Benefit recipients recruited to help develop new welfare system

Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman has launched a recruitment drive for benefit claimants to help develop Scotland's new welfare system
Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman has launched a recruitment drive for benefit claimants to help develop Scotland's new welfare system

The Scottish Government is to recruit 2,000 benefit recipients to help shape the new devolved welfare system.

Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman has launched a recruitment drive for the “experience panels”, saying they will “help us understand the changes that need to be made” when Scotland is responsible for some benefits.

Control over 11 benefits, worth just over £2.7 billion in total, is being transferred to Edinburgh as part of the devolution of powers in the 2016 Scotland Act.

Holyrood ministers have already staged a three-month consultation as part of work to develop a new social security system.

Ms Freeman said: “At the start of this process I said I wanted Scotland’s social security system to treat people with fairness, dignity and respect, and key to that is having people who use the current one right alongside us as we design and build our system.

“What we want is a system that works for people rather than one that tests their ability to fill out long and complicated forms. Our experience panels will help us understand the changes that need to be made to design Scotland’s social security system so it works for people and Scotland.

“The system we are building will make a real and positive difference to the 1.4 million people who rely on this critical financial support, and I am asking anyone who wants to get involved in the process to register their interest in joining one of our experience panels.”

She was speaking as she met members of the Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA) at the city’s Calton Heritage and Learning Centre.

Disability campaigner Chris Baird said the “number one” problem disabled people face in the current benefits system is “hostile attitudes”.

He added: ” By setting up these panels, staff in the new system will hopefully develop empathy about the real life experiences of disabled people using the system.

“When you’re treated like a scrounger and benefit cheat, it knocks your confidence and wears away your self-esteem. These panels are a chance to take the next step in building a system which puts right some of the wrongs and treat people better.”

GDA chief executive Tressa Burke said: ” GDA and our members have witnessed horrendous decision-making leading to worsening health and increased inequalities for disabled people.

“We can learn from these experiences and no-one better understands these than disabled people themselves who have been at the mercy of hardened attitudes and brutal treatments.

“Above all, disabled people can offer solutions and we firmly believe that by working together we can do things differently and create a better future for Scotland’s people.”

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