Part 1: A Principled Approach
About this Part of the Consultation
This part of the consultation explored views around:
- Fixing the principles in legislation;
- Outcomes and the user experience;
- Delivering social security in Scotland;
- Equality and low income; and
- Independent advice and scrutiny.
Here, we provide an overview of the main themes emerging from the consultation responses, for Part 1 of the consultation.
Fixing the principles in legislation
Overall, respondents welcomed the principles and were generally in favour of embedding them in legislation and creating a Charter. Most respondents felt that the Charter should be drafted by both an advisory group and a wider group of people with experience of the social security system. There were mixed views on who should assume the duty to abide by the principle that claimants are treated with dignity and respect. The largest proportion of respondents felt that this duty should be placed on the Scottish Government. Throughout Part 1, respondents mentioned the need for all aspects of the Scottish social security system to be underpinned by these principles.
Outcomes and the user experience
Most respondents felt that the proposed outcomes were appropriate, with some also offering suggestions for additional outcomes. Dignity and respect were frequently discussed as principles lacking in the current system. Respondents indicated that people receiving benefits felt stigmatised and uncomfortable, rather than feeling entitled to support. Respondents hoped that establishing the principles (through legislation or a Charter) and working towards the outcomes outlined in the consultation would address the stigma and instigate wider cultural change. Respondents commented on the language used around social security, with most feeling that there were some words or phrases that were inappropriate and should not be used. A key point raised was the need for improved staff training and working conditions, which could help change the overall culture and improve the user experience.
Delivering social security in Scotland
In terms of delivery, the key issues raised by respondents were around accessibility and choice. Respondents felt that access to social security should be simple and easy. The idea of a local 'one stop shop' was often suggested as being beneficial. Respondents also referred to the practicality of the 'Tell Us Once' service, which allows users to report a death to most government agencies simultaneously. Most respondents felt that the new social security agency should administer all social security benefits in Scotland. Respondents said that information and communication should be clear, concise and available in the format most preferred by the individual. Similarly, they said that people should have choice in how services and support are delivered. There was 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.
Respondents wanted the new social security system to be fairer and more consistent, avoiding the current 'postcode lottery' that people said they experience at present. They advocated the use of existing infrastructure where possible to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
Respondents discussed the use of digital technology and felt that it should be used where possible, but not imposed, as many people do not have access to digital technology. Overwhelmingly, respondents felt that the new social security agency should make some provision for face to face contact. Respondents were generally in favour of consensual data sharing to improve efficiency and reduce the need for repetition in applications and assessments.
Equality and low income
Respondents felt that to improve the Equality Impact Assessment, the Scottish Government should:
- involve a wide range of stakeholders, including equality and human rights specialists, equality organisations and groups, and the public;
- consider the cumulative impacts, intersectional impacts and relationships between devolved and reserved benefits;
- use an approach which embeds human rights, and also considers other related impacts on child rights, health inequalities and the impact of rurality; and
- embed equality from the beginning, and use the impact assessment to explore how to address inequalities identified - for example, through adapting plans or using discretionary new or top up benefit powers.
Independent advice and scrutiny
Respondents repeatedly discussed the importance of a social security system that is transparent and accountable. Respondents welcomed the involvement of people with experience of social security services and relevant third sector organisations to support the design and on-going improvement of a new system. They were in favour of an independent scrutiny body as well as regular monitoring, evaluation and reporting. Most felt that decision making standards should be conducted through a statutory body. There were mixed views on whether this should be a separate body or if it could be incorporated into another group or organisation, such as the scrutiny body.
Respondents noted that the consultation did not address the adequacy of the current benefits, the powers to create new benefits and the powers to top up benefits.
Email: Trish Brady-Campbell