Appointees should be able to collect benefits on behalf of claimants but safeguards must be in place, say Holyrood Committee

09.06.2020

MSPs on Holyrood’s Social Security Committee have backed a Bill which would allow adult benefit claimants, who consent, to nominate an appointee to claim benefits on their behalf. However, they have warned that suitable safeguards must be put in place to limit fraud and the exploitation of vulnerable people.

 

 

MSPs on Holyrood’s Social Security Committee have backed a Bill which would allow adult benefit claimants, who consent, to nominate an appointee to claim benefits on their behalf. However, they have warned that suitable safeguards must be put in place to limit fraud and the exploitation of vulnerable people.

The Committee has recommended the Bill be amended to include safeguarding principles that underpin the detail of how the appointee system will work and protect it from abuse. They have urged the Scottish Government to bring forward detailed guidance which should also be statutory.

The Committee published its Stage 1 report in response to the Social Security Administration and Tribunal Membership (Scotland) Bill which makes changes to the Social Security Act of 2018. They have also backed a change which would allow health professionals, other than doctors, to verify that a claimant is terminally ill meaning their disability benefit claim would be fast-tracked.

Bob Doris MSP, Convener of the Social Security Committee, said: 

“The Committee welcomes this legislation and strongly supports the general principles of this Bill including allowing anyone in receipt of benefits to appoint someone to collect benefits on their behalf. 

“However, submissions to the Committee from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Law Society of Scotland outlined that without suitable safeguards in the legislation, the appointee system would not be compliant with human rights legislation and could be open to abuse. 

“The Scottish Government’s principal safeguard is that consent must be given. However, the legislation should go further and build in additional safeguards such as the ability to challenge appointee decisions, undertake periodic reviews and resolve disputes.

“We are also keen to see amendments brought forward at Stage 2 which would ensure there is a duty to inform people of their eligibility for all top up benefits including the Scottish Child Payment.”

Background 

The Bill was introduced on 27 April 2020 by the Cabinet Secretary for Social

Security and Older People. In a letter to the Committee of 1 May 2020, the

Cabinet Secretary explained why she regarded the Bill as urgent and

requested an expedited scrutiny timetable.

For more information on the work of the Social Security Committee go to: https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/social-security-committee.aspx

 

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