MSPs back move to allow benefit claimant appointees with safeguards in place

Appointees should be able to collect benefits on behalf of consenting adult claimants but safeguards must be put in place to limit fraud and the exploitation of vulnerable people, according to a Scottish Parliament committee.

MSPs back move to allow benefit claimant appointees with safeguards in place

Bob Doris MSP

MSPs on Holyrood’s social security committee have backed a Bill which would allow adult benefit claimants, who consent, to nominate an appointee to claim benefits on their behalf.

The committee has recommended the Bill be amended to include safeguarding principles that underpin the detail of how the appointee system will work and protect it from abuse. It has urged the Scottish Government to bring forward detailed guidance which should also be statutory.

Publishing its Stage 1 report in response to the Social Security Administration and Tribunal Membership (Scotland) Bill, which makes changes to the Social Security Act of 2018, the committee has also backed a change which would allow health professionals, other than doctors, to verify that a claimant is terminally ill, meaning their disability benefit claim would be fast-tracked.

Bob Doris MSP, convener of the social security committee, said: “The committee welcomes this legislation and strongly supports the general principles of this Bill including allowing anyone in receipt of benefits to appoint someone to collect benefits on their behalf. 

“However, submissions to the committee from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Law Society of Scotland outlined that without suitable safeguards in the legislation, the appointee system would not be compliant with human rights legislation and could be open to abuse. 

“The Scottish Government’s principal safeguard is that consent must be given. However, the legislation should go further and build in additional safeguards such as the ability to challenge appointee decisions, undertake periodic reviews and resolve disputes.

“We are also keen to see amendments brought forward at Stage 2 which would ensure there is a duty to inform people of their eligibility for all top up benefits including the Scottish Child Payment.”

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