8. Combating poverty
Welfare reform mitigation
Across 2013-16, the Scottish Government invested £296 million to mitigate the worst aspects of UK welfare policy, via the Scottish Welfare Fund ( SWF), Discretionary Housing Payments, Council Tax Reduction Scheme ( CTRS) and other activity, such as advice and advocacy support services. The Scottish Government is providing a further £100 million in 2016-17. This investment continues to support people affected by the UK Government's welfare cuts in a range of different ways:
- fully mitigating the bedroom tax - spending £35 million in 2016-17 and £47 million in 2017-18 - to help over 70,000 households in Scotland, an estimated 80% of which contain at least one disabled person, to sustain their tenancies; the Scottish Government is committed to using newly devolved social security powers to effectively abolish the bedroom tax
- a further £10.9 million will be available to local authorities to mitigate the impact of other UK Government welfare reforms and help claimants of Housing benefit or Universal Credit maintain tenancies
- providing another £38 million this year for the SWF. Between 1 April 2013 and 30 September 2016, the Fund has supported over 230,000 households in Scotland, including around 77,000 families with children. 77,000 awards were made to households containing at least one disabled person
- since April 2013 the Scottish Government has committed £92 million for the CTRS over and above the funding transferred from the UK Government upon abolition of Council Tax Benefit. In 2017-18, this funding will increase to an additional £31 million, resulting in a total of £351 million being included in the local government finance settlement paid to local authorities in relation to the scheme
- In addition, the Scottish Government is making significant investment in advice and advocacy support services to enable people to access expert support in applying for benefits and appealing adverse decisions.
The Scottish Government's work to mitigate the worst effects of the UK Government's welfare cuts forms part of a broader strategy to tackle poverty and deliver social justice. The Fairer Scotland Action Plan (October 2016)  sets out the actions the Scottish Government will take. It is built on five high-level ambitions for the period to 2030:
- a fairer Scotland for all
- ending child poverty
- a strong start for all young people
- fairer working lives
- a thriving third age
The Plan contains 50 fairness actions for the current parliamentary session that will help meet these ambitions, ranging across the responsibilities of government, including commencing the socio-economic duty in section 1 of the Equality Act 2010; commitments to promote good flexible working; and a new £29 million fund (with £12.5 million of European money) to support communities and the third sector to develop new, innovative approaches to tackling poverty. It also features commitments from a range of organisations from across the UK who want to help build a fairer Scotland, and is the start of a long-term commitment to help shape a fairer Scotland.
The Plan also sets out a range of actions the Scottish Government will take in the current parliamentary session to tackle child poverty, including a new Best Start Grant to support low income parents in the early years of their children's lives; a baby box of essential items for all children born in Scotland; and a substantial increase in early learning and childcare provision. A key action in the Plan is the introduction of the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill, which establishes ambitious statutory income-based targets for reducing child poverty by 2030, and puts in place a robust framework for measuring, monitoring and reporting on child poverty at a national and local level. The Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill  was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 9 February 2017.
The Plan sets out progress on meeting the recommendations of the first report of the Independent Advisor on Poverty and Inequality, Shifting the Curve - A Report to the First Minister ,  which the Scottish Government has agreed to implement in full. Shifting the Curve recognises anti-poverty actions that have already been introduced, particularly around welfare reform, supporting social housing and promoting the Living Wage.
The Scottish Government publication Creating a Fairer Scotland: Social Security  sets out how new social security powers, despite their limited scope, will provide opportunities to develop different policies for Scotland that are fairer and help tackle inequalities and poverty, ensuring that people are treated with respect and dignity.
The Scottish Government has already indicated some of the policies it will take forward, such as the introduction of a new Best Start Grant, which will see support for qualifying families increase from the £500 payable only for the first child under the existing UK Government Sure Start Maternity Grant, to £1,100 for the first child and £800 for second and subsequent children over the term of the benefit; the raising of Carer's Allowance; and effectively abolishing the UK Government's bedroom tax.
The 2016-17 PfG contains a commitment to introduce a Social Security Bill by June 2017, and the response to a Social Security Consultation conducted over three months in 2016 will be the foundation for how the Scottish Government uses new devolved powers. Independent analysis of the social security consultation was published in February 2017.  The Scottish Government's response, A New Future for Social Security ,  outlined that social security as a human right will be enshrined in the foundation and functions of Scotland's new social security agency.
The Scottish Government's More Homes Scotland approach supports the target to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes (including 35,000 for social rent) over the period 2016-17 to 2020-21, backed with investment of over £3 billion. The previous target of 30,000 affordable homes over the 2011-16 parliamentary session was exceeded: to the end of March 2016, 33,490 affordable homes had been delivered, including 22,523 for social rent and, within that, 5,992 council homes.
In Scotland, social landlords (local authorities and housing associations) are responsible for the allocation and management of social housing on an objective and non-discriminatory assessment of need. The Housing (Scotland) Act 1987  sets out groups of people who must be given reasonable preference (priority) for housing. This includes people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness and people living under unsatisfactory housing conditions.
The Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016  will introduce a new modernised, open-ended tenancy for all future private rented sector lets in Scotland. Expected to commence in December 2017, the new private residential tenancy will enhance the rights and protections for tenants by providing additional security, stability, and predictability.
Since 2012, all those assessed by local authorities as being homeless through no fault of their own have been entitled to settled accommodation. Furthermore, anyone threatened with or experiencing homelessness is legally entitled to a minimum of temporary accommodation, advice and assistance from their local authority. The Scottish Government has focused on the holistic and person-centred 'Housing Options' approach  to homelessness prevention, which features early intervention and explores all possible tenure options. Time spent in temporary accommodation should be as short as possible while consideration is given to the most appropriate housing option and appropriate settled accommodation is found.
The Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2014  outlines standards of accommodation which would be unsuitable for households with children and pregnant women unless there are exceptional circumstances. Where these conditions apply, households should only reside there for a limit of 14 days. The Scottish Government plans to strengthen this and ensure that all temporary accommodation is the same standard as permanent accommodation. In April 2016 the Scottish Government introduced mandatory collection of data on time spent in temporary accommodation, which will help inform the approach in future.
The Scottish Government provided £1 million of funding over 2014-16 as part of the Emergency Food Action Plan. In October 2015, the Scottish Government established the Independent Short-Life Working Group on Food Poverty to identify the issues that lead people into food poverty and make recommendations on how they can be addressed. In November 2016 the Scottish Government published its response  to the Working Group's report, Dignity: Ending Hunger Together in Scotland  (30 June 2016). Notably, a commitment was made to explore with stakeholders how the right to food could be enshrined within Scots Law.
In 2016-17, the Scottish Government established the £1 million a year Fair Food Fund, which is intended to support projects that will deliver dignified and sustainable responses to food poverty and reduce the need for emergency food aid.
Email: David Holmes
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House