Call for evidence on the Welfare Reform (Further Provision) (Scotland) Bill

On Friday 23 March 2012, the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee opened a call for written views from all interested parties on the general principles of the Welfare Reform (Further Provision) (Scotland) Bill.

The Bill proposes that the Scottish Government be given powers to introduce regulations under the UK Welfare Reform Act and amend other Scottish legislation that relates to that Act.

The Committee welcomes evidence from individuals as well as from organisations and professional bodies on the Scottish Bill. The Committee intends that evidence received will inform its consideration of the Bill at Stage 1. All responses will be made available to the Committee.

The timetable for this Bill is expected to be very rapid as the Scottish Government is keen to have all the legislation in place well before the deadline for introduction of the new welfare system on 1 April 2013.

If you wish to be considered to give oral evidence to the Committee we will need to receive your submission by the end of Wednesday 11 April. If you wish solely to submit written evidence, your submission must be received by the end of Monday 23 April so that we can use it to question Nicola Sturgeon, the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Cities Strategy when she appears before the Committee to promote the Bill.

Please note that if you aspire to give oral evidence you will need to keep the mornings of Tuesday 17, 24 April and 1 May free.

This call for evidence focuses on the proposals contained in the Welfare Reform (Further Provision) (Scotland) Bill. It does not focus on aspects of welfare reform which have already been agreed by the UK Parliament in the UK Welfare Reform Act.

Responses should be sent, where possible, electronically in MS Word format and, if possible, in no more than four sides of A4 in length by email to: WelfareReformCommittee@scottish.parliament.uk

A form is provided for you to do this further down the page.

You may also make hard-copy written submissions to the following address: The Welfare Reform Committee, Room T1.01, Scottish Parliament, EH99 1SP.

Should you wish to submit evidence in alternative formats then please get in touch through the following ways:

Textphone: 0800 092 7100

SMS: 07786 209 888

Further to the evidence we are seeking on the Welfare Reform (Further Provision) (Scotland) Bill, the Committee is interested to hear about other aspects of welfare reform and has set up a separate mailbox for people to submit their personal experiences of the impacts of reform which can be sent to: welfarereform-yoursay@scottish.parliament.uk

The Committee invites views on all aspects of the Bill. Responses should address all or any of the following points in turn: 

Views on the Scottish Bill as a whole 

1. Are you generally in favour of the Bill and its provisions? 

General Principles Underlying the Scottish Bill

The Bill proposes that the Scottish Government be given powers to introduce regulations under the UK Welfare Reform Act and amend other Scottish legislation that relates to it. This would allow the Scottish Government to make the link between the devolved welfare matters for which it has responsibility and the reserved welfare matters which have been amended by the UK Welfare Reform Act. The Bill is necessary because in December 2011 the Scottish Parliament voted to take responsibility for these aspects rather than agreeing that the Westminster Parliament do so. 

2. What are your views on this principle? 

Universal Credit

Universal Credit will be a new integrated working-age credit.  Universal Credit will be payable to people both in and out of work, and will replace Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit.

Section 1 of the Bill contains provisions relating to the introduction of Universal Credit. It gives the Scottish Government powers to introduce regulations and amend existing legislation in relation to the introduction of Universal Credit in April 2013. 

3. What are your views on the proposed powers in relation to Universal Credit? 

4. Do you have any other comments on the introduction of Universal Credit?

Personal Independence Payments

Section 2 of the Bill contains provisions relating to the introduction of Personal Independence Payments. It gives the Scottish Government powers to introduce regulations and amend existing legislations in relation to the introduction of Personal Independence Payments in April 2013.

Personal Independence Payments will replace the current benefit of Disability Living Allowance.

5. What are your views on the proposed powers in relation to Personal Independence Payments? 

6. Do you have any other comments on the introduction of Personal Independence Payments?

Subordinate Legislation

Subordinate Legislation is legislation below the level of Parliamentary Bills – often regulations. Section 4 of the Bill contains provisions relating to subordinate legislation. It gives the Scottish Government powers to make regulations that relate to the UK Welfare Reform Act directly or indirectly.

Sections 1 and 2 of the Bill also include new subordinate legislation powers for the Scottish Government. Under these sections it may make regulations which amend Acts as well as old regulations.

7. What are your views on the proposed subordinate legislation powers in the Bill? 

When the new welfare regime is introduced in April 2013 the old one will disappear. At present eligibility for a number of other ancillary ‘passported’ benefits is linked to eligibility for existing benefits such as Income Support, Disability Living Allowance etc.

Passported benefits include free school meals, blue badge parking permits, concessionary bus travel, Education Maintenance Allowances, patient travel costs, Individual Learning Accounts, Legal Aid, and optical and dentistry payment exemptions.

When the existing benefits disappear in April 2013 so will the link to ‘passported’ benefits. Should this Bill be passed, the Scottish Government will need to ‘remake’ these links through new regulations etc., which also raises the issue of whether eligibility will remain the same.

8. Do you have any other comments on regulations that would follow this Bill on ‘passported’ benefits and eligibility for them? 

Financial Memorandum 

The Financial Memorandum accompanying the Bill outlines the costs associated with this Bill and summarises them in a table at the end. However, as the Scottish Government states in the Memorandum ‘the timetable being pursued by the UK Government presents limits to the Scottish Parliament’s ability to assess the financial implications of legislation it considers.’  

9. Do you have any views on the assumptions and calculations contained in the Financial Memorandum? 

Effects on equal opportunities, human rights, island communities and sustainable development 

The Policy Memorandum accompanying the Bill (para 21-25)  outlines the assessments made by the Scottish Government on the potential impact of the Bill on equal opportunities, human rights, island communities and sustainable development. It notes that Equalities Impact Assessments will be published when it introduces subordinate legislation later in the year. 

10. Are you satisfied in the assessments that have taken place in regard to these matters and in the conclusions reached by the Scottish Government?

How to Submit Your Evidence

If possible please submit your evidence using the following Response form

Send it to: welfarereformcommittee@scottish.parliament.uk 

Hard copy responses may be sent to: 

Welfare Reform Committee, T1.01, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh EH99 1SP

Responses should be no more than four sides of A4 in length. 

Before making a submission, please read our Policy on Treatment of Written Evidence by Subject and Mandatory Committees.

Please send your views on the Bill by no later than the end Thursday 12 April if you wish to give oral evidence and no later than the end of Monday 23 April if you wish solely to submit written evidence. 

All written evidence received may be published by the Parliament and will be treated as a public document. If you wish to submit evidence in confidence or anonymously please read the policy at the link above.

What happens next? 

Following consideration of the early written submissions received, the Committee will agree oral evidence sessions and may request further written evidence.

Should you require support or assistance in making a written submission to the Committee please do not hesitate to contact the Clerking team who will make alternative arrangements to meet your particular needs.

For Committee information, contact:

Roz Wheeler, tel: 0131 348 5320,  email: rosalind.wheeler@scottish.parliament.uk or James Drummond, tel: 0131 348 5208, email: james.drummond@scottish.parliament.uk

For further information, the media contact is: Sally Coyne, tel 0131 348 6265, email: sally.coyne@scottish.parliament.uk

For public information enquiries, contact: 0131 348 5000

For general enquiries, contact: 0845 278 1999 (local call rate), email: sp.info@scottish.parliament.uk