Topic of the week:

welfare reform

An open letter to iain Duncan Smith

We - the undersigned - are writing with a united voice from across civic Scotland to call on the UK Government to immediately suspend the further implementation of Universal Credit in Scotland until the process of legislating for new powers for the Scottish Parliament is complete.

We know from the Smith Agreement that the bill for further powers that is currently being drafted, will include significant new welfare powers. The detail of how these powers will interact with the Universal Credit system will be complex and require careful consideration and planning. The legislation around welfare is complex and is regularly being adapted: since the enactment of the Welfare Reform Act 2012, there have already been over 40 Statutory Instruments passed by Westminster to bring into force many of its provisions.

Any system of welfare has to be safe and secure. Driving through Universal Credit in Scotland at this stage will create unnecessary administrative complication in an already complex process. The sensible way to roll out Universal Credit in Scotland is to do it once, when the Scotland-specific elements have been carefully planned and incorporated into it. This would avoid wasting precious time and scarce resources, and would protect vulnerable people from bureaucratic change that could wreak havoc.

A key recommendation of the Smith Commission was to significantly improve intergovernmental working between Westminster and Holyrood; this is a golden opportunity to do just that. So we ask you to act immediately to suspend the next phase of the roll-out of Universal Credit in Scotland, before it is scheduled to start in February.

Our diverse, united voices demonstrate that our call is not about politics. It is about protecting the most vulnerable people in our society and creating an effective, robust new system for delivering welfare. Our call is about responsible, effective governance.

Mary Taylor, Chief Executive, SFHA on behalf of my 56 co-signatories, listed below:

Age Scotland - Brian Sloan, CEO

Business for Scotland - Brandon Malone, Interim Chair

Church of Scotland - Rt Rev John Chalmers, Moderator of the General Assembly

Coalition of Care Support Providers in Scotland - Annie Gunner Logan, Director,

Common Weal - The Board

Constitutional Commission - John Drummond, Chairman

Council of Mortgage Lenders - Kennedy Foster, Policy Consultant, Scotland

Cyrenians - Ewan Aitken, CEO

Development Trusts Association - Ian Cooke, Director

East Lothian Tenants and Residents Panel - Mark Ormiston, Chair Person

Edinburgh Tenants Federation - Betty Stevenson, Convenor

Engender - Emma Ritch, Executive Director

Food Train - Michelle McCrindle, CEO

Glasgow & West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations - David Bookbinder, Director

Health & Social Care Alliance Scotland - Ian Welsh, CEO

Inclusion Scotland - Bill Scott, Director of Policy

Money Advice Scotland - Yvonne MacDermid OBE, CEO

Quarriers - Alice Drife, CEO

Scottish Association of Social Work - Trisha Hall, Country Manager

Scottish Children's Services Coalition - Sophie Pilgrim, Member

Scottish Community Alliance - Angus Hardie, Director

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations - Martin Sime, CEO

Scottish Out of School Care Network - Irene Audain MBE, CEO

Scottish Trade Unions Council - David Moxham, Deputy General Secretary

Scottish Women's Aid - Lily Greenan, CEO

Sense Scotland - Andy Kerr, CEO

Social Enterprise Scotland - Fraser Kelly, CEO

Social Firms Scotland - Pauline Graham, CEO

St Martins Parish Pastoral Council, Tranent - Fr James Smith. Parish Priest

The Equality Network - Tim Hopkins, Director

The Jimmy Reid Foundation - Bob Thomson, Convener

The Poverty Alliance Peter Kelly, Director

The Wise Group - Laurie Russell, CEO

The Trussell Trust - David McAuley, CEO

Turning Point Scotland - Martin Cawley, CEO

Who Cares? Scotland - Duncan Dunlop, CEO

Voluntary Action Scotland - Calum Irving, CEO

Voluntary Health Scotland - Claire Stevens, CEO

YouthLink Scotland - Jim Sweeney, CEO

Zero Tolerance - Laura Tomson, Co-director

Signatories from Housing Assoc. due to be part of the next stage of Universal Credit roll-out:

ARK Housing Association - Jane Gray, CEO

Barony Housing Association - Rebecca Wilson, CEO

Bield Housing & Care - Brian Logan, CEO

Blackwood - Fanchea Kelly, CEO

Cairn Housing Association - Jason MacGilp, CEO

Castle Rock Edinvar Housing Association - Alister Steele, Managing Director

Dunedin Canmore Group - Ewan Fraser, CEO

Hanover (Scotland) Housing Association - Helen Murdoch, CEO

Knowes Housing Association - Pierre De Fence, Director

Lister Housing Co-operative - Alistair Cant, Director

Manor Estates Housing Association - Lynn McDonald, Director

Melville Housing Association - Andrew Noble, CEO

Prospect Community Housing - Brendan Fowler, Director

Trafalgar Housing Association - Paul McShane, Director

Trust Housing Association - Bob McDougall, CEO

West Granton Housing Co-operative - Gerry Gillies, CEO