FACED with tough choices and the urgent need for action on Welfare Reform, what would you do? Caught between UK Welfare Reform explicitly driven by the imperative to save money on one hand, and the emerging impacts of the financial recession and low/slow growth which drive up demand on the other – what provisions will the Scottish Parliament put in place to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society?
When the Scottish Parliament withheld legislative consent (in part) to the UK Welfare Reform Bill it agreed to set up a Welfare Reform Committee recognising that Scottish legislation would be necessary. At the end of March the Committee invited written views on the general principles of its Welfare Reform (Further Provisions) (Scotland) Bill.
The circumstances are unique and the Bill itself is ‘enabling’ legislation. This means that respondents have little substantive content on which to respond.
Despite the narrow focus, however, Welfare Reform was considered to be of significant import for us to gather views to inform a principled, strategic submission.
We published a mini-briefing on the process and invited representatives of the city’s Third Sector to a ThinkSpace discussion event to gather people’s views on the Bill and on Welfare Reform more generally.
The submission we sent to the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee sought to make a small number of high-level points we wished the committee to take into consideration.
We recognised that the Committee would be faced with difficult decisions and that it would need to find the right balance between the need to act urgently and the imperative not to act in haste. We invited the Committee to think carefully about the evidence that would inform its decisions, and we urged the Committee to adopt an enabling approach that built on the skills, experience and wisdom of Housing Associations, Local Authorities, and Scotland’s vibrant Third Sector.
Finally, we made the point that any discussion about the role of Welfare within contemporary Scotland was to be welcomed – in the hope that a recognisably Scottish ‘solution’ could be found which meaningfully included the Third Sector and wider Scottish Civil Society.