I am delighted by the response to the Consultation on Disability Assistance, both from individuals and from a wide variety of organisations. It reflects the level of interest in our ambition to build a new social security system that reflects the needs of disabled people in Scotland, and one that builds a culture of trust based on principles of dignity, fairness and respect.
The devolution of social security will reach 10% of the Scottish population and the creation of Social Security Scotland is the most significant creation of a new public service since devolution. We are clear that this process is complex and challenging and that, to ensure its success, we must embed the views and experience of disabled people in its development so that, once the system delivers at scale, it does so in a way that meets the needs of the people it is designed to support.
When we asked the people of Scotland what they thought of the current UK administered social security system they said it was stressful, complicated and often inhumane. That message has been reflected in many of the responses to the consultation, and I am clear that we will not repeat the same mistakes.
We have a real opportunity to do things differently with disability benefits – some disabled people feel that they have been failed by the current system, and it is clear from the responses to the consultation that there is a real desire to see change. I want to make sure that we can deliver that change in a way that is safe, sustainable and most importantly protects the interests of disabled people without risking existing entitlements.
I am pleased that most of our proposals were supported by respondents, but I recognise that there are some areas where we need to consider our proposals further in light of stakeholder feedback. We have set out how we intend to use this feedback to further develop our proposals for Disability Assistance in this document and how we will continue to consider the views of disabled people in building a system with them - not for them.
We can be bold and confident in our aspirations and plans for disability benefits, because we have a solid evidence base about what works and what doesn’t. We know that the continued cycle of impersonal assessments, complicated forms, and short awards do not meet the needs of disabled people. We know that disabled people may be put off challenging a decision that they feel isn’t right, that a culture of mistrust has been created, and that the provisions on terminal illness are unduly restrictive.
Our approach to disability benefits is informed not only by this consultation, but by continued and detailed engagement via our Experience Panels, the Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group, and the Ill Health and Disability Benefits Stakeholder Reference Group. This consultation is not the end product of a process, but rather the next step in a much wider programme that allows us to build a system that has been informed by evidence and the views of people with lived experience of the current system.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone who participated in the consultation, and for taking the time to give such detailed and considered feedback. We are listening and will continue to listen, so that we can develop a system that is open, humane, and easy to use.
Shirley Anne Somerville MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People