DISABILITY benefit assessments in Scotland will be more flexible than the current system run by the UK Government and carried out in-house by the new national social security agency, the Scottish Government has announced.

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said in a parliamentary statement that they will be carried out at a time and location that suits the applicants, and public health professionals will provide support. She said the procedures will be carried out at home for those who have difficulty travelling.

Disability benefit is one of 11 welfare areas, worth around £3 billion a year in total, where power was transferred to Scotland through the Social Security Act, resulting in the creation of the Social Security Scotland agency.

The legislation, enacted in June, stipulates private providers, such as the firms which carry out controversial assessments administered by the Westminster Government, cannot conduct them.

“It is clear that the UK Government are content with an approach that sees private-sector assessment providers prioritise profits over people,” said Somerville.

“This Government puts people first and foremost. We will not farm out assessments to private companies.

“Furthermore, under the Scottish Government system, people will be given greater choice and control over their assessment through four actions I have committed to today.

“People will be invited at a time that suits them and to a location that suits them. For those with difficulty travelling, the assessor will come to them.

“In addition, we will introduce audio recordings of assessments as standard to ensure accuracy and transparency. And we will also allow the social security appeals tribunal to access the audio recording to help inform their decision.

“From application to award, we will provide a service that manages performance, quality and outcomes. And it is this approach that will see dignity and respect embedded throughout, and ensure people can have trust in the system.”

The announcement received cross-party praise. Labour’s Mark Griffin asked the minister to set out a timetable for when the qualifying criteria and value of disability assistance in Scotland will be made public, as he said disabled people are “desperate to know”. Somerville said work there is still work to be done in this area with the Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group due to report on this by the end of the year.

Greens social security spokeswoman Alison Johnstone, who campaigned for an end to the private-sector tests, welcomed the new approach. “Benefits assessments under the UK Tory Government are often cruel, humiliating and entirely unnecessary, so it’s vital we take a different approach ... My amendment to the Social Security Bill means that thousands of people will be saved from being put through these checks but where these are deemed absolutely necessary it’s essential they are carried out in a respectful and transparent manner.”