I want to thank you for all the help and support you have given us during our consultation on a Social Security system for Scotland and the part you played in the recent social security consultation.
Over the three months we had engagement in every local authority area of the country, reaching many hundreds of people through these and social media. And we reached those we need to reach – people with direct, lived experience of the UK benefits system and with clear ideas on what they want to see improved. We’ve now received just over 500 responses with around half coming from individuals. We’ll publish the independent analysis of these and our response, in early 2017.
I have always said, I hope very clearly, that we will have a Scottish social security agency delivering devolved benefits by the end of this parliamentary term. But I hope that I have also been clear that building it and making sure we get the benefits transferred safely and securely from day one, is a process. It’s not a ‘big bang’ one- off event. We need to go through some legislative steps so we have the right legal framework for our agency and we need to make sure that the IT and everything else we need to make payments, is tested, re-tested and tested again. Like you and many, many others I want to fix the wrongs of the current UK system as quickly as I can for the 11 benefits we will be responsible for. But what I can’t do is risk any one of the 1.4 million people all of this affects losing out and not receiving what they’re entitled to, because I cut corners.
And one of the most important ways we can make sure we get this right is to continue that direct involvement with people on benefits and with those who provide vital advice and support to them that we started back in July.
So in early 2017 we will start our recruitment drive for 2000 volunteers to join our Experience Panels. We’re looking for people who are, or have been on one or more of the 11 benefits to work with us to design, build and test our new social security system, making sure that we really do have the principles of dignity and respect threaded through everything we do and every decision we make.
Our success in ensuring a safe and secure delivery of powers depends a great deal on how well we work with you and your networks. So my thanks to you for all you have done so far, my very best wishes to you and I look forward to the work we will do, together, in the New Year.
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