BENEFITS: Universal credit allows access to Scottish child payment.

MSP Marie McNair and Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville.

By Democrat reporter

Is everyone entitled to Social Security Benefits claiming them? If not, what action is the Scottish Government taking to maximise the uptake?

Marie McNair, the Clydebank and Milngavie MSP, put the question to her SNP colleague, the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice,  Shirley-Anne Somerville, in the Holyrood parliament on Thursday.

Ms Somerville told her: “Our second benefit take-up strategy, published in 2021, sets out our approach to ensuring that people are able and encouraged to access the benefits that they are entitled to.

“We remain focused on the removal of social barriers to people accessing Scottish benefits; addressing complex or costly access; and improving access to information.

“We are delivering a number of take-up initiatives, such as our local delivery service, which takes our services to the locations that are most accessible to people, and we run targeted marketing campaigns. We will publish our next annual update on benefit take-up rates in autumn 2023.”

Marie McNair replied: “I welcome the efforts that have been made to maximise the take-up of social security benefits in Scotland, which is vital, given the impact that the Westminster-imposed cost of living crisis is having on many people.

“A recent report by Policy in Practice estimated that £7.5 billion-worth of universal credit is not claimed.

“Universal credit is one of the passport benefits allowing access to the vital Scottish child payment. Is the cabinet secretary concerned that the lack of a benefit take-up strategy by the United Kingdom Government, to encourage the take-up of universal credit, might deny some families access to the Scottish child payment?”

Shirley-Anne Somerville: told her: “We need more than a benefits strategy; we need an entirely changed approach [to this].

“For example, when we compare the Scottish Government’s human rights approach to social security, which encourages people to apply for what they are entitled to, with the UK Government’s degrading system, where there is still far too much stigma and there are still far too many barriers in the way, we can see exactly why it takes much more than a benefits strategy to improve the situation.”

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