans for 2014-15, and to mitigate the impact for 2013-14 by writing off arrears and refunding payments that had been made by tenants. The report incorporated the government's response to the committee's earlier report on this topic, which reaffirmed the government's commitment to removing the spare room subsidy.
Source: The Impact of the Bedroom Tax in Scotland: Plan B – charges, arrears and refunds; incorporating the Government Response to the Committee s Fourth Report of Session 2013-14, Ninth Report (Session 201314), HC 937, House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee, TSO
A report examined the use of the discretionary housing payment (DHP) budget in Scotland. The DHP was intended to mitigate the impact of welfare reform by providing short-term help with housing costs, and the Scottish Government had made an additional £20 million of funding available to local authorities in October 2013. The report said that the level of spending in each local authority had been varied but, by the end of 2013, eight had spent less than 30 per cent of the allocated funds. It called on local authorities to: take action to allocate funds; to review all earlier DHP applications in light of the additional funding; to publish DHP policies and eligibility criteria; and to promote the fund to potential applicants and advice agencies.
Source: Monitoring the Use of Discretionary Housing Payments in Scotland, Shelter Scotland
A report examined the achievements of the independent living fund, a United Kingdom benefit to support people with disabilities to live independently, which was due to be closed in June 2015. The paper argued that the ILF was consistent with the principles of asset based citizenship, and that there was still an opportunity for its provisions to be protected in Scotland. It called for the creation of a new trust/partnership to promote independent living through positive partnership with local government.
Source: Jim Elder-Woodward, A Future Without the ILF: The case for asset based citizenship, Centre for Welfare Reform
A new book examined poverty and anti-poverty policies in Scotland. It included chapters that presented the anti-poverty cases for both independence and the union, as well as lessons to be drawn from across Europe and beyond.
Source: John McKendrick, Gerry Mooney, John Dickie, Gill Scott, and Peter Kelly (eds), Poverty in Scotland 2014: The independence referendum and beyond, Child Poverty Action Group
The Scottish government published its revised child poverty strategy. It said that future work would concentrate on three outcomes: maximizing household resources (through maximizing financial entitlements, reducing pressure on household budgets of low-income families, raising family incomes through employment, and promoting greater financial inclusion and capability); improving children's well-being and life-chances through breaking 'inter-generational cycles of poverty, inequality and deprivation'; and improving children's living environments and addressing area-based disadvantage through improving the physical, social and economic environments in local areas. The strategy would be reviewed following the independence referendum in September 2014.
Source: Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland: Our approach 2014-2017, Scottish Government
A paper set out a proposal for the introduction of a basic income in a post-independence Scotland, to provide all citizens with a minimum level of income. The paper included arguments for an integrated and simplified system of tax and benefits, with a pro-family approach, universal entitlements, and a constitution for Scotland.
Source: Simon Duffy and John Dalrymple, Basic Income Security: A constitutional right for all Scotland's citizens, Centre for Welfare Reform
A study examined the nature and use of food banks in Scotland. It said that levels of use had risen and that welfare reform, benefit delays, benefit sanctions, and falling incomes had been the main factors behind increased demand for food aid. The report made recommendations.
Source: Filip Sosenko, Nicola Livingstone, and Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Overview of Food Aid Provision in Scotland, Scottish Government
A paper examined the impact of independence on fiscal policy to reduce inequality in Scotland. It discussed inequality reduction in the context of different constitutional options and said that, while Scottish independence would result in a full range of fiscal powers, using fiscal policy alone would have a relatively low impact on reducing inequality.
Source: David Comerford and David Eiser, Constitutional Change and Inequality in Scotland, University of Sterling/ESRC