At our Conference, Scottish Government presented an overview of the current landscape in terms of the devolution of £2.8bn of benefits from UK to Scottish Government, the new agency which will be established and the Experience Panels which have been set up to allow those with lived experience of the current benefit system to inform this process.
There was a discussion covering the following issues:
- Organisations are experiencing an increase in both the level of support needed and the number of people needing support.
- The risk of sanction when participating in volunteering and other opportunities which improve wellbeing.
- The benefit of welfare rights advice and advocacy services.
- Fundamental issues with the assessment process whereby such a short process can often be used to make knee-jerk judgements.
- The basis for targets which are seen to work against people’s best interests – for example, the DWP’s target to refuse 80% of mandatory reconsiderations (especially considering that in Edinburgh 75-80% of appeals are successful.
- The need for the new agency to try to address stigma and the culture which has been established around the receipt of benefits.
- How to help seldom heard communities have a meaningful voice in terms of influencing the new system in Scotland.
We agreed to remain actively in discussion as the new agency forms and follow up on specific opportunities to engage seldom heard communities.