Social security experience panels involve people with lived experience of the benefits system. Two hundred and forty-seven current panel members have addresses in the South Scotland region. That is 11 per cent of current panel members, which compares with the 12.5 per cent of the Scottish population who live in the South Scotland region. Recruitment is open to new panel members, and I would encourage anyone with relevant experience in the south of Scotland, or indeed anywhere else in the country, to take up the opportunity to shape a social security system that is based on dignity, fairness and respect.
Just before the recess, the cabinet secretary told the Social Security Committee that experience panels are not being consulted on the Government’s plan to use the consumer prices index for annual uprating. The CPI is set 1.7 per cent lower than the rise in wages, which is twice the rate of inflation. Have the experience panels, which are vital to the co-production approach that the Parliament debated on Tuesday, been asked whether they think that the uprating proposals are fair?
We carried out a consultation on the uprating procedure. As I discussed with the Social Security Committee, the conclusion that the consultation came to was that we have used, and will continue to use, the most relevant and up-to-date measure of inflation, as experts, such as the Bank of England, suggest that organisations use. We will continue to use the most useful national statistics, as we have done this year.