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Expert Working Group on Welfare, First Report

June 12, 2013

The Scottish Government’s Expert Working Group on Welfare published its first report on 11th June 2013. The report is viewable here –

The report has provoked a range of responses and some criticism for not setting out a system of post-referendum welfare provision. However, that was not its intention. Rather it set out to examine the financial arrangements for welfare from now until 2018, explore the range of administrative arrangements for welfare provision and examine the post-independence transition in welfare policy and implementation. Indeed, the report is fascinating from a number of points of view. First, it maps the current UK government’s rolling reforms of the welfare state, with a series of timelines  that shows the huge implications of change under the coalition. Second, it also outlines emerging Scottish welfare state under these changes, with the emergence of the Scottish Welfare Fund and passported benefits. Third, it also provides a forecasting of costs by benefit through the independence referendum to 2018.

And, there are some interesting findings here. Sure enough, the document deals with costs but it also looks at the extent of UK integration of welfare provision, which works in two directions – in Scotland and the UK. Significantly, in some key areas like jobseekers allowance, Income support and incapacity benefit, the benefits are delivered for Scots in Scotland. However, in many areas, UK benefits are administered in Scotland for large numbers of UK claimants outside Scotland – such as parts of Yorkshire, the North West and all of London. Glasgow has the UK’s largest benefit centre and processes claims from people outside Scotland. Indeed, there is quite a lot of discussion of the institutional capacity of the DWP, job centres and HMRC offices in Scotland which deal with Scottish-domiciled residents but also how much some of these institutions deal with UK-wide residents. The details here on pages 45-6 are instructive as are the existence of regional pension centres in Dundee and Motherwell, even though the national pensions centre is in Newcastle. The report clearly identifies that Scotland not only delivers much of its own welfare domestically but that it is also responsible for delivering UK services too – which is actually a strong position in an independence negotiation given the size of non-Scotland delivery.

The report discusses the set of issues/questions to negotiate with the rUK after the referendum and sets out a range of options with various pluses and minuses attached to them. It also set out a transition timetable and examines a range of broad goals and principles for the design of a Scottish system of welfare. This latter goal will be examined by subsequent reports by the Expert Welfare Group to examine the medium to longer term delivery of benefits in Scotland.




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