Jessica Blair explores why Wales is nervous of welfare devolution.
Of all the powers being devolved to Scotland following the referendum, the powers over welfare are perhaps the most striking. These powers mean that for the first time there will be different welfare policies in one part of the UK, a radical shift from the settlement of providing a common ‘safety net’ in all parts of the UK.
Why are we so nervous of welfare devolution?
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For Wales, the debate around the devolution of welfare seems muted. There has been little discussion about whether Wales should be doing things differently and what the implications of this may be. Are people are nervous of welfare devolution?
The perceived financial implications of welfare devolution seem to be a barrier for many. Any devolution of welfare spending to Wales would be based on Westminster’s and result in a ‘consequential’ meaning that Wales would get a portion of the spend the UK Government makes based on its population. If UK Government spending went down alongside further austerity measures, so too would any Welsh Government welfare budget. Is there a potential that this could expose our poverty, and that could embarrass us?
Even though the instincts of the Welsh Government may be to compensate for cuts made by Westminster Ministers, without the resources the money would have to come from other areas, and they’d feel the political pain if they couldn’t keep it up.
Capacity is also an issue. Does the 5000 strong Welsh Civil Service have the wherewithal to deliver and administer some elements of the welfare system? Could different policies over welfare be effectively rolled out across Wales?
Listen below to hear an IWA Podcast discussing some of these issues featuring Michelle Reid, CEO of Cynon Taf Housing and Linda Whittaker, Chief Executive of NPT Homes.
What do you think? Are you nervous of the potential for some elements of welfare to be devolved? If so, why?