Mental Health (Welfare Benefits Changes)

Portfolio Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at on 8 May 2024.

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Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

To ask the Scottish Government, regarding any potential impact on devolved benefits in Scotland, what representation it plans to make to the United Kingdom Government regarding its proposed changes to welfare benefits for people with mental health issues. (S6O-03406)

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

Last week, the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice sought urgent clarity from the Department for Work and Pensions that people who receive adult disability payment will continue to receive the reserved benefits that they rely on. She has also sought assurances that the UK Government will not seek to impose cuts to expenditure on the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government will never accept the cruel welfare reforms that are being pursued by the DWP and which further stigmatise and impoverish disabled people. In contrast, in 2024-25, we are committing a record £6.3 billion to benefits expenditure, which is £1.1 billion more than we receive from the UK Government for social security.

Scotland’s social security system is designed on the principles of dignity, fairness and respect. Those are the values of this Government and of the people of Scotland.

Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

I welcome the minister’s response. Does he agree that the UK Government should look to the Scottish Government model of Social Security Scotland and start treating people with dignity, fairness and respect by scrapping the proposed welfare cuts for people with mental health issues?

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

Yes—I agree with that. The UK Government’s heartless approach to social security appears to be entirely focused on reducing the support to those who need it. Disabled people’s organisations in Scotland have already warned that the UK Government’s planned changes are “cruel, punitive and ineffective” in getting disabled people back into work.

Meanwhile, our compassionate and caring approach, which is fundamentally different from that of the DWP, has been backed by experts. The Scottish Government completely rejects the proposed changes, and I call on the UK Government to halt those plans, so that they can be properly scrutinised.

Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

The minister will recognise that the waiting times for benefits in Scotland are longer than those for DWP benefits. Will he take action so that people who are waiting to hear whether they are entitled to a claim are not left with the stress of waiting for months before they get a response from Social Security Scotland?

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

I know that the member has an interest in the area, and he has raised it with the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice on a number of occasions. I will engage with her and feed the answer back to Mr Balfour.