The Scottish government is to withdraw from one of the UK government’s leading welfare initiatives in protest at Iain Duncan Smith’s decision to abandon key targets for measuring child poverty, the Observer has learned.
Scottish ministers have told the work and pensions secretary they plan to leave the social mobility and child poverty commission headed by former Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn and want Scotland to be excluded from the legislation on child poverty passed by Westminster in 2010.
In a revolt that will deepen the political divide between Scotland and the rest of the UK, the Scottish government plans to introduce a distinct strategy on eliminating child poverty, in part by keeping the targets that have been dropped by the Department of Work and Pensions. The DWP is to scrap the child poverty reduction targets for 2020 set by Gordon Brown, by dropping a long-established method of measuring household poverty against 60% of average incomes, and will rename Milburn’s body the social mobility commission.
Alex Neil, the Scottish social justice secretary, wrote to Duncan Smith last week to warn him that he was withdrawing Scotland’s commissioner, Douglas Hamilton, effectively ending the commission’s role in helping develop policy across the different parts of the UK.
And this week the Scottish National party will table amendments to the welfare bill in the Commons seeking to amend the Child Poverty Act 2010 when the bill starts its committee stage on Thursday, to remove all the legislation’s duties on the Scottish government.
Neil told the Observer it was wrong that the DWP had removed the targets for children in working households. “We believe that to take people from working households out of the targets is absurd, especially because 67% of children living in poverty are living in a household where someone is working,” he said.
Scottish ministers plan to use the new, albeit limited, welfare policy making powers being introduced as part of the Scotland bill, which will extend Holyrood’s tax-raising and legal capabilities. as part of the UK government’s response to last year’s independence referendum.