Fairer, simpler access to benefits

TER Holyrood-blue-sky-parliament- scottish government

Scotland’s new social security powers will make it fairer and simpler for people to access benefits, Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil has said.

Launching a paper today on government conversations with the public and stakeholders on how new social security powers should be used, Mr Neil said Scotland’s new social security system will treat people with respect and dignity.

More than 70 organisations working with children, carers, disabled people, ethnic minority representative groups and older people have taken part in discussions around the new powers.

A wide range of responses has been received on what we could do with these powers – and the consistent view is that that we need to take a fairer approach, one that does not stigmatise or punish people who receive benefits.

Mr Neil said:

The new social security powers are part of the conversation on what will make a fairer Scotland. This feedback is helping us develop our own social security system which we will ensure treats individuals with respect and removes the barriers that cause confusion and anxiety for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

The new system will have at its heart a set of principles and values. This will include ensuring people are treated with respect and dignity when applying for, being assessed for, and receiving disability-related benefits.

It is clear we must provide people with relevant information so they are aware of how the system will work for them and how long decisions will take.

It is also important that the system is fair and efficient – that the investment we all make in social security is well managed and is directed at the people who need it, in the way that will support them best.

Through the current system many people, including carers, young people, families and those who can’t work because of disabilities or mental health, have all faced cuts and discrimination as a result of the UK Government welfare reform programme.

Just last month we announced we will abolish the UK Government ‘84-day rule’ which means families who face higher living costs due to their child’s illness or disability will not be penalised when their child goes into hospital or has necessary medical treatment.

We also announced last week that the needs of carers will be placed at the heart of the devolved carers’ allowance. We are determined to ensure that the allowance – like our new social security system as a whole – meets people’s needs, addresses their priorities and respects their rights.

This is an early signal of our refusal to take an approach that punishes the vulnerable and instead focuses on fairness, accessibility and stability.

The Scottish Government will publish a further paper by the end of the year setting out its outline vision for social security in Scotland.

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