The First Minister said the further devolution of welfare powers to Scotland will create jobs and economic benefits as well as treating claimants with “dignity and respect” – something she suggested was often missing at the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions.
The Scottish Government will take responsibility for payment of further benefits next year, including a replacement for the Personal Independence Payment that will be called the Adult Disability Payment.
During a visit to the new Social Security Scotland headquarters in Dundee on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon said: “As we devolve more responsibility to the Scottish Parliament to deliver services like social security, we can improve the way in which these services are delivered.
“But we can also create economic opportunity because the people delivering these services are in Scotland, working in Scotland, paying in taxes in Scotland, and therefore we get the economic benefit as well as the social benefit.”
Ms Sturgeon said the plans to increase the Social Security Scotland workforce by 2,000 – taking it to about 3,500 staff – would also be “equipping an organisation to deliver benefits in a way that has dignity and respect at its heart, and actually sees social security not as a burden, but as an investment in the social fabric of the country”.
The majority of the new roles will be based in Dundee and Glasgow, with staff taking calls from claimants and processing applications for benefits.
Contrasting the new organisation with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the SNP leader continued: “So often in my role as a constituency MSP I talk to people whose interactions with the DWP are wholly negative.
“They feel that it’s a system that stigmatises them, that tries to stop them accessing the support they are entitled to.
“The experience of Social Security Scotland couldn’t be more different.
“It’s supportive, helpful and it puts the dignity of the user at its heart, so this is about values and ethos, as well as the practical support that this organisation has already provided.”
Asked about the Scottish Government’s delay in accepting the developed powers to deliver certain benefits, Ms Sturgeon stressed it was now delivering 11 benefits, but acknowledged it had “taken longer than we have wanted it to take”.
She added: “In terms of independence, in 2014 we didn’t have Social Security Scotland.
“So the next time Scotland comes to voting on independence, we have infrastructure that we didn’t have back then – so actually we are already much further along the road to independence than we were in 2014.”
Social Security Scotland chief executive David Wallace said: “As we welcome more than 2,000 additional staff to deliver new benefits and a high-quality service, we are committed to increasing diversity in the organisation so we reflect the clients we are here to serve and their lived experience.
“We are delighted to be able to create more jobs in Glasgow and to our head office in Dundee and I look forward to welcoming colleagues into Agnes Husband House in 2022.”