Report: The Smith Commission and beyond: the devolution of housing benefit to the Scottish Parliament
Shelter Scotland has published a paper which sets out the principles it believes should underpin further devolution of social security - including housing benefit – to the Scottish Parliament, and what steps the Scottish Government and UK governments should take in relation to the devolution of social security.
In the report, the charity argues that any additional powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament must be devolved in a holistic manner. This, it says, must be driven by a will to link up extra powers with devolved areas to reduce poverty and inequality generally and to tackle homelessness and housing need specifically.
Shelter Scotland also makes the case that further devolution must be matched with fiscal and economic powers. The Scottish Parliament must be fully responsible and accountable for any additional social security powers devolved to it, it adds.
Finally the paper argues that full devolution of housing benefit provides the opportunity to shift the balance in spending from demand-side to supply-side housing subsidies. It states that devolution of housing benefit should be driven by a will to, over time, shift housing subsidies from housing benefit to house building with transitional protection for current housing benefit claimants.
The report recommends that housing benefit should be provided outside of Universal Credit in Scotland and that by using the powers to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament from the Smith Commission process the Scottish Government should:
- act to permanently abolish the ‘bedroom tax’ in Scotland,
- review the rates of housing benefit paid to tenants in the private rented sector,
- consider how to simplify and make fair non-dependant deductions,
- and examine how the power to pay landlords housing costs directly might be used in the interests of tenants in both the social rented and private rented sector.