Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has welcomed what she describes as an “historic moment” in the devolution process, as the new Scottish Social Security agency prepares to issue its first ever payments to vulnerable people in Scotland.
The Scottish Government will eventually take over control of eleven social security benefits, including the handling and management of Personal Independence Payments, as well as the right to create new benefits where it sees the need to do so.
It is estimated that these benefits will be worth somewhere in the region of £3.3bn per year, with around 1.4 million Scots reported to be aided by the payments.
First to benefit will be people in receipt of Carer’s Allowance, who will see their payments topped up by £221 before the end of the month – meaning they will receive 13% more than carers in England.
It is estimated that 75,000 carers in Scotland will benefit from the higher payments and the people they care for will almost certainly benefit as a result.
The new Social Security Agency, which currently has offices in Dundee and Glasgow, will also provide jobs to around 1,500 people, as well as a further 400 jobs spread around smaller sites in Scotland.
The agency has vowed to put “dignity, fairness, and respect” at its heart, whilst adding it will be a “place where everyone in welcome and treated equally”.
This is in stark contrast to the foreboding and uncompassionate treatment experienced by benefit claimants south of the border, many of whom see the Department of Work and Pensions as more of an enemy than a friend of poor and vulnerable people.
Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Making these payments represents a historic moment, launching a new public service that will deliver a social security system that treats people with dignity, fairness and respect.
“We have 100 new recruits in our Dundee headquarters working on the delivery of this benefit including taking calls on our freephone helpline for anyone who would like additional information or support.
“This new public service will deliver further benefits once fully operational – providing vital support to people on low incomes, disabled people and continuing to provide this additional support for carers.”
Scottish Conservatives social security spokeswoman Michelle Ballantyne said: “After years and years of complaining from the sidelines about welfare reform, the SNP is about to discover just how difficult it is to create a fair and affordable social security system.”