THREE years ago this month, we committed to doing things differently with Scotland’s new social security system, as we began delivering new benefits with powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Over the last three years, we have created and built up Social Security Scotland, which currently offers 11 payments, seven of which are completely new forms of financial support. And there are several more benefits on the way, too, which we’ll be rolling out in the months and years ahead.

We’re putting money into the pockets of those who need it most – families with young children, carers, people who have lost loved ones, disabled young people and people who need help heating their homes.

Our new Scottish Child Payment is unique in the UK and is helping to tackle child poverty head-on.

In November 2020, we started taking applications and we’ve already made payments to the families of 108,000 children under six. This will be expanded to young people under 16 by the end of 2022.

In the meantime, we have introduced our bridging payments to support low income families, and are reaching around 148,000 families with an annual total payment of £520 – the equivalent of the Scottish Child Payment.

The Scottish Government is also doing things differently in how we deliver disability assistance. We’ve listened to the needs of people with disabilities and are removing the often stressful Department for Work and Pensions-style assessments. Along with other changes we’re making, we are replacing these with consultations carried out by a healthcare practitioner.

We want to make it as straightforward as possible to apply for disability benefits. When we launched our Child Disability Payment pilot in Dundee, Perth and Kinross and the Western Isles in July, we also started our new local delivery service.

We’ll roll this out to every council area across the country from November, alongside the national rollout of Child Disability Payment, and ahead of our introduction of Adult Disability Payment next year.

This new service supports people with their applications and will provide a choice in how they apply for benefits – over the phone, online or with face-to-face support in a location that suits them.

Three years in, people have told us they are happy with their new service – 90% of clients responding to a survey told us that their experience of Social Security Scotland was “very good” or “good”.

I’ve seen for myself the difference we are making. For example, I recently met an Edinburgh mum who needed to apply for financial support following the breakdown of a relationship. She used the Best Start Grant School Age Payment to pay for things such as clothes and shoes for her daughter – essential items she would otherwise have found very challenging to afford.

Social Security Scotland is making a meaningful difference for many people across our country, and we’ve made remarkable progress in just three years – but we’re in no way complacent and have much more we want and need to do.

When we roll out our planned benefit programme, our new service will support 1.8 million children and adults – about one-third of our population. Social security is an investment in building a better society for the benefit of all of Scotland. As we grow, we will continue to put people’s needs first. Dignity, fairness and respect will remain at the heart of everything we do.