The publication of the Social Security Bill is a “landmark moment” for the Scottish Parliament, according to Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).
Introduced to Parliament yesterday, the Social Security (Scotland) Bill will give the Scottish Government the powers to deliver eleven benefits devolved as part of the Scotland Act 2016.
CAS social security spokesman, Rob Gowans, said Scotland’s new social security system is an opportunity to make sure people get the support they need.
He added: “Last year, Scotland’s CAB network advised people on over 74,000 new issues related to the benefits that will be devolved under this Bill, and from their experiences we know how the new powers can be best used to support them.
“Whilst full details of the new system are still to be decided, there is much to be welcomed in today’s Bill, We welcome in particular the principle that the Scottish Government should have an active role in making sure people receive all the support they are entitled to, the setting out of people’s rights in a clear Charter, and the pledge that claimants won’t lose benefit payments during an appeal.
“Citizens Advice Scotland looks forward to working with the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government to make sure the new system is as good as it possibly can be, including ensuring a fair and streamlined appeals process, making improvements to the assessments system and ensuring appropriate scrutiny of all the different benefits rules.”
John Downie, director of public affairs at SCVO, said he was pleased that the forthright views of Scotland’s third sector have so heavily informed the legislation.
He added: “Over the last year, we have worked closely with voluntary organisations from an array of backgrounds – including charities advocating for children, carers, older people, those with disabilities and people from the most deprived communities in Scotland. The engagement, opinion, experience and evidence put together by the sector, collectively, has undoubtedly helped to shape what we see published today.
“We know that delivering social security is difficult and incredibly complex and there remain plenty of issues to navigate – not least how the new Scottish system operates in tandem with the UK system and the farcical roll-out of Universal Credit. But with the right support and by listening to service users and third sector organisations, solutions can be found and we can realise the ambition of providing a service with ‘dignity, fairness and respect’ at its core.
“Of course, the primary objective of the Scottish Government was to ensure the safe transfer of new powers to Holyrood. As such, we view this Bill as merely a first step and look forward to continual improvements and witnessing the evolution of Scotland’s Social Security system in to something we can be truly proud of.”