Social security as a human right will be enshrined in the foundation and functions of Scotland’s new social security agency.

The overwhelming majority of respondents to the social security consultation backed the principles of fairness, dignity and respect being built into the agency from day one.

The human right to social security will be on the face of the Bill which will be introduced to parliament in June, and an early action from the consultation will see those principles reflected in a charter.

Sandra White MSP, Chair of the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee, has welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement today  that Social Security will be enshrined as a Human Right, by law, in the new Bill that will be presented to Parliament. Ms White said:

“Having spoken to many of my constituents and those who have given evidence to the Social Security Committee it is plain to see that social security is an issue that transcends politics and is a right that should be protected by law.

I have no doubt that the Bill presented to parliament in the summer will have fairness, inclusivity, dignity and respect at its core.”

Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman made the announcement in a statement to the Scottish Parliament where she also responded to Research Scotland’s independent report into the consultation. She said:

“I have made clear the transfer of these powers will not be a simple inheritance and instead we will work in partnership with the people of Scotland to do things in a different way – one that is fairer, more inclusive, dignified and more respectful. But we must also make sure that the transition of powers is safe and secure, and we get a system that is right for Scotland.

“That partnership is already paying dividends with the consultation responses helping to shape the look and work of Scotland’s agency.

“There was clear support for our commitment to a rights based approach and continuing Scotland’s longstanding tradition of support for human rights, which is why we will enshrine these principles in the new system’s legislation.

“We are taking this further by including a charter within the Bill – it strengthens our guarantee by going beyond warm words and creating a binding contract between the system and the people who use it.

“I will also announce further details on our experience panels in the next few weeks, and these will see us work with people who use the current system to design, build and refine a new and better model.”

It was confirmed that Dr Jim McCormick, associate director for Scotland with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, will chair the Expert Advisory Group on Disability and Carers’ Benefits. Ms Freeman added:

“Jim’s credentials for the role are impeccable as he has extensive knowledge of the issues and a genuine passion for fairness and equality.

“He will offer us independent and expert guidance and will work closely with the experience panels to understand and listen to people who use the current system, helping us create a new and better one in Scotland.”

Dr McCormick said:

“Devolution of key disability and carer benefits marks a significant change for Scotland. Ensuring the process is safe and secure for the many people who rely on these payments now, and who will claim them in future, is the first priority. We will need a system that raises take-up, reduces poverty and significantly improves communication.

“I am delighted the Social Security Minister has asked me to chair this independent advisory group which will work for the duration of this parliament. It will draw on many types of expertise, with the diverse experiences of disabled people and carers as its consistent core.

“In providing advice to the Scottish Government, it will not shy away from difficult questions and it will seek to learn from effective approaches outside Scotland.”

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