The consultation on disability assistance in Scotland, which closed on 28 May, set out the Scottish Government’s proposals on face-to-face assessments. The process of designing Social Security Scotland’s assessment service is under way and will be shaped by consultation analysis, engagement with experience panels and input from stakeholders.
We are committed to providing individuals with person-centred assessments that are delivered by suitably qualified assessors. Individuals will have greater choice and control over their assessment and will be treated with dignity, fairness and respect throughout.
Will the Scottish Government give an assurance that the recruitment of mental health specialists for face-to-face assessments will not adversely impact on recruitment streams for other policy areas that require such specialists? Will every effort be made to avoid any such adverse impacts?
As we move forward with our workforce planning for Social Security Scotland and for the assessments, we are mindful of the need to work not just for social security but across the Government and of the need to discuss such matters with the health directorate and with professional bodies, such as those for medicine. That work continues and I assure John Scott that we will be mindful of such issues as we undertake the final phases of planning for the disability assistance packages.
Many of us are aware of the often cruel and unnecessary assessments that the Department for Work and Pensions carries out. We have a chance to do things differently in Scotland with our new social security powers. Will the cabinet secretary confirm that, when assessments are needed, they will be delivered through Social Security Scotland and never through the private sector? Will assessments be flexible and be offered at a time and in a place that suit claimants?
I am happy to confirm again that the assessments and any case management will be delivered by Social Security Scotland and that there will be no role for the private sector in that. It is very important that, as we develop our system, we listen to the feedback from those who have gone through the United Kingdom system. They describe it as having created stress and trauma sometimes for those who are the most vulnerable in our society. That is exactly why we have to listen to that feedback and ensure that we do not repeat the same problems in our system. We are very clear that we will have a system that will allow people to be seen at a place and time that is convenient for them. That is the very least that they can hope for, but I reiterate that we are determined to reduce significantly the requirement for face-to-face assessments by using our case managers to ensure that we get the right decision with the right information before having to get to a face-to-face assessment at all.