Scottish ministers call on UK government to keep its promise and devolve welfare powers

Scottish ministers call on UK government to keep its promise and devolve welfare powers

Scottish ministers have called on the UK government to keep its promises on devolving further welfare powers and reverse the extension of new Work Programme contracts.

The move came at the joint ministerial working group on welfare, where social justice minister Alex Neiland fair work minister Roseanna Cunningham met Scotland Office undersecretary of state David Mundell and Department for work and pensions minister of state Mark Harper to discuss progress on implementing the welfare elements of the Smith agreement.

The UK government also agreed to consider revised wording from Scottish ministers on its planned Scotland bill in three areas – the power to create new benefits in devolved areas, the ability to make discretionary payments on reserved areas, and clauses on support programmes for unemployed people.

Ms Cunningham said: “UK Ministers took a conscious decision to extend the Work Programme in Scotland until 2017, despite Smith recommending its devolution on expiry of the current contract.

“Despite successive requests, vital information on the cost and impact of existing services that would enable us to move forward quickly in re-designing support, has not been provided.

“So in order to build more effective, targeted and fairer employment support services in Scotland, I have asked the UK Government to cancel the Work Programme contract extension and for the transfer of the necessary resources and legal powers to deliver an alternative service to meet the needs of unemployed Scots from April next year.”

Mr Neil said: “We are committed to supporting a bill that implements the Smith Agreement and commands broad support, but UK Ministers have watered down the proposals, given us mixed messages and stalled on progress.

“So I welcome today’s new offer to consider our proposed changes to the wording of the Bill, which we will supply as quickly as possible. I do however want to see decisions taken by UK Ministers before the election, to enable the Bill to be introduced as early in May as possible. As ever, the UK Government will be judged by its actions and how seriously they’re taking the Smith Agreement process.”

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