Disability and Carer Benefits Expert Advisory Group - beyond a safe and secure transfer: advice

This proactive advice outlines a number of recommendations the Disability and Carer Benefits Expert Advisory Group made on the additional positive impact which disability and carer’s assistance could make, following the safe and secure transfer of all clients on to new forms of Scottish assistance.

4. Full integration of services and advice

The Scottish Government and Social Security Scotland have outlined that they will do things differently to the DWP. We believe this should not be the only comparison, as this could become limiting in the longer term. We should be aiming to position social security in people's lives in the most productive way. Adopting a fully integrated model of services would allow the multiplier effect to be realised.

Recommendation 34: The Scottish Government should commit to working towards the full integration of services.

4.1 Previously made relevant DACBEAG recommendations

This Group has provided the following recommendations towards the integration of advice and services previously, with the responses at the time provided directly below:

4.1.1a. 'Social Security Scotland should provide clear information about rights and entitlements to other social security payments and services.'

4.1.1b. Whilst Social Security Scotland will provide some information and signposting, it will not provide universal information about services and entitlements to reserved benefits or local authority services, given the complexity of the disability services landscape across the private, public and third sector, as it is not possible to provide an exhaustive list.

4.1.2a. 'Social Security Scotland should have active referral pathways so that disabled children, young people and their carers can be referred to all appropriate services (including education, health, housing and transport) with monitoring of the effectiveness of different referral strategies (e.g. sign-posting, appointment referral, co-located and embedded support in local settings) and take up.'

4.1.2b. This recommendation involves undertaking a broader, holistic assessment of need that is within the remit of local authority social work services, as well as primary care – as such it falls outwith the remit of Social Security Scotland. However, Social Security Scotland staff will provide signposting to individuals where possible and appropriate.

4.1.3a. 'The Scottish Government should trial a routine enquiry where all parents are referred for a benefits check at certain key milestones. This should be developed with people with direct experience and other expert stakeholders and, if successful, be rolled out across Scotland.'

4.1.3b. Our position is that whilst individuals will be offered a referral to advice agencies or support services, where appropriate, this is not within the scope of Social Security Scotland's work. When consideration is given to the delivery of the benefits uptake strategy, officials will consider this feedback in agreeing an appropriate approach.

We acknowledge that the full integration of services will provide a number of challenges but believe this is required for a human rights-based system to be realised.

4.2 Integration of advice

We believe it is unrealistic and inefficient that Social Security Scotland client advisors can only advise on Scottish benefits. Where people's lives and entitlements are being discussed the separation of the Scottish and UK systems are entirely unhelpful for all individuals, whether they are attempting to apply for or are already in receipt of a benefit or payment. Citizens of Scotland should be able to contact Social Security Scotland to receive information about all the social security support they are entitled to and there must be referral pathways in place for them to receive the support they need.

This should interact with all levels of entitlements, from Universal Credit to local authority free school meals. There should also be more thorough signposting to wider and relevant supports, for example, social care, disability services, DPOs, passported support, carers benefits for others in the household and Blue Badges. Ultimately we believe that regardless of who you initially get in touch with for assistance, this should be a gateway to all advice, support and services, as is described by the 'No Wrong Door' approach.

Recommendation 35: Social Security Scotland should be able to provide information on devolved and reserved benefits and all available entitlements.

Recommendation 36: Social Security Scotland should commit to cultivating a 'No Wrong Door' approach to remove existing barriers in accessing all available advice, support and services.

4.3 An integrated active referral service

In addition to the improved integration of services and advice mentioned above, we believe Social Security Scotland should transform the way it interacts with the advice sector, including individual advisers assisting people to claim benefits. This would be towards an integrated active referral service.

The Scottish Government previously reviewed all advice provision in Scotland per geographic area. We would recommend that this existing information should be updated to create and maintain an active referral network. Further exploratory work would be required to ensure that there is appropriate capacity in the advice sector for this.

This would require data sharing agreements to be put in place to allow Social Security Scotland, with permission, to pass details to local authorities, council tax reductions, clothing grants, etc. This would ensure, in alignment with the 'No Wrong Door' approach mentioned above, that if Social Security Scotland cannot process other entitlements or scheme applications, there is a referral service in place to allow claimants to get the supports they need.

This would contribute to improving benefit take-up with a system designed to ensure that individuals are in receipt of all of the benefits and services that they are entitled to. It would result in a much more joined up social security system in Scotland. These levels of integration would also support the proposed move in future to benefit automation.

Recommendation 37: Social Security Scotland should have the necessary data sharing agreements in place to implement a fully integrated active referral service for Scottish citizens. This should cover all levels of entitlement.

Recommendation 38: Social Security Scotland should commit to introducing a service to identify individuals that are not in receipt of all of their entitlements.


Email: CEU@gov.scot

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