Extra support planned for Scots welfare claimants


The Scottish government is to amend its social security legislation to give people the right to have someone with them during welfare assessments.

A bill is currently under consideration at Holyrood to set up Scotland's own devolved social security system.

Social security minister Jeane Freeman said she would amend the legislation to give applicants the right to be accompanied in meetings.

She said this was proof that Scotland will "do things differently".

Holyrood is taking on responsibility for 11 social security powers, including disability living allowance, personal independence payments, carer's allowance and winter fuel payments.

A new Scottish social security agency is being set up to administer these benefits, with its headquarters in Dundee and Glasgow.

The legislation to set up this agency unanimously passed its first parliamentary vote in December, and is now under consideration at committee level.

'Helping hand'

Ms Freeman is to put forward an amendment stipulating that anyone who wishes to do so can have "a supporter" present during any meeting or assessment relating to their benefit entitlements, who can make representations on the applicant's behalf.

Ms Freeman said that at present, assessments "can feel like a barrier to accessing benefits and help", saying the Scottish agency "will not replicate the current system when disability benefits are devolved".

She said: "Under the current system, people who attend assessments aren't able to have someone with them during the assessment.

"I think this runs contrary to our rights-based approach and if we truly want our system to have fairness, dignity and respect at heart then we should give people the right to have a friend or family member – a supporter – with them when they need it.

"We have all been in situations where we could do with a helping hand from someone who knows us, or just a bit of moral support. This is proof that Scotland will do things differently and one of the first ways we can show people we mean exactly what we say."

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