Social security to be human right in new bill

Written by Tom Freeman on 23 February 2017 in News

Scotland's new social security agency will have legal duty to treat people fairly, says Jeane Freeman

Jeane Freeman - Scottish Government

The right of every person to be entitled to benefits will be on the face of legislation to launch Scotland's new powers over social security, Jeane Freeman has announced.

In a statement to MSPs, the social security minister said Scotland's new agency would be shaped by responses to a government consultation held last year.

This will include an automatic acceptance that an applicant is entitled to social security and fair treatement.


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“There was clear support for our commitment to a rights based approach and continuing Scotland’s longstanding tradition of support for human rights, which is why we will enshrine these principles in the new system’s legislation," she said.

“We are taking this further by including a charter within the Bill – it strengthens our guarantee by going beyond warm words and creating a binding contract between the system and the people who use it.

“I will also announce further details on our experience panels in the next few weeks, and these will see us work with people who use the current system to design, build and refine a new and better model.”

Citizens Advice Scotland welcomed the commitment. Policy Manager Keith Dryburgh said: "The goal of this process must be to create a fair, equal and responsive social security system that gives support to people who need it, when they need it, and we are pleased to see the clear value placed on advice and advocacy services."

Trade Union PCS, which represents workers in welfare services said staff should also be consulted. National Officer Lynn Henderson said “PCS members working in DWP deserve recognition as the social security experts, their experience as workers under the Westminster government who introduced the disastrous so-called ‘welfare reform’ must be given a voice if Scotland’s new system is to truly be based on dignity, respect and rights.

“It is positive to see that 84% of respondents agree with PCS that the new social security agency should administer all benefits in Scotland.”

Dr Jim McCormick of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation will chair an advisory group of experts on disability and carers’ Benefits. 

He said: “Devolution of key disability and carer benefits marks a significant change for Scotland. Ensuring the process is safe and secure for the many people who rely on these payments now, and who will claim them in future, is the first priority. We will need a system that raises take-up, reduces poverty and significantly improves communication.

“I am delighted the Social Security Minister has asked me to chair this independent advisory group which will work for the duration of this parliament. It will draw on many types of expertise, with the diverse experiences of disabled people and carers as its consistent core."

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