On Thursday 27th April 2017, Minister for Social Security, Jeane Freeman, announced in a statement to Parliament that Scotland’s new social security agency will put people before profits, with no private companies carrying out benefit assessments.
The Minister also announced that the new agency will have a central location as well as providing a local presence across Scotland so it is directly responsive to individual needs – with a decision on where the main agency will be located will being made in the autumn.
It was also confirmed that the new agency will employ at least 1,500 staff – making it one of largest executive agencies of the Scottish Government.
Ms Freeman said:
“One of our fundamental principles is that profit should never be a motive nor play any part in assessing or making decisions on people’s health and eligibility for benefits.
We are building a system based on dignity and respect – this means an assessment process which isn’t demeaning or deliberately difficult.
I am very clear that assessments should not be carried out by the private sector and I want to give people in Scotland this assurance as we take forward our new social security agency.
Setting the new system up is a hugely complex task but a challenge that we relish and one that we are absolutely determined to get right. It is extremely important that we start how we mean to go on – by listening to people and seeking expert opinion to deliver an agency that respects people’s views and is sensitive and responsive to their different needs and requirements.”
Commenting after the announcement, Ruth Maguire MSP said:
“I was delighted to hear the Minister ruling out profit having a role in assessments for benefits.
The way that assessments have been carried out for both Work Capability Assessment and for the Personal Independence Payment has caused major stress and anxiety for so many disabled and ill people and much of this is down to process.
I am glad that we are not following the failed assessment model of the Tories which has caused so much harm.
This latest announcement further underlines how this SNP Scottish Government is committed to building a fairer and more respectful social security system with the powers that are coming to Holyrood in this area.”
Ruth asked what evidence used to make decision – consultation, unions representing people in DWP. Experience panels will play significane role in giving us benefit of direct pesonale xperience also testing out for us our polcy and sytem development ideas helping is make sure what we think is right will in practice make this efficient and accessible system.
Return in autumn to provide update and detail next steps