Income Maximisation (Targets)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 21st December 2017.

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Photo of Mark Griffin Mark Griffin Labour

6. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will set targets for income maximisation and help reduce the overall amount of benefits that go unclaimed. (S5O-01609)

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

Income maximisation is a key element of the delivery plan under the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017, which we will publish in April 2018. Income targets are already at the heart of the act, and income maximisation will be an important element of the action that is taken.

We already fund a range of welfare advice services from the fairer Scotland budget to support people to maximise their income and to support the uptake of benefits. Over this parliamentary session, we will continue to deliver a programme of activity to increase the uptake of social security by encouraging people to exercise their rights and claim the benefits to which they are entitled. I am grateful to Citizens Advice Scotland and Young Scot for their engagement with us on that.

As the member knows, with Mr Rowley’s support, we have discussed a joint approach on the matter with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. I look forward to progressing that approach further in the coming months.

Photo of Mark Griffin Mark Griffin Labour

The minister has also agreed to place a duty to maximise incomes on the new social security agency and has said that she wants to place the emphasis on the devolved Scottish system. Surely, there should be a no-wrong-door approach in Scotland. It is in the interests of the Government and the agency to set a target to increase the uptake of benefits across all areas of responsibility—reserved, devolved and local.

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

We can set a target for the uptake of benefits only if we have a baseline from which to start. However, as Mr Griffin and members throughout the chamber know, unfortunately, the United Kingdom Government’s Department for Work and Pensions does not collect that data, so we are a bit stuck in setting the baseline from which we might move on to a target.

I also gently make the point that, given that today is our last day before the festive recess, our colleagues in the Labour party might do better to turn their attention to the United Kingdom Government’s failure to mount a benefits uptake campaign rather than presume that the Scottish Government will continue to pick up the mess and fill the gaps that the UK Government’s policies continue to cause for our citizens. It might be more effective if Labour members were to join us in ensuring that our Conservative colleagues at Holyrood and Westminster understand the damage that they are causing and their responsibility to make redress.