The vision for a Fairer Scotland has been at the heart of our social security policy from the very beginning. I now have the privilege as Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People to lay the regulations in the Scottish Parliament for our new Funeral Expense Assistance (FEA), which has been developed with this vision in mind.
Arranging a funeral can be hard and if how to pay for it is also an issue then the experience can be overwhelming. Delivery of FEA by summer 2019 is one of 10 actions in the Scottish Government’s Funeral Costs Plan. The plan aims to help people who are struggling with funeral costs and a number of actions in it involve working with partners to improve funeral affordability.
However, FEA is especially important as it will allow the Scottish Government to provide improved support directly to those who need it most at the point of bereavement. It will provide a one off payment to support people on lower incomes who are struggling to pay for a funeral with a contribution towards these costs.
I welcome the opportunity to respond to the points raised during the consultation on FEA draft regulations, which ran between 17 May and 23 August 2018, to explain the changes that have been made to the policy.
The consultation on the draft regulations for FEA built on significant engagement with stakeholders and people with experience of the current system which has been underway for over two years. Involving a wide range of organisations and individuals from the beginning means we have been able to draw on their wealth of knowledge and experience, and is in keeping with the social security principles. In particular:
- Social security is an investment in the people of Scotland – FEA widens eligibility in comparison with the UK Government’s Funeral Expenses Payment. We will provide much needed support to people who would have received no help at all under the current system.
- Social security is a human right – FEA is designed to be accessible in terms of provision of information about the benefit, eligibility criteria, and the systems that will support it.
- Respect for the dignity of individuals – FEA is designed to reduce intrusive questioning where possible while maintaining a consistent decision making system.
- The Scottish social security system is to contribute to reducing poverty in Scotland - eligibility for FEA is designed to reach people in poverty and at risk of falling in to poverty.
- The Scottish social security system is to be designed with the people of Scotland on the basis of evidence – extensive modelling, desk research and user engagement has provided us with a good evidence base for our policy decisions.
The consultation responses have helped us to make final policy decisions and have informed the development of IT systems and processes which are needed to make FEA a reality.
I would like to thank everyone what has taken the time to submit their views in response to the recent consultation and throughout the journey to develop FEA.
Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People