Highland Council contributes views on the future delivery of social security in Scotland
The Highland Council welcomed a visit from Jeane Freeman MSP, Minister for Social Security, on Thursday 20 October.
The purpose of the visit was to discuss the Scottish Welfare Fund and Universal Credit and the visit presented an opportunity for senior members and officers to demonstrate best practice in Highland and to put forward views towards the consultation on devolved Social Security in Scotland.
Head of Revenues and Business Support Allan Gunn explained the service delivered in Highland: “Since 2014/15, Highland Council has reduced service delivery costs by 20% within benefits administration, whist achieving improved processing times over the same period, many of which are now top quartile (the top 8 performing councils in Scotland). Over the last 2 years, as well as implementing significant changes in business processes, a new structure has also been implemented including a local single service delivery model for all benefits that the Council is responsible for – all based on customer needs.
“The Highland Council is now in the enviable position of providing a better and more complete service to the customer and allowing staff variable and more interesting jobs, whilst at the same time improving processing times and reducing costs. It also offers the opportunity to add further benefit/entitlement responsibilities to be delivered by this established local service delivery model with a now positive track record on service areas, including processing performance and delivering efficiencies.”
Leader of The Highland Council, Cllr Margaret Davidson said: “I am very pleased that the Minister has taken the time to visit us in Highland and hear about the very innovative and successful work being done here with regard to administering the Welfare Fund and associated responsibilities. The focus is very much on making this person focused, improving processing times and providing expert advice and support to people who may struggle to find their way through a very complex and frustrating journey of accessing benefits.
“I am delighted that we not only had the opportunity to share with the Minister our good practice but also to provide views & opinions on the future of Social Security in Scotland.”
Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman said: “We want to build a fairer social security system that treats people with dignity and respect and that is why we are consulting with a wide range of people from across Scotland to gather their feedback on how the current system works.
“As part of those discussions, this week I visited staff and managers who deliver the Scottish Welfare Fund in Inverness to hear more about what they think about the current social security system, and how it can be improved to work better for the people who need it.”
Allan Gunn, Jeane Freeman MSP, Cllr Margaret Davidson and Alasdair Bruce (Service Delivery Manager)
Highland Council administers the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) within their Revenues Team. Delivery of SWF responsibilities is seen very much as part of a much bigger entitlements picture. The Revenues team not only undertakes “traditional” Revenues responsibilities such as Council Tax, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction and Discretionary Housing Payments but also administers SWF, School Clothing Grants, Free School Meals, Educational Maintenance Allowance, Music Tuition Fees, Inverness Winter Fuel Payments and Garden Aid. These entitlements were previously delivered within other Council sections/Services. However our new service delivery model enables staff to access a range of information which improves processing times, removes the frustration customers experience at being repeatedly asked for the same information and deliver efficiencies overall.
Customers can apply via a freephone, online or on a paper application form.