Holyrood’s Social Security Committee has this morning (1st February) voted at Stage 2 to enshrine a commitment to inclusive communication in the Social Security (Scotland) Bill.

Inclusive communication means communicating in a way which is inclusive of the largest number of people in the population. People have a range of different communication needs due to factors such as learning and physical disabilities, sensory impairment such as deafness or blindness, and mental health needs. These needs require to be met through a range of solutions, from BSL interpreters to Easy Read versions of texts.

Communication difficulties are strongly associated with those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and those with disabilities and long term conditions, many of whom will interact with Scotland’s new social security system.

In the context of Scotland’s new social security system, inclusive communication is hugely important to ensure that everyone receives the support to which they are entitled. It is also fundamental to ensuring that everyone is treated with dignity and respect – the principle at the heart of the bill.

The amendment, which was proposed by SNP MSP for Cunninghame South, Ruth Maguire, requires Ministers to ‘have regard to the importance of communicating in an inclusive way’ as part of the their duty to promote the take-up of the support that people are entitled to.

It received support from MSPs of all parties as well as from the Scottish Government.

Commenting, Ruth said:

“I am delighted that my amendment to enshrine a commitment to inclusive communication at the heart of this Bill has gained cross-party support as well as the support of the Scottish Government.

“I am also grateful to the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists, Inclusion Scotland, Citizen’s Advice Scotland and Camphill Scotland for their support in its drafting.

“Inclusive communication is good for everyone -no one ever complained that a public service was too easy to understand, or to get your point across to.

“Scotland’s new social security system is underpinned by the principle that everyone, without exception, should be treated with dignity and respect.

“Inclusive communication, ensuring that everyone can receive information and express themselves in a way that best meet their needs, is a crucial part of that.

“It will also help to ensure that everyone gets the maximum amount of support to which they are entitled – another key focus of the bill.”

Kim Hartley Kean, Head of the Scotland Office of the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists, added:

“The Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists is delighted that Scotland’s Social Security Minister and all the MSPs on the Parliament’s Social Security Committee have supported this potentially transformational amendment.

“If passed into law it will mean everyone interacting with lifeline social security services will be helped to understand and express themselves in the ways they – the person – find easiest.

“People who find it better to be talked through a process rather than reading about it, who use pictures to communicate, sign language or communication aids, for all of them this amendment promises a system that caters to their strengths rather than creating unfair and avoidable communication disadvantage.”