Having sought the view of our members regarding the forthcoming Social Security Bill, we are aware there exists a plethora of ideas, opinions and suggestions to make this legislation as effective as possible. By utilising the expertise of Scotland’s third sector, the committee will be able to better understand the challenges faced by those who engage with social security services. Individual charities and organisations will be able to provide more specific information – particularly with regards to challenges faced by people with disabilities, those at risk of homelessness and child poverty. We believe our members will also be able to link the committee with actual service users, thus offering a more realistic picture of the current landscape and how it can be improved.
Linking Employment with Social Security
It has been pointed out by many of our members that the majority of working-age recipients of welfare payments are actually in work. The Scottish Government and many of Scotland’s major political parties are, of course, aware of this – having stated a desire to tackle what has become known as ‘in-work poverty’. As such, we would like to see the committee remain cognisant of this and consider what level of engagement with social security services is reasonable and realistic for someone who is employed. We would also like to see the committee place value on other sorts of contributions, such as caring and volunteering.
A Human Rights-Based Approach
SCVO and our members welcome the commitment to move away from the language of ‘scroungers and strivers’, in favour of language which paints social security as a valuable part of our society. Restoring ‘dignity and respect’ to the system is certainly something we would like to see fully realised. We believe that by embedding human rights in Scotland’s social security system, and by pursuing a rights-based approach to decision making and service delivery, we can improve outcomes for those engaging with the system. In essence, the legal entitlements of individuals (e.g. the right to food and shelter) should be placed at the forefront of policy making and delivery. The recent paper by United Nations Research Institute for Social Development: Human Rights-Based Approach to Social Protection provides useful guidance on this approach. Linking Social Protection and Human Rights have also produced a framework for policy makers who want to know what obligations exist as a result of human rights laws and in what way they are relevant to the design, implementation and evaluation of social protection programmes.
Learning from the past
While Scotland’s new social security system will administer a relatively small portion of current welfare spending – and will have to operate in concert with the DWP – we believe that there still remains an opportunity to set out in a new direction and provide a more effective system which works for those who rely on it. Central to achieving this will be a thorough assessment of existing DWP structures and analysis of what works and what doesn’t. Many of our members point to existing problems with the current system, such as sanctions and the constant use of disability assessments. We would expect the committee to pay close attention to these undesirable elements of the existing system with a view to considering a more progressive way forward.
We believe that Scotland’s third sector and the people they work with on a daily basis should be regarded as a huge asset and should be utilised by the committee as they take forward their work. To this end, we greatly appreciate the opportunity to make our own early contribution and look forward to engaging with the committee in the months and years ahead.
The Scottish Parliament has an opportunity to create a fresh and progressive social security system which we can be proud of and is regarded as a crucial pillar of our society. In light of this, we welcome the change in tone of language and commitments to embed dignity and respect in the system. We believe that by listening to those with experience of the current system and by pursuing a rights-based approach to policy development and service delivery, this can be achieved.
Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations,
Tel: 0131 474 8031
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is the national body representing the third sector. There are over 45,000 voluntary organisations in Scotland involving around 138,000 paid staff and approximately 1.3 million volunteers. The sector manages an income of £4.9 billion.
SCVO works in partnership with the third sector in Scotland to advance our shared values and interests. We have over 1,600 members who range from individuals and grassroots groups, to Scotland-wide organisations and intermediary bodies.
As the only inclusive representative umbrella organisation for the sector SCVO:
- has the largest Scotland-wide membership from the sector – our 1,600 members include charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations of all shapes and sizes
- our governance and membership structures are democratic and accountable – with an elected board and policy committee from the sector, we are managed by the sector, for the sector
- brings together organisations and networks connecting across the whole of Scotland
- SCVO works to support people to take voluntary action to help themselves and others, and to bring about social change.
Further details about SCVO can be found at www.scvo.org.uk.