Part 3: Operational Policy
Part 3 looks at the strategic functions that the social security system will need to carry out in order to operate competently. This means functions that aren't specific to any individual benefit but could apply to all of the devolved benefits. We refer to these functions as 'operational policy' areas' .
This section relates to anyone with an interest in social security in Scotland.
Advice and representation
There is a clear consensus that the right advice can have a transformative effect on service delivery by guiding people in need to the right support at the right times, assisting with processes such as applications and appeals and increasing take up. The Scottish Government wants ensure that people who need to access services are able to do so. We recognise that the transfer of responsibility for the devolved benefits, from DWP to a Scottish social security agency will place new requirements on the advice sector in Scotland that will need to be understood and managed.
The Scottish Government intends to work closely with the publicly funded advice sector to assess its current capacity and capability and identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and key risks. This will help us to:
- Understand the key drivers affecting advice services now and in the future
- Identify ways in which organisations and individuals can make the most of new opportunities, and manage any additional complexity resulting from the transfer of responsibility for social security to Scotland
- Find out if we can harness the transfer of responsibility for the devolved benefits to drive improvements to the provision of publicly funded advice in Scotland
As part of this work, we want to use this consultation to ask for peoples' views on the publicly funded advice that is currently provided. We would like you to think about the role that publicly funded advice providers should play in the development of a new Scottish social security system and whether the transfer of the devolved benefits to Scotland could be used to drive improvements in the provision of publicly funded advice.
Complaints, reviews and appeals
We want to provide high quality services and information to all who interact with Scotland's social security system. We recognise, however, that there will be occasions when standards that people experience fall short of this vision. It's important, therefore, that an effective complaints handling procedure is put in place.
We would like your views on the best way to handle individuals' comments, concerns and complaints. In particular, we believe that internal reviews would present an opportunity to improve decision making, by allowing the agency to scrutinise the initial decision and we would like you gives us your views on how a Scottish internal review process should work.
A key part of ensuring access to social security is by making sure that people are able to challenge decisions that they do not agree with. For this to happen, there must be an effective appeals process that is accessible to all. We are therefore committed to providing an appeals process for devolved benefits which is transparent and accessible, with guaranteed timescales for decisions. We propose that appeals against decisions made in relation to the devolved benefits should be decided by a tribunal and we would like you tell us what you think about this approach.
Residency and cross-border issues
When Scotland begins delivering devolved benefits, there is a possibility that some cross border issues may arise. We will need to manage new administrative borders between the different social security regimes within Great Britain - i.e. between the social security systems in Scotland and England and Wales, and between Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Scottish Government will need to set out who is entitled to the benefits it will deliver. This includes setting eligibility criteria about residency status for those who have come to the UK, residency status within Scotland and, where appropriate, how we define that someone receives devolved Scottish benefits rather than reserved UK benefits.
The Scottish Government expects that a residence test will be based on "habitual residence". This means that assessment should be based on where a person is residing, and the reasons why they are residing there. The Scottish Government expects that all devolved benefits will include residency status criteria, amongst the eligibility criteria which will determine entitlement to each benefit. We would like you to tell us what you think about this approach.
Managing overpayments and debt
Errors which result in overpayments reduce the amount of public money available to be spent on those who need it. Therefore, there must be controls in the system, to spot errors and put them right. We recognise that overpayments made by the social security system are often made as a result of error, either by public sector officials or by individuals themselves. Overpayments which are not the result of an error by the individual making the claim will not usually be recovered.
If we do seek to recover an overpayment, this does not mean that the individual is being sanctioned and it does not mean that we think the individual has attempted to commit fraud. The Scottish Government will not necessarily seek to replicate current DWP arrangements and processes for dealing with overpayments. However, we do want to gather users' views on the current arrangements so that we can make an assessment as to what might be appropriate for Scotland. We would like you to tell us if the way that overpayments are currently recovered could be improved.
The Scottish Government intends to protect its investment in social security, on behalf of the people of Scotland, by taking a zero-tolerance approach to fraud. We are clear that people who have knowingly committed fraud should be punished. We also want to raise awareness of the individual's responsibilities in relation to social security fraud while designing processes which will be accessible and simple to use.
In order to protect against fraud, we propose that officials working for the Scottish Government or its agency, should investigate fraud in, broadly, the same way as "Authorised Officers" currently investigate fraud for DWP. We would like your views on these current arrangements and whether there are any improvements which could be made.
Protecting your information
The Scottish Government believes that every individual has the right to privacy and that personal information should be protected.
We propose to take a 'Privacy by Design' approach to information handling, to promote privacy, security and compliance with data protection regulations - from the initial stages of setting up the agency through to service delivery. We are clear that advances in technology should be used to support claimant applications better.
In order to meet the legitimate needs of our agency - to process applications for social security support while protecting individuals' privacy - we will securely source the minimum amount of information we need from other public sector organisations instead of storing large amounts of information in a 'data warehouse'. We would like your views on whether you would support the strictly controlled sharing of information in this way, if it would make the application process easier and led to improvements in our services. We would only ever do this when we have the individuals' consent.
We make it clear that we will maintain spending on disability benefits, uprating them in line with inflation. Uprating is the annual process by which the value of some of the benefits which people currently receive is increased. We would like your views on whether there should be a general, Scottish uprating policy for devolved benefits and payments which could simplify the system overall and make it easier to understand.
If you have printed this document or are reading it in paper form, please use the space provided below to write down your answers for Part 3. Please use additional paper if you wish.
In Part 3, we have set out approaches and proposals on:
Advice, representation and advocacy
- Complaints, reviews and appeals
- Residency criteria and cross-border issues
- Managing overpayments
- Protecting your information
You may want to provide feedback on all of these or just some of them. Please tell us which proposals you are providing feedback on when you answer the two key questions below:
What do you think about the proposals outlined in Part 3?
Do you have any further views on the topics covered in Part 3?
Equality and low income
The Scottish Government has a duty to consider how its policies and proposals respond to the ways in which people are different from one another, in relation to particular 'protected characteristics': age, disability, gender reassignment, gender including pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, and sexual orientation. This helps us to ensure that, where possible, policy is shaped appropriately to advance equality on these grounds and meet people's varying needs as effectively as possible.
We take this duty very seriously. That is why we have developed a partial Equality Impact Assessment ( EqIA) to support the Consultation. This is available as a separate Annex to the full-length version of the Consultation on Social Security in Scotland and is 'partial' in the sense that it reflects our thinking to date. The EqIA provides detail on the Scottish Government's engagement so far to understand the equality implications of the new social security powers. It then sets out general barriers people might face, many of which have equality implications, before discussing the individual benefits, including where we are proposing changes to existing UK benefits and how these impact on equality
If you would like to help us in producing the full and final EqIA to accompany the Social Security Bill please click here to go to the section on equalities in the full consultation document .
Email: Edward Orr, email@example.com