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Human rights/equalities, Jobs, Research, Scotland, Social security and welfare benefits, System design

Social security systems based on dignity and respect – Invitation to tender

EHRC_LogoThe Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is seeking to commission research on the design of social security systems based on the concepts of dignity and respect. The deadline for tenders is 1pm, 2 February 2017.

Under the Scotland Act 2016, legislative responsibility for particular areas of social security will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.  Eleven benefits are being devolved, accounting for around 15% of the current benefit spend in Scotland.  A range of related powers have also been devolved, including the power to top-up reserved benefits. [For a summary of the devolved powers, see SPICe Briefing, New Social Security Powers, 31 May 2016.]

In connection with the Scottish Government’s consultation on its approach to establishing a social security system for the devolved powers, in October 2016 UKAJI jointly hosted, with Queen Margaret University and Glasgow University, a seminar on the changing world of social security and administrative justice in Scotland. The seminar report and presentations are available on UKAJI’s blog here.

The EHRC has issued a tender stating the following:

The Scottish Government has committed to ensuring that ‘respect for the dignity of individuals will be at the heart of the new social security system in Scotland’. The EHRC has welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment but has noted that the concepts of ‘dignity’ and ‘respect’ can have different meanings in different contexts. [See the EHRC’s consultation response on social security in Scotland.]

The right to social security is a fundamental human right (as contained within a number of international treaties to which Scotland via the UK state is signatory. See Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights; article 5(e)(iv) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) , articles 11(1)(e) and 14(2)(c) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women , article 26 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) ; article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of people with disability (CRPD)  and Articles 12 and 13 of the European Social Charter.). It is also essential as a stepping stone to ensure other rights are fulfilled, such as the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, clothing and adequate housing, the right to private and family life, the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the rights to education and to work, and the right to take part in public decision-making.

General Comment 19 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provides detailed guidance regarding the State’s obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the right to social security, as set out in Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  General Comment 19 states:

The right to social security encompasses the right to access and maintain benefits, whether in cash or in kind, without discrimination in order to secure protection, inter alia, from (a) lack of work-related income caused by sickness, disability, maternity, employment injury, unemployment, old age, or death of a family member; (b) unaffordable access to health case; (c) insufficient family support, particularly for children and adult dependents.”

EHRC Scotland is committed to working with SHRC, the Scottish Government, civil society and those with lived experience of the social security system to give clear meaning to the terms ‘dignity’ and ‘respect’ in the context of social security, underpinned by an equality and human rights analysis.  It is envisaged that a group will be convened to provide a human rights and equality oversight function on the design, delivery and monitoring of Scotland’s new social security system (the oversight group).

The EHRC wishes to commission a piece of research building on the principles set out in General Comment 19, drawing on theoretical and practical examples of good practice in other jurisdictions, focusing on the different aspects of a social security system.  The research will inform the approach and understanding of the oversight group and the Scottish Government more widely. The research could also be used by civil society in informing their approach to engagement on social security.

The aims of this project are:

  • To provide EHRC Scotland with evidence of aspects of social security systems elsewhere that offer examples of best practice and could be said to be founded on the principles of dignity and respect.
  • To provide evidence on how these mechanisms have been devised, implemented and measured elsewhere, and how these could potentially be applied to Scotland’s new social security system.

The tender details (EHRC-AHJE-7FC959) are available on the procurement portal. The deadline for submissions is 1pm on 2 February 2017.



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