Last week in the Scottish Parliament, I ruled out the use of private companies in assessing people for the benefits that will be delivered under Scotland’s new social security system.
This was a proud moment. Profit should never ever be a motive in these important assessments and I wanted to let the people who will be relying on benefits know that I had listened to them and was making a clear decision on this issue.
In the past 11 months, I have learned a great deal about how the current system goes about assessments. Over and over again, I have heard the personal experiences of so very many who have found this to be one of the most difficult, distressing and demeaning aspects of their whole experience.
What’s worse is that companies are earning massive profits from doing these assessments – something we could not condone in our own social security system.
I want to take a different approach. Our principles are very important to us and this means we will develop a system based on dignity and respect.
This clear statement of policy was backed by a range of important organisations yesterday – including Child Poverty Action Group Scotland, Poverty Alliance, Inclusion Scotland, and SCVO.
I was grateful for their support and we’ll continue to work with all of our partners as we take forward the next steps for Scotland’s social security agency.
We are determined to get this absolutely right and we’ll do this by working collaboratively across the public and third sector.
Working closely with our Experience Panels and Expert Advisory Group and with the health and social care sector, we will design a better system. One that from application to assessment ensures we get our first and subsequent decisions right from the start.
Our social security system will put people first. That’s why I also confirmed that the agency will have a local presence with a human face where people can go to get one-to-one support if required. This is very different to what exists at the moment.
We will demonstrate that there is a better and fairer way of delivering social security to those who are entitled to, and who rely on, that support.
This government will build a social security system that will stand both the test of time and the test of trust from the people of Scotland relying on it.