It has been a year since the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 came into effect, commencing the biggest transfer of powers to the Scottish Government since the Scotland Act 1998.
In that year we have successful delivered our first new benefits and made the first payments through our new public service Social Security Scotland. In 2019-20, the Best Start Grant is expected to make a total of 73,000 payments, at a cost of around £21 million - £19 million more than previously provided by the UK Government. Since September last year, the agency has paid out more than 150,000 Carers Allowance Supplement payments with a value of £33.9 million, helping some 83,000 carers.
And later this year we will start delivering Funeral Support Payment and introduce our new Young Carer's Grant.
But, the Act did more than transfer powers to pay benefits; it places a requirement on Scottish Ministers to provide advocacy to disabled people who need this support to access Social Security Scotland on an equal footing. This is a key part of our new public service and delivering a system based on dignity, fairness and respect. We aim to have this new support in place by summer 2020.
It is vital that this support is available across Scotland and delivered to a consistently and equally high standard. That is why the Act also requires Scottish Ministers to set social security advocacy service standards which service providers must sign up to.
I am grateful to those stakeholders, advocacy services and users who attended focus group events last autumn and provided early input to this work. I also welcome the valuable contributions from the members of the short-life working group which have supported the development of these standards.
We now need your views on the draft service standards to ensure that these will deliver the high quality, consistent social security advocacy service we want. I encourage you to respond to the consultation, and thank you in advance for taking the time to respond.
Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People