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Friday, 18 May, 2001, 17:56 GMT
SNP: Pensions and welfare policy

Find out more about SNP policy on pensions and welfare.

Social security remains an economic issue dealt with at Westminster - but some elements of welfare policy - those which are linked to local authorities and education for instance - are dealt with by the Scottish Parliament.


Overall, the SNP would revise the government structure which sees social security handled by three agencies.

"The SNP will investigate the creation of a single agency responsible for the streamlining of benefit payments," the manifesto says.

The party would also review payments of benefits such as housing benefit, with a view to making the regime simpler and quicker.

Control over housing benefit should indeed by transferred to Edinburgh to be used as a "lever" for reducing rents, and thereby increasing the incomes of some of Scotland's poorest citizens, the SNP manifesto says.

PENSIONS

The party supports the restoration of the link of the state pension with earnings, a move which could raise pensioner's incomes by 200 a year more than Labour proposes - but only if resources allow it.

And it would investigate how best to ensure those who have saved for their pension are not punished for their prudence by being denied access to means-tested benefits.

The SNP also claims credit the introduction of free personal care for the elderly and infirm in Scotland.

The party wants the Scottish Parliament to have the right to set the level of pensions in Scotland, something which is currently a Westminster responsibility.


FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN

The party is particularly concerned about the level of child poverty in Scotland, which it wants addressed as a matter of urgency.

It also wants a review of Labour's Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC).

The party is concerned about the marginal rate of tax which penalises working families as their income rises.

And the party would "review the financial support" available to 16 and 17 years old, easing their passage to becoming fully independent adults.


THE UNEMPLOYED

The SNP would press for the devolution to Scotland of Labour's key New Deal scheme aimed at helping the unemployed win jobs.

The New Deal would be "refocused" into a "Better Deal" programme, which would be targeted at unemployment blackspots, and provide enhanced training for jobless youths.

In essence, the New Deal would be retargeted towards addressing skill shortages rather than claimant count, in an effort to promote sustained employment.

Scottish unemployment is, at 5.9%, running 0.8% ahead of the UK average, and the country has been hit by a series of job cuts announced by firms such as Motorola, National Semiconductor and OKI since Labour came to power.

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