1. The Scottish Government is required by section 10 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 ("the 2018 Act") to make independent advocacy support available to people with a disability who need such support to engage effectively with Social Security Scotland, as part of the process of claiming Scottish social security assistance. Section 11 of the 2018 Act requires Scottish Ministers to develop and publish service standards that would apply to this support. This document sets out the advocacy service standards required by section 11.
2. References to advocacy worker and advocacy support in these service standards are to be taken to mean independent advocacy. Independent advocacy is defined by section 10 of the 2018 Act and as used in this document means advocacy services "provided by persons other than the Scottish Ministers".
3. Advocacy support is available to individuals making a claim in their own right and to those making a claim in respect of a disabled child if they consider that they needed this support to engage with Social Security Scotland. A parent or carer claiming assistance for a child would be eligible for advocacy support if they themselves were disabled and needed such support or if the child themselves wished to take an active part in the process of claiming their entitlements.
4. The Act does not define disability. Any individual who, owing to a disability, requires an advocate's help to engage effectively with Social Security Scotland is eligible for advocacy support as provided by the 2018 Act. This may include those with a sensory disability, mental health condition or learning disability.
5. The Scottish Government will provide funding for advocacy services but will not be directly involved with their day-to-day operation or the handling of individual cases. Social Security Scotland ("the Agency") will not provide advocacy support because the Agency is performing the work of the Scottish Ministers. This will ensure that advocacy services are independent from the Scottish Government and the Agency.
6. Advocacy support may be provided by organisations which solely provide advocacy support or by other organisations which offer other services including advocacy. Where advocacy is part of a range of support offered, such organisations should ensure that conflicts of interest are avoided. For example, advice and advocacy will be provided by different people and advocacy records will be kept separately from other records.
7. Advocacy support will be available throughout the whole of the process for seeking support. This will be from the point of application, through any request for redetermination and through to appeals. Advocacy workers would also provide support at assessments if requested to do so by the client.
8. Section 59 of the 2018 Act gives individuals the right to have a supporter present during any discussion or assessment relating to their entitlement to a benefit. This right remains even if the individual has the support of an advocacy worker.
9. The service standards set out a number of overarching principles and lay down behaviours and requirements which the advocacy worker or service is expected to meet and demonstrate.
10. Services providing advocacy support on behalf of the Scottish Government must undertake to comply with these service standards.
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