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Treating Everyone With Dignity And Respect - Scottish Social Security

11th January 2019

Photograph of Treating Everyone With Dignity And Respect - Scottish Social Security

Social security charter laid for the approval of the Scottish Parliament.

People engaging with Scotland's new social security system will be treated with dignity and respect, Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has pledged.

Ms Somerville was speaking as the Scottish Government published ‘Our Charter', a document which takes the eight principles set out in the Social Security Act passed unanimously by Parliament last year and outlines what these will mean in practice. It will now be considered for approval by the Scottish Parliament.

Created by people with experience of the existing social security system, ‘Our Charter' outlines in detail what can be expected from the Scottish Government and Social Security Scotland for anyone accessing Scotland's new social security system.

Thanking the stakeholder organisations and the people with lived experience of social security who developed the charter at a meeting in Edinburgh, Ms Somerville said:"When people use a public service they should have no concerns about how they will be treated. Whatever the contact is about and whoever they speak to, they should have full confidence that they will be treated with dignity and respect. However every day we read new reports of the brutal and degrading impact of a UK social security system that has been criticised by the UN and by House of Commons Committees.

"This charter explains how Scotland will do things differently, creating a positive and supportive system that is there for all of us should we need it. Notable commitments include treating people with kindness and empathy, recruiting staff who believe in these values, delivering services in local communities, and developing policy in a way that advances the human right to social security.

"These commitments were developed by those who know the system best - people with lived experience of social security and the organisations that represent them. There are few, if any, parallel examples of a Government working so closely with the people it serves to shape a public service. The charter therefore goes to the heart of our commitment to work with the people of Scotland to co-design a system based on fairness, dignity and respect."

Rob Gowans of Citizens Advice Scotland said:"Citizens Advice Scotland welcomes the launch of the charter, as it is important that people who need support from the social security system are clear about their rights, what to expect and what they can do if that standard is not met.

"We know from people coming to their local Citizens Advice Bureau for advice that this is not always the case currently, so the charter is a positive step towards creating a social security system which treats people with dignity and respect at all times."

The Social Security (Scotland) Act includes eight overarching principles which include:

social security is an investment in the people of Scotland,

social security is a human right;

respect for dignity of individuals is to be at the heart of the system;

the Scottish social security system is to contribute to reducing poverty in Scotland

The core group decided to structure the charter around four key themes:

A People's Service - is about establishing a new and positive relationship between Social Security Scotland staff and the people they serve. It defines the treatment that people can expect from staff and how the core group believes that staff should be treated in return. Notable commitments include kindness and empathy, warm referrals to other services to improve finances and wellbeing, values based recruitment of Social Security Scotland staff and involving people with diverse lived experiences of social security in staff training.

Processes that Work - is about the design, accessibility and quality of the processes and systems that people will engage with when using the service. Notable commitments include adapting processes and communications to meet needs and preferences, delivery of services in local communities, on-going co-design with citizens and inclusive communication.

A Learning System - moves the charter beyond delivery to address the culture and values of Social Security Scotland e.g. that it encourages and values feedback, learns from it and strives to do better in future. Other notable commitments include involving those with lived experience in measuring performance and recruiting a diverse workforce.

A Better Future - is about the Scottish Government’s policymaking process and the wider exercise of devolved social security powers to improve people’s lives. This theme contains higher level, more strategic commitments to ensure that the social security principles are embedded in policymaking more broadly, ongoing co-design and seeking to advance a human rights based approach, including commitments aimed directly at payment levels, tackling stigma and using more positive language to describe social security and the people who access it.

The charter laid for approval therefore runs the full breadth of the Scottish social security system: from the content and design of policy, the recruitment and training of staff, their relationship with the people they serve right through to delivery of services and the culture of Social Security Scotland.

‘Our Charter’ has been laid for the approval of the Scottish Parliament and will be formally considered in the coming weeks.

Social Security Scotland was established in September 2018 and has so far paid two instalments of the Carers Allowance Supplement as well as making payments of the Best Start Pregnancy and Baby payment. In 2019 it will deliver four new benefits including the Best Start Grant Nursery Age and School Age payments, Funeral Expense Assistance and Young Carer Grant.

Chair and Members Appointed to the Scottish Commission on Social Security

The Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Ms Sommerville, today announced the appointment of Sally Witcher as Chair and Judith Paterson, Mark Simpson and Sharon McIntyre as Members of the Scottish Commission on Social Security.


Sally Witcher has worked on matters relating to social security, at different times and in different roles, over a period of approximately 30 years. She is currently the CEO of Inclusion Scotland, Deputy Chair of the Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group and a member of the Poverty and Inequality Commission. From 2006-2010 she was a senior civil servant in the Office for Disability Issues, DWP, U.K. Government and, before that, she chaired the Disability Employment Advisory Committee (a U.K. Government Non Departmental Public Body) and worked in consultancy and academia, based in Edinburgh. In the 1990s she was the Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (U.K.). She has been a member of many government and research advisory groups, including for the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, London School of Economics. Sally is herself a disabled person and Disability Living Allowance recipient and she was awarded an OBE in 2006 for services to disabled people.


Judith Paterson is Head of Advice and Rights (Scotland) for Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland (CPAG). She joined CPAG in 2001 from Disability Alliance, now part of Disability Rights (UK). She has worked in the field of social security advice for over 25 years and is an author of guides on social security law and practice. She is a member of the independent Disability and Carers’ Benefits Expert Advisory Group appointed by the Scottish Government. Since 2014, she has been a member of the Social Security Advisory Committee, advising the UK Department for Work and Pensions.

Mark Simpson is a lecturer in Law at Ulster University. His research focuses on social security and poverty. Recent studies with colleagues at Ulster examine Social security systems based on dignity and respect (for the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland) and Destitution and paths to justice (for the Legal Education Foundation and Joseph Rowntree Foundation). Mark has published on social security, devolution and human rights in leading academic journals in the fields of Law and Social Policy. In 2019 he will commence a new research project on claimants’ experiences of universal credit in Northern Ireland, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Sharon McIntyre has extensive experience of both the UK and Scottish Social Security systems. Her previous roles include being Child Poverty Advisor for Yorkshire and the Humber regional Government Office. Sharon has experience in leadership roles across social care, education and housing and has a track record in cultivating excellent working relationships with partners including the Scottish Government, Public sector and Third sector as well as other key organisations.


The appointments for Sally Witcher and Mark Simpson will be for four years and will run from 23 January 2019 to 22 January 2023. Judith Paterson and Sharon McIntyre will be appointed for three years from the 23 January 2019 to 22 January 2022.

This appointment is regulated by the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland.


The Chair appointment is part time and attracts a remuneration of £306 per day for a time commitment of 60 days per annum. The Members appointments are also part time and attract a remuneration of £225 per day for a time commitment of 36 days per annum


Sally Witcher, Judith Paterson, Mark Simpson and Sharon McIntyre do not hold any other public appointments.


All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees’ political activity within the last five years (if there is any to be declared) to be made public.

Mark Simpson has canvassed on behalf of Green Party election candidates in Belfast South, Belfast East and North Down in general, NI Assembly and local elections. He has previously been a party member.

Sally Witcher, Judith Paterson and Sharon McIntyre have had no political activity in the last five years.

To find out more about Scottish Social Security go to -

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