OPFS Response to the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2022-23
On 6 September, the First Minister set out the key measures which will support the cost of living crisis in the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government.
The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government, A stronger and more resilient Scotland includes a rent freeze, a budget to mitigate against UK Government welfare cuts, an increase in the Scottish Child Payment, uprating eight social security payments, extending free school meals to all primary school children, doubling the fuel insecurity fund, freezing rail fares, awarding additional Discretionary Housing Payments to local authorities and investing in childcare.
OPFS CEO Satwat Rehman in response said:
“We welcome the uplift in Scottish Child Payment to £25 a week & its extension to include all eligible children under 16yrs. We also welcome plans to design and test options for all‑year‑round school‑age childcare systems. However, we also renew our call on the Scottish Government to mitigate against the Young Parent Penalty by providing a ‘top up’ through the Scottish Child Payment to all impacted households with parents under 25 years.
“We also call on the Scottish Government to:
- Double the planned “bridging payments” for families with children in receipt of free school meals from £130 to £260.
- Uprate the 8 social security payments delivered by Social Security Scotland by the rate of inflation – 10% in August 22 and predicted by the Bank of England to hit 13.3 % in October – the highest rate for more than 42 years
- Widen eligibility for school clothing grants and free school meals to all families on Universal Credit by legislating to remove all income thresholds from 2023‑24.
- Many single parents are unpaid carers, a group in our community facing unprecedented financial and mental health crisis. It’s vital that the new Scottish Carer’s Assistance payment is urgently increased in value and eligibility widened so it reaches many more cares.
- Action is needed to fully invest in care and all those who provide it. The planned review of Scotland’s national outcomes needs to end the invisibility of care and carers, and finally place care at the very heart of Scottish Government priorities. To achieve this goal OPFS is supporting the coalition “A Scotland that cares” campaign for a new national outcome to fully value and invest in those experiencing care and all those providing it.
“Looking to the future, Scottish Government should consider raising much needed finances through devolved taxes. Since 2017, the Scottish Parliament has had the ability to set income tax rates and bands, apart from the personal allowance. We also support IPPR’s call for radical reform of council tax . Council tax is unfair as low to middle income families pay the most as a proportion of income and higher value properties pay the least as a proportion of value. Reform of local council taxes should again be considered to make them fairer and to raise extra finance for public services.”
Key measures from The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government
- Implementing a combined rent freeze and moratorium on evictions to help people through the cost crisis which will be delivered through emergency legislation which will be introduced to put in place a rent freeze until at least 31 March 2023 and a moratorium on evictions, as well as a new tenants’ rights campaign.
- Providing local authorities with additional Discretionary Housing Payment funding of £5 million to mitigate the UK Government benefit cap as fully as possible within devolved powers and give local authorities more flexibility to take account of energy bills in their prioritisation of households for Discretionary Housing Payments.
- Investing £14.9 million to begin mitigating against the damaging impact of other UK Government welfare cuts including the benefit cap and changes to the Local Housing Allowance rates.
- Uprating 8 social security payments delivered by Social Security Scotland by 6%, compared to the 3.1% used for UK Government uprating.
- Increasing The Scottish Child Payment to £25 per week per eligible child from 14 November when it also opens to all under 16s.
- Rolling out free school meals across all primary school age groups.
- Doubling the Fuel Insecurity Fund to £20 million to help households at risk of self-disconnection or self-rationing of energy.
- Freezing Scotrail fares until March 2023.
- Investing £20 million this year in the design of an all-year around school-age childcare system, and build the evidence base required to inform a high quality learning and childcare offer for 1 and 2 year olds.