Scotland politics

Concern over 'breakneck speed' of welfare devolution plans

Image caption Some benefits, including Disability Living Allowance, are to be devolved

Equality campaigners have warned about the "breakneck speed" at which some welfare powers are being devolved to Scotland.

The organisations said they were concerned it did not allow time for full public consultation.

The concerns were raised as Scottish and UK ministers met for the first time to discuss welfare proposals by the Smith Commission.

They said the meeting to discuss the transition of power was "very useful".

Some benefits, including Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Carer's Allowance, are to be devolved under the Smith plans.

The joint ministerial working group on welfare was set up to help implement the changes.

"Serious concerns"

Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil held talks with UK government ministers, including Scotland Office minister David Mundell, Minister for Disabled People Mark Harper and Priti Patel, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury.

But groups including Engender, the Electoral Reform Society Scotland adn the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, as well as the Scottish Refugee Council and Scottish Women's Aid, warned they had "serious concerns about the current process for further devolution of welfare to Scotland."

In a joint statement to the working group, they said: "The breakneck speed of negotiations is precluding the possibility of democratic civic participation and the chance to create a better system that meets the needs of women in Scotland.

"Given the complexity of welfare provision in particular, this cannot be achieved in the timetable set down by your governments."

The groups, which also include NUS Scotland Women's Campaign, Rape Crisis Scotland, Women's Support Project, YWCA Scotland and Zero Tolerance, said the devolution of some welfare powers was a "clear opportunity to support women".

"Smooth transition"

But they said "restrictions placed on these powers within the draft clauses" that have already been published by the UK government "fundamentally undermine their potential to prevent women from reaching the point of extreme need."

The Scottish government has previously claimed the clauses would effectively allow UK ministers to veto any changes to the new Universal Credit system put forward by Holyrood, including the so-called "bedroom tax".

A statement by the joint ministerial working group said: "We had a very useful meeting to establish the steps that we need to take to facilitate a smooth transition of powers.

"It is important for those who benefit from the support that is available that the transfer of responsibilities is as seamless as possible."

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