Make social security user-friendly so people get what they're entitled to

As the Scottish Government's consultation on how to use new social security powers closes, the Scottish Greens are proposing automatic payment of all relevant benefits for anyone making an application for support.

At the moment, people have to make applications for each individual benefit they think they might be entitled to.

In an official submission to the Government's consultation, Alison Johnstone MSP, Social Security spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, says: "Claiming for benefits has become an increasingly complicated and stressful process, and in some cases can have a negative impact on applicants’ physical and mental health."

Under the Green proposal, when someone applies for a benefit, they would be considered for all Scottish social security payments and services. Already, Winter Fuel Payments are paid automatically in most cases. By making payment automatic, many more vulnerable people would receive what they are entitled to, tackling poverty and poor health.

Green MSPs have already successfully persuaded the Scottish Government to make devolved employment programmes voluntary to prevent the Westminster Government from applying benefit sanctions, and Ministers have agreed with a Green proposal to extend the Healthier Wealthier Children scheme to boost the incomes of vulnerable families.

Alison Johnstone MSP, Social Security spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said:

"Two decades of welfare reform has warped our social security system, in some cases fostering insecurity and actively undermining people’s welfare. By making the new Scottish system a more user-friendly one, we can ensure people get what they're entitled to.

"In my submission, I also point out that private sector contractors assessing applications have made very poor decisions, resulting in significant hardship for people who had claims wrongly stopped. Assessment of Scottish benefits should be returned to the public sector, and pointless and unnecessary repeat face-to-face assessments scrapped.

"I also remind the Scottish Government of its commitment to explore the Green proposal to create a new Young Carer Benefit, and I point out that we can achieve progress to proposed Child Poverty targets by topping-up Child Benefit.

"The powers being devolved fall short of what was recommended by the Smith Commission, but they are still a huge opportunity to chart a different course."

Consultation on Social Security in Scotland (closes today, 30 Oct)

The benefits due to be devolved:
•              Disability Living Allowance
•              Personal Independence Payment
•              Attendance Allowance
•              Severe Disablement Allowance
•              Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
•              Carer’s Allowance
•              Sure Start Maternity Grants
•              Funeral Payments
•              Cold Weather Payments
•              Winter Fuel Payments
•              Discretionary Housing Payments