I welcome the report and, in particular, its key finding that 90 per cent of clients who responded said that their overall experience was either “very good” or “good”. It is a credit to all Social Security Scotland staff that they were given that endorsement by clients, who were surveyed last year at a time when the agency’s services and staff were also coping with the serious disruptions caused by coronavirus. The agency was established on the footing that its systems should be designed with the people of Scotland and be based on their evidence. The report demonstrates the Scottish Government’s determination to live up to that commitment.
Of course, there will always be room for improvement, but the report’s findings, including that the overwhelming majority of respondents—around 87 per cent—said they were treated with dignity, fairness and respect, are clear evidence of two things. First, they show where we are on our goal to deliver a Scottish social security system that has those values at its heart and that succeeds. Secondly, they show how far we have come on moving away from perceptions of the system operated by the Department for Work and Pensions.
The results of the survey are hugely encouraging and represent a welcome departure from the system that the United Kingdom Government operates, which the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights described as
“punitive, mean-spirited and often callous”.
What lessons does the cabinet secretary think the UK Government could learn from Scotland’s social security system? Does she believe that people in Scotland should not be forced to accept toxic Tory policies?
What we have achieved in social security in Scotland is testament to the hard work that has gone on both within the Government and, importantly, with our key stakeholders and all the individuals with lived experience who have taken part in the process, so that we could deliver the system that we are now delivering on.
I should pay tribute to my predecessor in this role, Jeane Freeman—not only because she is sitting close to me in the chamber but because of her work in this portfolio before I took over, which laid the groundwork for the results that I am announcing today. The whole of Government can reflect on what can be done when we have lived experience at the heart of our policy making. That is a lesson not only for the Scottish Government but for all public agencies across the UK. It is the right way and the best way in which to make policy. I, for one, am very pleased that Ms Freeman took the opportunity to ensure that our social security system had that in its very bedrock when she set it up.