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New social security agency “puts people first”

New agency aims to reflect government’s aims of building system based on “dignity and respect”.

The Scottish Government has announced that Scotland’s new social security agency will put people before profits, with no private companies carrying out benefit assessments. Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman ruled this out in a statement to Parliament – where she also outlined the conclusion of the options appraisal process for the model of the new social security agency.

The new agency will have a central location as well as providing a local presence across Scotland, so it is directly responsive to individual needs. A decision on where the main agency will be located will be made in the autumn.

It was also confirmed that the new agency will employ at least 1,500 staff – making it one of largest executive agencies of the Scottish Government.

Ms Freeman said: 

“One of our fundamental principles is that profit should never be a motive nor play any part in assessing or making decisions on people’s health and eligibility for benefits. 

“We are building a system based on dignity and respect – this means an assessment process which isn’t demeaning or deliberately difficult.

“I am very clear that assessments should not be carried out by the private sector, and I want to give people in Scotland this assurance as we take forward our new social security agency.

“It also means setting up an agency that has a local presence, with a human face, where people can go to get one-to-one support if required. This is very different to what exists at the moment.

“The new social security agency will be one of the largest executive agencies of the Scottish

Government and will employ at least 1,500 staff by the time all devolved benefits are being delivered.

“Setting the new system up is a hugely complex task but a challenge that we relish and one that we are absolutely determined to get right. It is extremely important that we start how we mean to go on – by listening to people and seeking expert opinion to deliver an agency that respects people’s views and is sensitive and responsive to their different needs and requirements.”

SFHA Policy Lead Zhan McIntyre said:
“We are very encouraged to hear Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman commit unequivocally to a social security regime which puts people at its heart and rules out the pursuit of profit. 

“The shameful treatment of applicants for Personal Independence Payments and other disability benefits clearly demonstrates what happens when the profit motive it is introduced to a system like this.

“The SFHA will continue to work with the Scottish Government as it designs and implements the new Social Security Agency for Scotland to make sure it works well for tenants, landlords and taxpayers.”

The Outline Business Case for Social Security, which includes the evidence from the options appraisal process will be published on the Scottish Government website. 

The estimated annual running costs of the agency will be around £150 million.

The full list of the eleven benefits being devolved to Scotland can be viewed on the Scottish Government website. Ten of the 11 devolved benefits, totalling around £2.8 billion of annual payments, will be delivered directly by the new social security agency itself. Discretionary

Housing Payments and the Scottish Welfare Fund will be delivered by local authorities.