Implementing the work of Social Security Scotland is a significant undertaking. Once the agency is in steady state operations it will be making regular payments to some 1.4 million citizens in Scotland, with a value in excess of £3 billion per year.
While all of the work carried out by Social Security Scotland will be underpinned with the ethos of treating people with fairness, dignity and respect at all times, unfortunately, it is to be expected that some attempts will be made to defraud the Scottish social security system.
We have consulted on proposals for how investigations of potential fraudulent activity would be carried out and the additional information gathering powers that Social Security Scotland would need to undertake investigations.
While I am pleased that most of the questions in the consultation received, on average, predominantly supportive responses, I recognise that a number of stakeholders raised issues of concern that the Scottish Government is giving careful consideration to.
In this document, we provide a response to the main views expressed during the consultation process, outline where the draft Code of Practice will be amended as a result of the feedback received and highlight the areas within the draft Investigation of Offences Regulations that are being reviewed.
In the interim period and to allow Social Security Scotland to undertake investigations using existing powers, we will publish a Non-Statutory Code of Practice. This will allow people to understand the standards Social Security Scotland should meet when undertaking fraud investigations and what people should expect if they are under investigation.
When a final draft of the Investigation of Offences Regulations have been approved by the Scottish Parliament, a final Code of Practice explaining how the powers of investigation given by the regulations will be used, will be laid in the Scottish Parliament in line with the duties laid out in section 76 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018.
Finally, I would like to place on record my gratitude to all who participated in the consultation exercise for both the concerns highlighted and the broad level of support for the Regulations and draft Code of Practice where offered.
Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People