Scots will no longer have to suffer welfare tests alone

Due to amendment from Jeane Freeman, Scots will have the right to have someone with them during welfare assessments

SCOTS UNDERGOING any meeting relating to benefits or welfare assessment will have the right to be accompanied by a “supporter”, thanks to an amendment to ongoing legislation from social security minister Jeane Freeman.

Arguing that her amendment to a bill currently undergoing consideration in the Scottish Parliament to set up a devolved Scottish social security system would demonstrate that Scotland “will do things differently”, Freeman said the new right would not only allow those attending welfare meetings to be accompanied, but for the supporter to make representations on the applicant’s behalf.

READ MORE: Scotland’s social security service will lay the groundwork for independence, says Jeane Freeman MSP

Freeman said that at present, welfare assessments “can feel like a barrier to accessing benefits and help”, and that the new Scottish social security agency “will not replicate the current system when disability benefits are devolved”.

The Scottish Parliament will be gaining control of 11 social security powers, including Winter Fuel Payments, Personal Independence Payments, Disability Living Allowance and Carer’s Allowance, administered through the new social security agency, which was approved unanimously by a parliamentary vote in December.

“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.” Social security minister Jeane Freeman

Scottish ministers have already announced plans to increase Carer’s Allowance to the same level as Jobseeker’s Allowance, increase the frequency of Universal Credit payments and for rent payments to be made directly to landlords.

Commenting further on her proposed amendment, Freeman added: "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.

READ MORE: Parties unite to demand UK Government halts Universal Credit in Scotland

"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."

“The rising use of foodbanks, with charities like Start Up Stirling forced to step in and provide support, is symptomatic of a broken welfare state.” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

This follows a week of heightened criticism of the UK’s new benefit system from the Scottish Government, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calling on controversial new Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey to halt the roll-out of Universal Credit during a visit to anti-poverty charity Start Up Stirling.

Sturgeon commented: “The rising use of foodbanks, with charities like Start Up Stirling forced to step in and provide support, is symptomatic of a broken welfare state. It is abundantly clear that the Universal Credit system is failing those it is designed to support.

“The new secretary of state must admit that UC is forcing families into crisis and take the step her four predecessors wouldn’t – by halting the roll-out of this fundamentally flawed system.”

Picture courtesy of HelenCobain

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