Social Security (Scotland) Act to include right to access advocacy

THANKS FOR ALL YOUR HELP

Over the past year, AdvoCard, along with SIAA, DAS, The Health and Social Care Alliance (ALLIANCE) and the Scottish Council for Voluntary organisations (SCVO) have been engaging with people who use our services, other organisations in the Third Sector, MSPs and the Minister for Social Security to raise awareness of the need for access to advocacy services for everyone who will have cause to access the new system.

Although initially resistant, thanks to all our continued efforts, the Government are now aware of the role that advocacy can play and the need to have access to advocacy services included in the Bill.

At the Stage 1 debate the Social Security Committee recommended that the Scottish Government consider including access to independent advocacy as a principle of the Social Security Bill and as a right in the legislation. Unfortunately this was not acted upon. However, Stage 2 saw further developments as the minister tabled her own amendment to the bill providing a right to access to independent advocacy services for people with mental illness, personality disorder or a learning disability as defined under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act 2003. It was made clear at this point that this would be a starting point and that the aim was to widen access at Stage 3 after consultation with stakeholders.

This has now taken place and the Minister replaced the initial amendment with her new amendment at the stage 3 debate. This amendment states that every individual who, owing to a disability, requires an advocates help, will have the right to access independent advocacy services for support to engage with the new social security system.

This means that everyone who self identifies as having a disability due to a physical condition, long term health condition, mental health condition, learning disability or any other reason will have a right to access independent advocacy services if they need support to engage with the new Social Security system in Scotland.

While this is not the universal access we would have like to have seen this is a huge step forward for people who need help accessing social security and could not have been achieved without your support. Thank you to all who took the time to engage with our campaign over the past year and who emailed their MSP asking for support.

We will continue to engage with the Scottish Government around the provision of the advocacy services. Keep an eye on our facebook page for updates on this.