House of Commons Library

Devolution of welfare

Published Monday, April 8, 2019

This House of Commons Library Debate Pack briefing has been prepared in advance of a debate on “devolution of welfare” to take place on Tuesday 9 April 2019. The subject was determined by the Backbench Business Committee following an application by John Lamont MP. The debate is expected to focus on Scotland.

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The Scotland Act 2016 devolved significant new welfare powers to the Scottish Parliament including responsibility for disability and carers’ benefits; benefits for maternity, maternity, funeral and heating expenses; and powers to vary the housing cost element of Universal Credit and UC payment arrangements. The benefits to be fully devolved account for over £3 billion expenditure a year, or around 16% of the total welfare spend in Scotland.

From April 2020 Scottish Ministers will have full legal and financial responsibility for the devolved benefits.  The Scottish Government had committed to delivering all the devolved benefits by the end of the current Scottish Parliament (i.e. by May 2021), but on 28 February it announced a new timetable under which the transfer of claimants from existing to devolved benefits would not be completed until 2024. Until then, the Department for Work and Pensions will continue to deliver benefits on the Scottish Government’s behalf under “agency agreements.”  The Scottish Government emphasises that a “safe and secure transition” is its priority, but others have criticised the delays and its wider record on delivering devolved welfare.

This debate pack covers recent developments on devolution of welfare powers to Scotland, contains parliamentary and press material, and gives links to further information on this subject.

Commons Debate packs CDP-2019-0084

Authors: Steven Kennedy; Andrew Mackley; Alexander Bellis; Selena Steele; Michael O'Donnell

Topics: Benefits administration, Benefits policy

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