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Scots welfare claimants to have right to support at health assessments

19 January 2018

Social security applicants under the Scottish welfare system will have a right to have someone with them during assessments or meetings, the Scottish Government is proposing.

An amendment to the Social Security (Scotland) Bill lodged by Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman would ensure that any applicant has the right to be accompanied if they need or want it.

Ministers claimed that under the current system people who attend assessments are not able to have someone with them during the assessment.

Ms Freeman described the step as proof that Scotland would "do things differently".

She commented: "We know the current DWP system can make people nervous about health assessments when accessing benefits. People can feel that instead of being about assessing needs and what support is necessary, assessments can feel like a barrier to accessing benefits and help.

"We don’t want people’s experience to be like that, so we will not replicate the current system when disability benefits are devolved."

The present rule, she said, "runs contrary to our rights-based approach". The minister added: "If we truly want our system to have fairness, dignity and respect at heart then we should give people the right to have a friend or family member – a supporter – with them when they need it." 

However a DWP spokesperson denied that any such prohibition exists at present: "We’re very clear that people are free to bring someone along to their assessment, and welcome the move by the Scottish Government to uphold this existing right."

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