Less conditionality, more dignity? An emerging Scottish approach to welfare-to-work

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


An ambition to build a system based on respect for the dignity of claimants has been at the forefront of Scottish social security policy documents since 2014 and is now being enshrined in legislation. The prominence of this aspiration is a clear riposte to successive UK Governments whose treatment of working age claimants has been accused of falling short of dignified. A key threat to dignity at UK level is the toughened, post-2012 conditionality regime. Scotland’s range of devolved social security powers is limited, and concrete indications of how a distinctive system might emerge within their scope are just beginning to appear, but the Scottish Government’s commitment to run devolved welfare-to-work programmes on a voluntary basis is a clear statement of intent to reduce conditionality where possible. This paper first examines the compatibility of a highly conditional social security system with the protection of dignity, the foundational principle of human rights law. Findings from an empirical study of Scottish policymakers’ views on the welfare state are used to demonstrate the importance of the post-2012 approach to claimant activation in building support for social security devolution and a vision for a regional approach. Consideration is then given to the extent to which Scotland can develop an approach to activation that better respects the dignity of claimants within the current constitutional settlement, and the extent to which it has begun to do so in the early period of social security devolution. Ultimately, it is suggested, fulfilment of the vision is likely to require a continued drive for further devolved competence.
Period27 Jun 2018
Event titleWelfare Conditionality: Principles, Practices and Perspectives
Event typeConference
LocationYork, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • dignity
  • social rights
  • human rights
  • conditionality
  • social security
  • welfare state
  • social citizenship