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Independent Advocacy Support For Disabled People

30th September 2021

Up to 100 jobs created to help access Scotland's social security services.

Disabled people will benefit from a ground-breaking new advocacy service which will support access to Scotland’s social security services.

The Scottish Government has committed £20.4 million over the next four years to the provision of the new and free programme, unique in the UK.

It will offer advocacy support to disabled people looking to access Scottish social security benefits.

These include current and future disability benefits such as Child Disability Payment, Adult Disability Payment and Pension Age Disability Payment.

The service will be operational in the new year and is entirely independent of the Scottish Government and Social Security Scotland. It will be available in each NHS board area and will create up to 100 new jobs across the country.

Social Security Minister Ben Macpherson said:"The service will provide advocacy to anyone who is disabled and requires support to communicate their needs when accessing Scotland’s social security services.

“This assistance will be person-centred and advocates will provide the most appropriate form of support to each individual based on their circumstances.

“This is a new and independent free service, with no equivalent provided by DWP.

“It builds on our human rights-based approach and makes social security more accessible to disabled people in Scotland, ensuring their voices are heard."

VoiceAbility, a charity with 40 years’ experience delivering advocacy services, has been awarded the contract to provide the service.

They will establish a new base and training centre in Glasgow and create up to 100 jobs over the four years. There will be at least one advocate in each NHS area at launch, with more jobs to be created as disability benefits are introduced.

VoiceAbility CEO Jonathan Senker said: “We are proud to launch this new independent advocacy service and we look forward to establishing a base in Scotland and taking on the staff to deliver it.

“The advocacy we provide will support disabled people to make sure their voices are heard when it matters most and that more people will get the support they’re entitled to.”

Brian Scott of the Glasgow Disability Alliance added: “Our members have highlighted the barriers that many disabled people face in accessing support to find out about the social security benefits they are entitled to - and to apply for them.

“We welcome this free advocacy service as it will ensure disabled people are more involved in the processes and decisions which affect them.

“In making social security more accessible to disabled people, it shows real evidence of a rights-based approach to providing services.”

This service will provide free and independent advocacy support to disabled people looking to access Scottish social security benefits. These include current and future disability benefits such as Child Disability Payment, Adult Disability Payment, and Pension Age Disability Payment, as well as a range of devolved carer and low-income benefits.

The scope of the service has been increased by updating the Advocacy Service Standards by removing the restriction to instructed advocacy. Subject to Parliamentary approval, the updated standards will be published in November prior to the comprehensive service going live. Access to the service will be via direct contact to the service or via a referral from Social Security Scotland.

VoiceAbility were appointed after a rigorous, regulated procurement process. An accredited Living Wage employer, 75% of their recruited workforce will come from those who are long-term unemployed or economically inactive. The remaining 25% will be experienced employees, who have worked within the health and social care field and understand advocacy. All qualifying employees will be enrolled on appropriate Modern Apprenticeships.

A procurement exercise for a provider for the independent advocacy service commenced on 2 April 2019. The process reached the point of identifying a preferred bidder when it was cancelled due the Coronavirus pandemic resulting in a delay in the rollout of disability benefits.

As Scottish Ministers were still required by the 2018 Act to provide an independent advocacy service, an interim service was put in place in order to meet any demand for advocacy. The interim service launched on 30 June 2020 will remain in place to meet any demand ahead of the comprehensive service launching early next year.

VoiceAbility will enter a mobilisation period which will last approximately three months. The comprehensive service will take over from the interim service after completion of the mobilisation period.