SFHA gives evidence to Parliamentary committee on further welfare powers



Nile Istephan
Nile Istephan

The Scotland Bill has the potential to enable social landlords to support and transform tenants’ lives though sections of the it fail to meet the “spirit or substance” of the Smith Commission, according to the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA).

Speaking ahead of giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Devolution (Further Powers) Committee on Thursday, Nile Istephan, vice chair of the SFHA, called for the welfare provisions of the Bill to be transferred as soon as possible to minimise any “unnecessary delays”.

He said: “Despite calling on the Smith Commission to devolve a broader package of social security powers, we recognise that the Scotland Bill could provide meaningful opportunity to enable social landlords to support and transform the lives of tenants across Scotland. However, following analysis of the Bill, the SFHA concludes that some sections in relation to welfare, energy and fiscal powers have not fully met the spirit or substance outlined in the Smith Commission.

“The SFHA welcomes the devolution of the housing element of Universal Credit to the Scottish Parliament. The powers to be devolved will enable Scottish Ministers to vary housing costs, including varying the ‘bedroom tax’ and deductions for non-dependents as well as gaining the administrative power to pay landlords directly.

“The present arrangements for Housing Benefit permit any rent support payable to be paid directly to the landlord, should the tenant choose this. The SFHA urges that Universal Credit claimants should have a choice as to how their housing payments will be delivered – directly to the landlord or into their own accounts – maintaining continuity with the present system for housing association tenants.

“We commend the clause in the Scotland Bill that enables Scottish Ministers to regulate to whom in a household, and how frequently, Universal Credit payments will be made.

“The SFHA welcomes the references to inter-governmental relations contained in the bill and recognises the essential need for positive interaction and co-operation between the Scottish and UK Parliaments.

“The SFHA calls for the administrative powers in relation to welfare to be devolved effectively as soon as possible, minimising any unnecessary delays.”

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