Scottish Parliamentary reception introduces benefits advocacy to MSPs
The reception brought MSPs, advocates, local organisers and people using benefits advocacy together.
VoiceAbility’s reception at the Scottish Parliament on 23 February 2023 was an opportunity to raise awareness among Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) of the independent benefits advocacy service.
Thanks to Scottish government, all disabled people in Scotland can receive the support of an independent advocate to access Social Security Scotland benefits.
People who have used the service joined the reception to share their stories in their own words, alongside all of the VoiceAbility advocates currently working in Scotland.
The reception was also attended by representatives from key local organisations: the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance, the Salvation Army, the Scottish Older People’s Assembly, the Health and Social Care Alliance, DeafBlind Scotland, and the National Youth Advocacy Service. Many of these groups already signpost people to benefits advocacy locally.
Dignity, fairness, respect
MSP Kaukab Stewart, who sponsored the reception, opened the event and noted the importance of this service as a way to “engage respectfully with all applicants, respect being one of the founding principles of our new Social Security system.”
Minister for Social Security Ben Macpherson thanked attendees, and spoke powerfully about how listening to some of the familiar faces in the room when he was a backbencher helped the Social Security committee “to understand how important the need for advocacy was from their experience.”
VoiceAbility’s Director of Operations Louise Abbs spoke of VoiceAbility’s commitment to growing the advocacy service, with 19 new staff being recruited in the next two months to respond to rising referrals and reach out to more locations.
Her words were followed by a presentation from Glenn McIntosh, Data and Quality Administrator for VoiceAbility in Scotland, which outlined the core principles of advocacy, and detailed highlights from the work undertaken in the first year of the service.
We look forward to talking further with MSPs about how benefits advocacy can reach their constituents, and to working closely in partnership with the attending organisations and other local and cross-Scotland groups over the coming year.