Social Security Scotland

By: A.C.

It is that time of year again when the politicians go into conference and surreptitiously or otherwise, put a textual stiletto into their rival, in an attempt to promote themselves and thus gain better jobs, more recognition and fuel harmony or disharmony amongst themselves or the public.

Journalists of course, love this stuff, as it gives them something to write or pontificate about.  They have great fun reporting on the petty feuds, the personality clashes between political rivals, or the proposed changes in party policy which have no real hope of ever becoming real. 

I cannot even be bothered to mention the ‘B’ word. The subject of Europe has dominated everything for years, and through intransigence, ideology, and an almost evangelical worship of the end in itself is threatening the country to the exclusion of all other matters in Government.

Regardless of what happens in Europe, people who are disabled through accident, misfortune, disease, genes, age will always be there in our society. Disability will always be there and disabled people will always require benefits, and practical help & care, or hospital admissions regardless of the feuding peacocks at the party conferences or their attempts to Americanise our NHS.

Two press releases this week show that the Scottish Government at least, show that they are determined to change the way that the Scottish Government treat the disabled, and in fact recognise that disability and ill health may start a lot earlier in life affecting our lives as we age.

The first of these was a Ministerial Statement and Speech by Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville at the Scottish Parliament on 26 September 2018 in which she details the way that the Scottish Government will take control of certain Social Security benefits will not under any circumstances contract out disability assessments for benefits to private contractors. She said:

I am delighted to announce to the chamber today, in line with that important principle of public service, I have decided that it is our new public agency Social Security Scotland that will deliver assessments to determine eligibility for disability assistance, fully supported by public sector healthcare professionals. I want to ensure that disabled people can access a flexible, person centred assessment service across the length and breadth of the country and it is clear to me that Social Security Scotland is best placed to deliver that.

Ms Somerville states that place, time and access will all be viewed compassionately as regards the disabled person’s needs and not that of the assessor. In the past these assessments have been seen as little more than deliberate obstacle to the housebound, or indeed they were held in places where access was questionable or unsuitable. Claimants will also have the automatic right to audio record all assessments. 

The second announcement by the Scottish Government was its adoption of the ACE’s programme in North Ayrshire, where Police Officers are being trained in the recognition of Adverse Childhood Experiences.

The study of ACE’s started in Sacramento USA, when sharp –eyed physicians noticed a link between childhood trauma and later –life illness. The science has been adopted by NHS Scotland. 

This more holistic approach to health shows statistically that suffering trauma not only affects mental and emotional health, but is now acknowledged to affect physical health – despite people being non–smokers, teetotallers or having a healthy lifestyle.

According to the NHS website : There are 10 traumatic events in childhood which can can cause difficulties in later life. They were identified by the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical neglect
  • Emotional neglect
  • Exposure to domestic violence
  • Household substance abuse
  • Household mental illness
  • Parental separation or divorce
  • Incarcerated household member

So, whilst the politicians preen, posture and strut about stating their determination to implement the ‘B’ word, and seek personal power to cause chaos and catastrophe, Scotland has got on with implementing what matters to the disabled, frail and elderly in our society. 

Because no matter what happens, people will still be disabled, trying to cope with daily life, paying the rent, buying food, and just being worried about the future.

At least, our Scottish Government has listened to concerns about assessment, (I sent my own contributions to the previous Minister) access and having the assessors in public service.

They are also recognising that in wider society, serious trauma as a child impacts on later life health, and by recognising that science, they can help to reduce and mitigate those factors in Scottish society that lead to disability & dysfunction both in people and society.


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