Charities call for social security bill advocacy amendment

Section: Policy into PracticeType: News Item Date Published: 6th April 2018

Fifty organisations have called for a Social Security (Scotland) Bill amendment on independent advocacy.

Organisations across the third sector have welcomed the Scottish Government’s aspirations to take a rights based approach to social security and are now calling for MSPs to support an amendment to the Social Security (Scotland) Bill, on the subject of independent advocacy.

A coalition of organisations, led by the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA), say that a new Section 8A (this link will take you away from our website) of the Bill would help to ensure that individuals requiring assistance under this act have a right to practical and affordable support from independent advocacy services.

Independent advocates are professionals who provide a vital resource for many people who find it difficult to access services for a variety of reasons. They safeguard people who are vulnerable, discriminated against, or whom services find difficult to serve by providing a few crucial hours’ support to people to help navigate the social security system. For example an advocate may help an individual to prepare for assessment and then support them to take part in the assessment.

Shaben Begum, Director of the SIAA, said: “The amendment agreed at Stage 2 of the Social Security Committee’s proceedings provides for access to independent advocacy services by people with a ‘mental disorder’ including mental illness, dementia or a learning disability. We welcome this progress but believe there are many people who would benefit from independent advocacy support who will not be covered – and we are concerned that offering this service to some groups and not others is discriminatory.

“We believe that the Social Security (Scotland) Bill must be strengthened by the inclusion of provisions recognising the universal right to independent advocacy and providing access to independent advocacy services. Anyone claiming social security should have the choice to access an independent advocate, when they feel they need one, at any point in the social security process. We believe that this amendment reflects the Scottish Government’s aspirations to take a rights based approach to social security.”

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