This year’s International Human Rights Day is an opportunity to reflect on the hard won rights we all take for granted. It is a reminder of our duty to respect, protect, and fulfil human rights as part of our everyday lives.
As a government, we are using our powers to put human rights at the heart of public service. A clear example of this is our new social security system. We made a point of calling out the fact that social security is a human right in the Act. This further stresses the obligation we have to make sure that everyone who is entitled to this support gets it.
Unlike the UK Government, we are proactively promoting our benefits to people in Scotland who may need them. For too long, there has been stigma around applying for benefits. It has been viewed as something embarrassing or shameful. Our progressive new system is fighting to change this outdated attitude.
When we first set out to create our new service, we listened to the views of people with experience of the existing UK system. They told us how often they found applying for benefits to be ‘complicated’. We have worked to improve the ways in which people can apply for benefits.
We understand that one size does not fit all and that’s why we provide people with options – they can choose whether to apply for benefits online, by post, over the phone or face-to-face. We have also committed to investing £10 million over this Parliament to increase access to advice services in a range of accessible settings to maximise incomes, tackle the poverty penalty and improve wellbeing.
We know that poverty prevents people from achieving their full potential and as long as it exists, we will not achieve a fair and equal society. That’s why we introduced the ‘game-changing’ Scottish Child Payment. It is the most ambitious anti-poverty measure currently being undertaken anywhere in the UK. And we recently announced the payment would be doubled next year.
From April 2022, 111,000 children under 6 will immediately benefit from £20 per week. This will be rolled out to children under the age of 16 by the end of 2022, subject to getting the data we need to do so from the Department from Work and Pensions. Investing in a child’s early years can lift young people out of poverty – these interventions are essentials we build the strongest foundation for our shared future.
We want Scotland to be a place where people are healthier, happier and treated with respect, and where opportunities, wealth and power are spread more equally.
We are doing everything we can to make sure people get this financial support that could make a big difference to their lives. However, we can’t do this alone. Many of our benefits require people to be receiving certain UK benefits like Universal Credit. So I would call on the UK Government to help people realise their human right to social security and to take a more proactive approach to promoting their benefits to ensure people get everything they are entitled to.
Shona Robison MSP is Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government