A collective investment, in ourselves and in each other
Next week Parliament will vote on the final stage of the Social Security (Scotland) Bill. This legislation will allow us to start the transfer of powers for approximately £3.3 billion pounds worth of benefit payments to 1.4 million people in Scotland.
And while we will not be responsible for all of social security and many benefits will remain with the UK Government, this £3.3 billion is an investment that we collectively make, in ourselves and each other. For any one of us, our circumstances can change without notice – bereavement, the loss of employment, ill health or accident or new caring responsibilities to take. Any one of these, and others, can result in major reductions to our income or increased expense that we have to meet. And social security should be there to provide support to help us in those difficult, changing times.
The new public service that we are setting up – Social Security Scotland – will provide support to every corner of Scotland and to people with a wide range of personal circumstances. And it will work every day to put into practice the founding principles we have set out – that every person who comes to Social Security Scotland will be treated with dignity and respect. Helped to understand all the support they are entitled to and helped to make sure they receive it.
I am keen that in Scotland we create something that people take comfort in knowing is there and that they want to contribute to and are proud and protective of. To make that happen, we need to continue to keep our promises and when we come to deliver our service, doing it differently by demonstrating what dignity and respect looks like in practice.
That is how we will build public confidence in this new public service. And it will also come from how we manage and run this new service, making sure that it is as effective as possible and makes the best possible use of the public money it spends.
The first benefits to be paid under the new Scottish system – Carers Allowance Supplement, Best Start Grant and Funeral Expense Assistance – are good examples of our commitment to make sure that the benefits we are responsible for reach all those who need them and make a positive difference to their lives.
Best Start Grant, for example, goes significantly further than the current UK Government Sure Start scheme and is worth up to £1,400 more for a two-child family.
Funeral Assistance will reach out to more people who need financial help at that most difficult time when a loved one has died.
And we won’t spend more money than we need to in running the service. So we will minimise the need for one to one assessments and increase long term and life time awards for people whose disability or health condition will not improve. We will work hard through our locally based Social Security Scotland staff to make sure that all the information needed to support an application is gathered at the outset so decisions can be made more quickly and more fairly.
Principle and pragmatism are not opposites when it comes to running a public service. They can and will go hand in hand – making sure that all our resources are channelled wisely to make a real difference. Making every decision, every action and every penny count, to deliver the best quality of service for everyone in Scotland.