New Scottish Social Security powers update

Date: 16th May 2017
Category: Social security

Further details about the new Scottish Social Security Agency were revealed by the Minister for Social Security on 27th April in a ministerial statement to the Scottish Parliament which set out the basic principles of how devolved benefits will be delivered.

As a single national agency with enhanced phone and online support, the central agency will also incorporate face-to-face pre-claims and support services which will be co-located in existing public centre settings. There has also been a commitment not to contract out assessments for disability benefits to the private sector.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) Scotland welcomed this statement and is awaiting further details about what this will mean in practice for service delivery and claimants. The location of the agency and the next steps for the new assessment model for determining eligibility for benefit will be announced in the autumn.

Responding to the statement, John Dickie, Director of CPAG in Scotland said:

"We very much welcome the Minister's announcement that Scottish social security benefits will be delivered by a national social security agency working for everyone in Scotland. This should help promote fairness by improving the consistency of decision making, ensuring that where a person lives has no bearing on the level of service they receive or their ability to access the benefits they need.

"The creation of a national delivery agency is an opportunity to ensure all staff are trained to the same high standard and that they are supported to develop a system based on a shared ethos of empathy, dignity and respect - characteristics too often missing from existing social security delivery.

"The locally based face-to-face pre-claims agency advice and support announced today could also prove vital to many people struggling to navigate the social security system. We look forward to more detail about what this support will look like and where it will be provided.

"The Scottish government's commitment not to contract out assessments for disability benefits to the private sector is also welcome. Recent UK experience of contracting out medical assessments has created huge problems for sick and disabled people - with both Atos and Capita consistently failing to meet quality targets for personal independence payment. However we urge the Scottish Government not to assume that medical assessments must form part of the process for claiming disability benefits. Face to face assessments should only be used sparingly, at the claimant's request or where there isn't enough existing evidence to allow a decision to be made.