Private sector removed from welfare assessments in new social security system

Jeane Freeman
Jeane Freeman

Scotland’s new social security agency will remove the involvement of the private sector in carrying out benefit assessments, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

The government’s consultation on the new agency revealed a “strong consensus that services should not be delivered through the private sector or profit making agencies, with the majority of respondents in agreement that social security should be delivered through existing public sector or third sector organisations”.

In a statement to Parliament yesterday, social security minister Jeane Freeman ruled out the practice as she also outlined the conclusion of the options appraisal process for the model of the new social security agency.

The new agency, which will administer eleven benefits being devolved to Scotland, will have a central location to provide to ensure it is “directly responsive to individual needs”, with the decision on this being made in the Autumn.

Ten of the 11 devolved benefits, totalling around £2.8 billion of annual payments, will be delivered directly by the new social security agency itself. Discretionary Housing Payments and the Scottish Welfare Fund will be delivered by local authorities.

It was also confirmed that the new agency will employ at least 1,500 staff – making it one of largest executive agencies of the Scottish Government.

Ms Freeman said: “One of our fundamental principles is that profit should never be a motive nor play any part in assessing or making decisions on people’s health and eligibility for benefits.

“We are building a system based on dignity and respect – this means an assessment process which isn’t demeaning or deliberately difficult.

“I am very clear that assessments should not be carried out by the private sector and I want to give people in Scotland this assurance as we take forward our new social security agency.

“It also means setting up an agency that has 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.

“The new social security agency will be one of the largest executive agencies of the Scottish Government and will employ at least 1,500 staff by the time all devolved benefits are being delivered.

“Setting the new system up is a hugely complex task but a challenge that we relish and one that we are absolutely determined to get right. It is extremely important that we start how we mean to go on – by listening to people and seeking expert opinion to deliver an agency that respects people’s views and is sensitive and responsive to their different needs and requirements.”

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