Shirley-Anne Somerville: Investing in Scotland’s social security system



Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, cabinet secretary for social security and older people, discusses how the Scottish Government is creating the new infrastructure for a new public service for Scotland.

Shirley-Anne Sommerville

Our new social security system is an important investment in the people of Scotland now and for generations to come.

This week, I outlined how we are taking this new programme further. We have met and surpassed our commitments to date, having already established our new agency to deliver seven benefits. By the end of this parliamentary term, we will have 12 benefits including the important new Scottish Child Payment which has the potential to reach 170,000 children. And by 2024 we will be delivering 16 benefits, paying out an estimated £4 billion to 1.8 million people – a third of the population.

Many of us may think that we won’t need that extra support. However, when we reach pension age we will all be entitled to the Cold Weather Payment that this system will deliver. And also, any of our circumstances could change without notice. We could face a bereavement, ill health, have an accident, take on new caring responsibilities or have a child with a disability or who gets sick. Any one of these sudden changes could result in major reductions to our income or increased expenses that we have to meet. And social security should be there to help us in those difficult, changing and challenging times.

Investing in our new Scottish system means that there is a system there to support you. Whether it’s to cope with disability, or to help with heating costs when you’re older, or to support you and your family in the early years, we are creating a system that will let you know what help is available, that will be as straightforward as possible for you to access and one that will treat you with dignity, fairness and respect. Importantly it’s a system that does not replicate that of the UK welfare system, which we know people finds stressful, complicated and often inhumane.

The creation of this new service presents us with a huge opportunity. It enables us to deliver something that is not just a bit better but something that is great. That does things differently. And something that we can all feel proud of, protective of and – importantly – feel protected by.

To deliver upon this aspiration, we have needed to build this new system from scratch and we are doing this with the people who will use it every step of the way.

We are also ensuring that where we are taking over an existing benefit, we do so in a safe and secure way so that everyone who relies on this money to live their lives gets the right amount, to the right place and at the right time – every time.

We will always put people at the heart of how we design and deliver social security in Scotland – it is an investment to create that safety net for all of us, there when we need it.

We should want this for ourselves and we should want this for others.



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