SCOTLAND’S devolved benefits agency made payments totalling more than £160 million last year, as its boss has warned the next 12 months will be “difficult for many of us”.

David Wallace, the chief executive of Social Security Scotland, spoke out as it was confirmed payments amounting to £163.6m, covering 11 Scottish benefits, were made between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022.

At the same time, a survey for the organisation found about nine out of 10 people (89%) rated their overall experience of dealing with Social Security Scotland as “good” or “very good”.

A little under nine in 10 respondents said they had been treated with dignity (87%), fairness (87%) and respect (89%), the research showed.

Both the survey and Social Security Scotland’s annual report and accounts were released ahead of an increase in the Scottish Child Payment, which next week increases to £25 per week, while the qualifying age will rise from six to 16. The benefit, which is only paid in Scotland, helps low-income families.

Social Security Minister Ben Macpherson said: “Social Security Scotland’s annual report and accounts demonstrate the impact of delivering benefits that help tackle poverty and promote equality.

“We ensure money goes directly to people who need it most, including carers, disabled people and families on low incomes.

“Next week our transformative Scottish Child Payment will be extended to all eligible young people under the age of 16 and increased to £25 per week per child – a 150% rise within eight months of introducing this important benefit, which is only available in Scotland.”

The minister said he was pleased the benefits agency had “maintained high satisfaction levels in their service delivery”. He added: “We encourage all those who are eligible for support to apply, and are committed to treating everyone with dignity, fairness and respect.

Wallace, meanwhile, stressed the importance of listening to those who receive benefit payments. He stated: “Four years ago, we began delivering our new social security service for Scotland after listening to people who had experience of the benefits system.

“They helped us create a service based on our values of dignity, fairness and respect and we continue to listen to them as we grow and deliver more benefits.

“Our annual client survey reflects the work we have put in to deliver on our commitment and the fact we managed to maintain such an exceptionally high level of client satisfaction through a period of significant growth is a source of immense pride for me.

“We have worked hard to build a diverse workforce of people who share our values that reflects modern Scotland. The year ahead will remain difficult for many of us but our commitment to our clients remains strong and we will continue to listen to their feedback as we develop our service and prepare to deliver new benefits.”