Less than six months after being passed by Parliament, the new Scottish Benefits Public Service was in place and making its first payments.
Since its inception, Social Security Scotland has grown rapidly and now employs around 1,500 people. It offers 10 perks, with the 11th starting next week.
These benefits aim to increase financial support for hundreds of thousands of low-income people. This support includes helping families with young children, families with disabled children to heat their homes, caregivers, people who have lost loved ones and young people who start working.
Social Security Scotland has already made a remarkable difference and we are going to do a lot more.
While it is vital to put money in people’s pockets at the right time, there is more to be done to fight poverty and promote equality through social security. That is why we are committed to treating people with dignity and respect, anchored in our system and enshrined in our legislation.
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It means providing a social security system that is there for people when and where they need it, is fair and easy to access, and does not stigmatize people who get the financial support to which they are entitled.
This commitment can only be achieved by listening to what people want. Their voices are crucial in informing what we need to build, which is why over the past three years we have listened and learned from our customer experience panels and people with lived experience of the UK delivery system.
There is no doubt that Covid-19 has created some unexpected challenges and, unfortunately, it has forced us to re-evaluate our schedule. It was inevitable. However, even in the face of the pandemic, Social Security Scotland continued to deliver, ensuring everyone received their benefits on time.
We have also recruited and trained more employees to administer the new benefits that we have created. Because over the past year we have successfully introduced three benefits: Severance Pay, Children’s Heating Aid in Winter and the Scottish Game-Changing Child Benefit .
All of these benefits are designed to have a direct and meaningful impact on the lives of thousands of households. The Scottish Child Payment, in particular, will be key to achieving our broader goals as a government to end child poverty. I am proud that Scotland is the only part of the UK where this type of additional payment is available.
Over the past few months, as Scottish Minister for Social Security, I have been able to speak and listen to people who have benefited from our new social security system, and have seen the positive impact it has on life people. We are using the powers at our disposal to make a meaningful difference, support families and fight poverty, especially in these difficult times.
Our next benefit, Child Disability Payment, will be introduced next week on July 26 in three pilot regions, Dundee, Perth and Kinross, and the Western Isles, ahead of nationwide rollout in November. This is the first phase of receiving much more complex and substantial disability benefits.
We will introduce our Child Disability Payment to replace the UK Government’s Disability Living Allowance and for the first time transfer existing claims from the UK to the Scottish Government.
The introduction of this new payment will be the first time that two governments will share clients as many people may be eligible for UK and Scottish government payments, and these payments will impact and in some cases interact with each other .
This is the first time that a country has attempted to delegate powers to such an integrated and complex social security system. The Childhood Disability payment will be followed by the Adult Disability payment, replacing the UK Personal Independence Payment, next year.
People who come to us for the first time to apply for the allowance for children with disabilities will find that our approach is very different. We learned from the challenges families typically face in today’s service. Customers will find our system simplified, less time consuming and much less stressful.
For the first time, they will also be able to access our new local delivery service, which will be able to answer questions about Scottish benefits, help complete paper or online claims, and will be available online, by phone and also face-to-face. face to face. -face.
Much has already been accomplished and building a better social security system remains a top priority for the Scottish Government and one of our most important undertakings in the years to come.
It is also a key part of our priorities for the first 100 days of government and the delivery of our manifest commitments. As we emerge from the pandemic and work collectively to build a fairer and more equal society, the Scottish Government will ensure that decentralized social security is effectively provided to support those in need, fight poverty, promote equality and create a more socially just world. country.
Social security is a human right and none of us know when we might need it. The creation of this new system is a collective investment.
That is why we have developed Social Security Scotland in a way that will not only continue to function in the months and years to come, but also serve our company well for decades to come.
The next steps in delivery are extremely ambitious, but we have established a new institution with a solid foundation to build on. Our aim is to make the Scottish Social Security service a service we can all be rightly proud of, and a service that makes a meaningful and positive difference for all who need it. Achieving this will be important and will benefit Scotland as a whole, as we move forward together in a fairer way.
Ben Macpherson is Minister of Social Security and Local Government and SNP MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith
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