4. Performance of the System and Delivery of the Charter
4.1 Duty to promote take-up
Ensuring that people can access the Scottish social security benefits which they are entitled to is a fundamental priority for the Scottish Government. As part of our duty to promote take-up of Scottish benefits, we are required to prepare a Benefit Take-up Strategy. Following publication of the first strategy in October 2019 a second Benefit Take-Up Strategy was published in October 2021 setting out the following five guiding principles which shape our approaches to benefit take-up:
1. Prioritise Person-Centred Approaches
2. Communicate and Engage Effectively
3. Bring Services to People
4. Encourage Cross-System Collaboration
5. Continuously Learn and Improve
These principles underpin our refreshed strategy and are applied through a number of initiatives aimed at maximising the take-up of Scottish benefits. These initiatives include the Social Security Independent Advocacy Service (see below for further detail), and continued investment in Welfare Advice and Health Partnerships – which are placing welfare rights advisors in 180 GP practices in Scotland's most deprived communities, including 30 in remote and rural areas, to support the provision of advice in accessible settings.
In order to track progress, in October 2022 we published our latest estimates of take-up for many of the Scottish benefits delivered by Social Security Scotland, as well as an update on progress against the principles set out in the Benefit Take-up Strategy.
4.2 Independent Advocacy
As noted above the 2018 Act requires Ministers to ensure that independent advocacy services are available to disabled people who
require support to access and apply for Scottish social security entitlements. The Social Security Independent Advocacy Service was launched on 31 January 2022 and over the course of 2022/23 has supported over 900 people in accessing and applying for Social Security Scotland assistance. The Scottish Government has committed to investing up to £20.4 million in the service over the four years of the current contract. The service is free to anyone who identifies as disabled and requires support to engage effectively with Social Security Scotland and is available throughout the whole of the process for seeking support; from the point of application, through to any request for redetermination and appeals.
4.3 Scottish Commission on Social Security
The Scottish Commission on Social Security (SCoSS), established in January 2019, is an independent advisory Non-Departmental Public Body with a primary purpose to undertake scrutiny of the Scottish social security system.
SCoSS produces its own annual report and accounts, which can be found on the SCoSS website. In 2022/23 it produced four scrutiny reports on draft regulations covering The Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendment and Transitional Provision) (Scotland) Regulations 2022, The Winter Heating Assistance (Low Income) (Scotland) Regulations 2023, The Social Security (Residence Requirements) (Ukraine) (Scotland) Regulations 2022 and The Social Security (Up-rating) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Regulations 2023. Additionally, SCoSS launched a new website providing full access to all reports, minutes and details of ongoing scrutiny processes.
4.4 Our Charter and the Charter Measurement Framework
The Social Security Charter was approved unanimously by Parliament and launched at the start of 2019. It received positive feedback from people in Scotland, stakeholders, and experts. The Charter Measurement Framework is a co-designed list of measures relating to the commitments set out in the Charter. Social Security Scotland publish the annual Charter Measurement Framework report in parallel with this progress report, setting out what has been done in the reporting year to meet the requirements of the social security charter.
The 2018 Act requires that the Charter be reviewed within five years of it being made. The review process, which commenced in November 2022, embraces the co-design approach at the heart of the making the Charter in 2019 including statutory consultation with:
- Clients of Social Security Scotland, including those with protected characteristics defined under the Equality Act 2010
- External stakeholders who represent these groups
- The Scottish Commission on Social Security.
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