North Wales MS Mark Isherwood has once again called on the Welsh Government to provide a timescale for the introduction of a Welsh Benefits System.
Last week in the Senedd, responding to the Social Justice Minister’s Statement on the Child Poverty Strategy for Wales, Mr Isherwood asked what timescale has been set for the introduction of a Welsh Benefits System.
As the Minister failed to provide him with an answer, Mr Isherwood challenged the same Minister over the matter in today’s meeting of the Welsh Parliament.
In Spokespersons Questions to the Social Justice Minister, he said:
“For many years, service providers and researchers across the sector have been calling for a coherent and integrated Welsh Benefits System for all the means-tested benefits the Welsh Government is responsible for.
“Last week, you launched the Welsh Government's Benefits Charter, telling us it aims to ‘increase take-up of Welsh benefits, enabling more people in Wales to take up their entitlement’, and ‘identify and remove the barriers that prevent people from claiming their entitlements’. However, the Welsh Local Government Association then issued a Press Release, which made clear that, far from being the launch of a Welsh Benefits System, Local Authorities had only agreed ‘to work with Welsh Government to take action towards developing a consistent Welsh benefits system’. So, just as the Children's Commissioner for Wales stated in the context of your Child Poverty Strategy, ‘the lack of detail on actions, timescales and deliverables’ again means that there is no way of holding the Welsh Government to account.
“Questioning you on your Child Poverty Strategy here last week, I therefore asked what is your timescale for the introduction of a Welsh Benefits System, and what targets will be in place to measure progress. You failed to answer. Will you do so now?”
The Minister again failed to provide a timescale.
Mr Isherwood said:
“This was first raised with us almost a decade ago by the sector, in Committee, and in this Chamber by myself and others. And you still haven't told me what timescale you're working to for the introduction of a Welsh Benefits System, and whether you will have any targets in place to measure progress.”
“I hope, although you've still failed to address the points, that you can at least confirm that there will be targets and timescales, even if you have to wait for your Statement before you can share the detail with us. And, as you indicate, the Bevan Foundation have been raising this for years, as have multiple other organisations, and this was captured in the evidence to the Committee in that (2019) Inquiry that I was party to.”
Mr Isherwood also asked the Minister, what, if any, discussions she has had with the UK Department for Work and Pensions regarding the role that Jobcentre Plus can play in an integrated Welsh Benefits System, working collaboratively with Local Authorities across Wales.