Getting Members involved in the future of Social Security in Scotland

09 Feb 2017

Getting members involved in the future of Social Security in Scotland

Background

PCS Scotland has been successful in a bid to the Union Modernisation Fund (UMF) from the Scottish Government. The bid covers engaging with members and policy makers/influencers over the newly devolved powers on social security. This funding is time limited to the end of March; the DWP Group Executive Committee (GEC) and DWP Scotland Branch Secretaries were notified in late December 2016.

The Scottish Government are in the process of establishing a Social Security Agency. Though this is not expected to be operational until 2019, they have been through a public consultation, which PCS made a submission to. They expect to announce a response in February 2017, with the development of a bill taking place by April 2017.

Powers are being devolved over the following benefits:-

  • Ill Health and Disability Benefits which means - Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Attendance Allowance (AA), Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA) and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB)
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Sure Start Maternity Grants (to be replaced by a Best Start Grant)
  • Funeral Payments
  • Winter Fuel and Cold Weather Payments
  • Discretionary Housing Payments
  • Some powers in relation to Universal Credit (i.e. to split payments between household members)

How PCS will be involved

We will be using this funded opportunity to get input from our members on how social security should work, in light of the devolved powers the Scottish government now has.  PCS recognises that workers’ voice are usually unheard in major service design of government policy, so this is a unique opportunity to influence decisions which will affect people across Scotland, as well as any DWP worker or family who could now, or one day, be in receipt of any of these benefits.

PCS is also using the funding and the work to build links with campaign and community organisations to draw in wider issues, such as the DWP office closures. We have met with the Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA) who are keen to be involved with the process, and to hold a joint event later on in the year.

As well as looking to the future of devolved social security, we will be discussing the impact of staffing cuts and office closures as these are undeniably linked.

We will be using facility time where possible, to engage with DWP workers in big questions over policy design, service design and job engagement, linked to the objectives drawn from the Scottish government’s ‘Fair Work Framework’. This is our proposal to the Scottish government on how we handle ‘co-production’, which they intend to use to involve those who deliver as well as receive social security benefits.

How branches and members will be involved

We have asked DWP for time off for members to participate in small group sessions to be held in or around at least one workplace in every branch in Scotland. Timing of events will depend on whether time off is granted.

At the local sessions, we will be gathering comments, testimonies, and video logs which will form part of short video to be presented to the Scottish government, and an academic report later in the year from the survey data collected. The union is familiar with the restraints upon DWP workers speaking out, and being prevented under the Civil Service Code from criticising government policy, any personal stories and videos would be anonymised to prevent individuals from being identified. All of this will only be done with the permission of those who are involved.

PCS recognises that it is our members who hold the most expertise on how the benefits system works. Most workplaces will have experts who have an encyclopaedic knowledge about the benefits which are to be devolved, and actually want to see improvements in the way that things are done. Those members who express particular interest or expertise will be asked for further information in the form of follow up discussions.

Branch AGMs would be the ideal time to present these ideas to members and reps. Branches are therefore asked to provide the PCS Glasgow office with times and dates of their next BEC and/or AGM so that we can provide a speaker to explain our plans.

This work is in line with motion A80 passed at ADC 2016, a motion from DWP Greater Glasgow, and has been discussed with the Scottish Social Security Working Party (SSSWP) which is made up of representatives from the DWP Scotland Officers, Scotland Committee, GEC and NEC.

Our findings will be used to present members views to the Scottish government, and in negotiations with DWP. The evidence we gather will be key in campaigning for jobs, offices, and better services for years to come.

Action required by branches in Scotland

Branches are asked to email helenf@pcs.org.uk with:

  1. Date of next BEC and AGM
  2. Which site in their branch would generate the most participation?
  3. Whether a meeting is best to take place inside or outside of the office
  4. Names of individuals who are already keen to take part (reps may be better approaching the experts within workplaces to ask their permission but leaflets will soon be produced to distribute.)

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