Scotland’s leading charity for older people has today welcomed the publication of the Bill which sets out principles underlying a new social security system in Scotland as a means of creating a step-change in tackling hardship.
The new Bill outlines broadly how the Scottish Government aims to use new powers on significant areas of the social security system. The Scottish Parliament is gaining authority over key benefits for older people, including support for people with disabilities, carers, cold weather and heating bills over winter, and funerals.
In 2016, Age Scotland engaged with older people in several events across Scotland as part of a far-reaching consultation on how the Government should use these new powers.
Welcoming the publication of the Bill, Age Scotland Chief Executive, Keith Robson said:
“The Social Security Bill presents an excellent opportunity to create a new culture around social security in Scotland where our society alleviates poverty and people aren’t demonised for being in need, where older people are aware of their entitlements and properly supported to apply for assistance. Older people have told us again and again that the current system was too difficult to access and often intimidating and obstructive. We are pleased that the Scottish Government has made clear it wants to do things differently, and that the tone and language of the Bill is far more inclusive and less pejorative, and that rights and dignity are written into the principles underlying the new system.
“Currently hundreds of millions of pounds to which pensioners are entitled through the benefits systems goes unclaimed, and over the past year the Age Scotland Helpline has helped older people claim over £400,000 which they weren’t aware they were eligible for. The current system isn’t working so the reforms proposed by the Scottish Government are encouraging, and the fact that support for carers will be increased is a good sign.
“Support for heating bills during winter and cold spells are key issues for older people in Scotland. We note the Government intends to connect these with the development of a new fuel poverty strategy. We support this principle, but we were concerned at proposals during the General Election that the UK Government should means test Winter Fuel Payments as we knew this would increase administrative costs and mean that people who needed that support would not claim it. Any changes in the way these payments are made must be fully consulted on, just as there has been wide-ranging consultation prior to developing this Bill.”
The Social Security (Scotland) Bill and associated documents appear on the Scottish Parliament’s website.
Further details of Age Scotland’s views on the social security benefits being devolved to the Scottish Parliament and Government appear in our response (published October 2016) to the Scottish Government Consultation, A New Future for Social Security in Scotland, which can be found here.