Earlier this month I marked another milestone as we build our new social security system for Scotland, when we responded to the consultation which has taken me to communities across Scotland over the past few months.
From Stornoway to the Scottish Borders, I’ve asked people about social security and listened to their personal experiences of the current system.
What’s impressed me most was the number of people who spoke to me and were willing to not only share their own stories, but also tell me their ideas and views about Scotland’s system could, and should, work better.
There’s one thing I heard most of all – and it stuck with me:
“People using social security services should have the right to expect to be treated as human beings.”
Yes, they absolutely should. And in our Scottish system they will be. Social security is a human right and that rights based approach will be the foundation on which we will build.
And the starting point for us is to enshrine that rights based approach and our founding principles of dignity, fairness and respect in the foundation and daily operation of the agency
Those principles will be reflected in a charter to make sure that the government has a duty to deliver on this promise, and gives people confidence that this is about much more than warm words – we are working with and for everyone in Scotland.
We have a clear path we need to follow to make sure that we transfer these powers safely and securely and the 1.4m people who rely on this critical financial support continue to receive the money they expect, on the right day and at the right amount.
I know that the social security system we are building can make a real and positive difference to people’s lives.
But it’s only through listening to people who have personal experience of the benefits system and by working with experts in the field that we will do that.
I am confident that we will.