Section 1: Introduction
Section 10 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 requires Scottish Ministers to ensure that independent advocacy services are available to support disabled people who, because of their disability, need an advocacy worker's support to engage with the Scottish social security system. In this context advocacy services are independent if they are provided by a person other than the Scottish Ministers.
Advocacy is not the provision of advice. The Act defines advocacy services as:
"services of support and representation that are made available for the purpose of enabling an individual to whom they are provided to have as much control of, or capacity to influence, the decisions that determine the individual's entitlement to be given assistance through the Scottish social security system as is, in the circumstances, appropriate."
Advocacy, therefore, supports a person to represent their own interests and have their voice heard in the decisions which may affect the assistance they receive.
The Act does not define disability. It is for individuals to self-identify whether they have a disability and that, as a result of that disability, they need an advocacy worker's support.
Advocacy support will be available throughout the whole of the process for seeking assistance - from applications, through assessments to requests for redetermination and to appeal. Advice and support to complete applications can also be received from local advice and information services and Social Security Scotland local delivery staff.
Section 11 of the Act also requires Scottish Ministers to set service standards. The standards will ensure that advocacy support is provided to a consistent quality across Scotland. These standards will need to be met, or be worked towards, by any service providing social security advocacy on behalf of the Scottish Government.
Such advocacy support will provide disabled people with the assistance they may need to help them claim their Scottish social security entitlements and ensure that they can be fully involved in decisions affecting them. This is a key part of delivering our system based on dignity, fairness and respect.
Engagement on the draft standards
Drawing on existing standards documents, and based on discussions with advocacy organisations last autumn, we have developed a set of draft advocacy standards. These included Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA) standards, the "Independent Advocacy-Guide for Commissioners", draft standards for Children's Hearing advocacy, and the Action for Advocacy "Code of Practice for Advocates". The draft standards were shared with SIAA for initial consideration and some revisions were then made. These revised standards were then used a basis for early engagement with service users and providers. Sessions were held during November 2018 in Aberdeen, Inverness, Dumfries, Glasgow and Edinburgh during November 2018.
We also held focus group sessions with some members of the Experience Panels during late February and early March where attendees were asked to comment on the draft standards.
A short-life working group of organisations with an interest in advocacy support, many of which had been involved in developing the amendments to the Bill, was established in December 2018. The group's role was to review the feedback from the workshops and Experience Panels and to make suggestions on revising and improving the draft standards. The group met four times over the period to end of April 2019. The draft standards set out in the consultation document are the product of these meetings