I once coined the acronym Tabis – Things Are Better in Scotland – as a shorthand for the forward-looking social policies of that country. And it gets truer all the time. Over the past 25 years devolution has given Scotland limited but growing independence over its social security and tax policies. And they are better.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies reckons the poorest tenth of households in Scotland are £580 a year better off than if they lived in England. That’s paid for by higher taxes. If your income from work, pensions, and rents is over £27,850 and you live in Scotland, you will pay more income tax than if you lived elsewhere in the UK. But, as people often tell me, you get more for that – free prescriptions, for instance (in England most people under 60 pay £9.35 an item).
In fact, Social Security Scotland lists 13 benefits that are better than (or not paid at all in) the rest of the UK, from the £491.40 a year supplement in 2022 paid on top of Carer’s Allowance, to the Adult Disability Payment that has replaced Personal Independence Payment and is based on an assessment procedure said to be fairer and more in tune with disabled people.
Payments for babies and children whose mothers claim certain means-tested benefits are higher than in the rest of the UK, too – an extra £25 a week for each child under 16, for example. And Best Start payments in pregnancy and for preschool children whose mother claims a means-tested benefit are only found in Scotland.
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There are also bigger discounts on council tax for low-income working age people than those in England: those who get them pay up to 35 per cent less on their water bills.
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In Wales the differences are fewer – the Government has so far not used its powers to change income tax, and it has no powers over social security payments – but there are some. Prescriptions are free for all in Wales. And there are bigger council tax reductions for low-income working-age people than in England.
Anyone moving from England or Northern Ireland to Scotland or Wales should make sure they are aware of these differences. It could make them better off.
QUESTIONS? Send any questions to Paul.Lewis@radiotimes.com. Paul cannot answer you personally, but I will reflect them in his column