Stage one report on the Social Security (Scotland) Bill: Scottish Government response

The Scottish Government responds to the Social Security Committee’s Stage 1 report on the Social Security (Scotland) Bill.

Ministerial Foreword

The Social Security Committee's report at Stage 1 shows that there is a clear consensus in favour of the Scottish Government's vision for a new, rights based Scottish social security system which lives up to our principles - in particular, the principle that those using the system will be treated with dignity, fairness and respect.

The Committee has undertaken a very thorough examination of the issues and I am grateful to them for bringing such a wide range of different voices together and enabling them to take part. I want to thank everyone who has contributed and given evidence in the Stage 1 process.

Consultation with individuals and organisations has been at the heart of this Government's approach to social security since day one. Before the Bill was published, the Scottish Government carried out an extensive public consultation exercise, supported by events in every one of Scotland's 32 local authority areas.

Since then, we have recruited and brought together more than 2,400 people with lived experience of the current benefit system, to join our Experience Panels and work with us on every aspect of our new service. We have also established a Disability and Carers' Benefits Expert Advisory Group, with Professor Jim McCormack as its able chair. And I have personally attended over 70 individual meetings with more than 50 separate individuals, groups or organisations, ranging from Age Scotland to CoSLA, and from the MS Society to Shelter.

All of this consultation and engagement activity has helped to shape our legislation and our policies. This Bill has been developed and drafted to reflect the views and opinions of stakeholders. For example, I clearly heard and understood that many people find the existing UK Government legislation confusing and hard to follow. That is why this Bill was developed as a legislative framework to enable the 'whole story' of what people need to do to claim what they are entitled to from our Scottish system; to be told in a set of regulations for each benefit. I also wanted to ensure we continued engagement with the Committee and stakeholders as policy developed and so I hope Committee Members feel they have benefitted from and been informed by our series of policy position papers and the illustrative regulations provided during the Stage 1 process.

Our recent survey of Social Security Experience Panel members on how they view the current UK system showed that more than half, 60 per cent, of respondents rated their experience of the current benefits system as 'poor' or 'very poor'. Only 18 per cent rated their experience as 'good' or 'very good' [1] . I understand, therefore, that people do not trust the current system to listen to them, they do not trust it to understand their needs and they do not trust it to act on their behalf.

I hope that through the work we have done until now and by showing that that we are listening to all of the evidence provided during Stage 1, have understood the issues that the Committee and others have raised in this report, and are willing to take prompt action in response to peoples' concerns, we can continue to build the trust for Scotland's social security to deliver on our shared ambitions.

We will continue to listen to the views of the Scottish Parliament, our independent expert group, stakeholders and those with direct personal experience of the current system and my door is always open to anyone with an interest in improving this legislation.

This response to the Committee's Stage 1 report sets out our views on the findings so far and I look forward to Stage 2 of the Bill process, when we can make the changes we have said we will make and take the next steps towards a new future for social security in Scotland, with dignity and respect at its heart.

Jeane Freeman MSP
Minister for Social Security


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