For dignity and respect, it matters how people are treated

The Scottish Government has said that the new social security benefits will be bound by principles of dignity and respect, so the publication of a commissioned report on Social security systems based on dignity and respect ought to have been very welcome.  Unfortunately, the report fails signally to come to terms with its brief, choosing instead to emphasise either human rights issues or the substantive failures of social security policy.  Both sets of issues are important  – they are necessary for dignity – but they are not sufficient.  There is nothing in human rights legislation which says that people will be addressed politely, that they will be believed when they say things, or that officials will be considerate.

There is very little in this report about those issues.  The report acknowledges, in the Executive Summary, that “The feeling of being treated unfairly or viewed with suspicion by case workers on permanent alert for fraud is reported as particularly demoralising” – there is some further material on these problems on pp 33-35 – but the authors don’t go on to say what needs to be done about them.  A   chapter on “Ensuring dignity and respect in the claimant experience” really says nothing about the claimant experience, let alone about dignity and respect.

The central issue is how people are treated.  The report ought to have considered process at length – access, application, communication, assessment, handling changes of circumstance and so on.  There is some (admittedly dated) empirical evidence that many of the processes used for verification are unnecessary, that insisting on claimant declarations  colours the process, that security is disproportionate and ineffective in dealing with errors.  The system is not geared to deal with complaints or to correct mistakes.  The nearest the report gets to most of this is to  call for greater  personalisation, which risks increasing the scope to get things wrong and exacerbates the problems of judgmental administration.

2 comments

  1. Alan Parker

    The Scottish government know fine well they could have taken over these powers immediately , instead thousands go through the draconian system daily , all they had to do was simply change a few simple rules throw it on a sheet of A4 and handed those instructions to the DWP for claimants with a SRIT code. In fact the simple instruction to halt PIP in Scotland and keep the fairer DLA would have sufficed.

    Let’s be honest what needs changed is not rocket science and even if keeping PIP e,g, lifetime DLA awards stay the same on PIP , DWP must contact all GPs and specialists listed and they must be accepted as strongest evidence,, claimant and carer must be believed over any assessor notes done on a single day, where as a carer deals with the claimant long term, the medical professional on the panel must be up to date with all new medications and treatments as e,g, retired ones don’t seem to realise a person attending a pain clinic is automatically getting specialised physiotherapy.

    I posit the Scottish government’s exercise is just to thin the herd and is about affordability if they ever get independence , I mean why the need for a full social security system for 15% of benefits and were will the running costs budget come from ? All this yet at the same time they could use already trained staff in social security offices that the UK propose to close , to which they again use as a tool of grievance rather than simply suggest taking over some of those offices keeping already trained staff.

    The Scottish Government are good at consultations just not very good at action .

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