The Scottish Commission on Social Security (SCoSS) welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Uprating Policy Paper and Analytical report (both referred to henceforth as ‘the uprating measures report’) which was sent to us on 2 September by the Cabinet Secretary. We note that this is the first occasion on which the SCoSS has been asked to prepare a report under section 22 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 20182 (‘the 2018 Act’).
In developing this report, the SCoSS Board first received a general briefing on uprating from lead Scottish Government officials at our meeting on 14 August. We then met again with officials at our meeting on 10 September to raise questions arising from our scrutiny of the uprating measures report. The relevant sections of the 2018 Act on uprating, and associated Scottish Government correspondence, give rise to some complex discussions, such as exactly which forms of devolved assistance are and are not covered, and why. We therefore asked the Scottish Government to provide a table containing information that could inform our scrutiny. We are grateful to the Scottish Government for its timeous response. Our edited version of the table is contained in Annex A of this report.
This report has been prepared in advance of the Social Security Committee’s evidence session on uprating scheduled for 10 October 2019 so that it is available, if helpful, to support and inform this. We may revise this report subsequently or write a further report, to address new issues raised or evidence received, with a view to submitting this by the end of October 2019.
In due course, SCoSS will be charged with scrutinising draft regulations on uprating under the super-affirmative procedure. We therefore felt it appropriate to consider the uprating measures report through the lens of the social security principles within the 2018 Act and human rights conventions, as required when scrutinising regulations. We made use of our scrutiny framework devised for that purpose.
It is important to note that the SCoSS board members were appointed on the basis of expertise in social security matters. We are not economists. Therefore, we are not well-placed to comment in depth on the more technical issues covered in the uprating measures report, particularly in the section entitled ‘The formula effect’. However, it is clear that the choice of technical approach to be adopted can have a direct bearing on the realisation of the social security principles and on human rights. If the use of different indices result in different amounts of benefit being paid, it is not feasible neatly to separate technical questions about which index to use from questions about adequacy. Moreover, as set out below, choices about the approach to uprating extend beyond the question of which index to use.
Our response is in three parts:
- Part 1 considers the significance of the approach taken to uprating, with reference to the social security principles in the 2018 Act and human rights conventions.
- Part 2 provides our views on specific issues raised by the uprating measures report concerning the shorter-term approach to uprating, given that certain constraints apply.
- Part 3 takes a wider, longer-term view; exploring options for developing improved approaches to uprating.