THREE in five people say the UK welfare system is either “poor” or “very poor”, a Scottish Government survey has found.

Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman launched the survey findings as Holyrood prepares to take charge of aspects of the benefits system.

The SNP administration has pledged to put fairness at the heart of this work and change attitudes towards social support, poverty and need.

As the findings were revealed yesterday, Freeman said the research proved the scale of the challenge. She said: “This report reinforces what all our consultation and work so far has told us – that the UK system does not treat people well and there is a great deal to improve on.

“Our unique social security experience panels will play a key role in the design of Scotland’s new service that we are building with the people who will use it.

“Their lived experiences will help to focus our work on the most important areas for improvement as we build a rights-based social security service founded on the principles of dignity, fairness and respect.”

Views of the UK benefits system were worst amongst those receiving Universal Credit, with almost 70 per cent of this group branding it “poor” or “very poor”.

The controversial payment, which replaces a number of earlier benefits, is being rolled out across the UK despite widespread criticism of lengthy waits for initial payments.

The Department for Work and Pensions says these six-week delays affect only a small number of people and measures are now in place to reduce this gap, including the provision of emergency loan payments.

More than 1,100 people took part in the survey, all of whom were member of the Scottish Government’s social security experience panels.

Fewer than one-fifth of participants said their experience had been positive, with just ten per cent ranking the system as “good” and about five per cent describing it as “very good”. The remaining 20 per cent gave it an “average” rating.

Those surveyed were asked about their experience of applying for, obtaining, challenging and appealing a number of benefits, including disability living allowance, personal independence payments, carer’s allowance, sure start maternity grants, cold weather payments, winter fuel payments, discretionary housing payments and Universal Credit.

People with a disability or long-term health condition were more likely than those without such problems to have had a poor experience, with about 60 per cent of those with a mental health condition, chronic pain or physical disability describing their experience as either “poor” or “very poor” compared to 20 per cent of others with no long-term health condition or disability.

People from the most deprived areas were also more likely to have had a poor experience of the benefits system.