New chief will use personal experience to improve system
pretty horrendous, humiliating, highly stressful assessment procedures.
“I have, at a personal level, direct, lived experience of some of the issues people will have when it comes to claiming reserved benefits.
“That gives me a real passion and personal commitment to really doing my utmost to ensure the new Scottish social security system does treat people with dignity and respect.”
Witcher’s unusual route to her new post included a first-class degree in fine art. She got involved in disability and anti-poverty organisations and took on a masters degree in policy studies at Edinburgh University.
Originally from England, she has lived in the city since 1998.
Witcher worked at the DWP between 2006 and 2010, before deciding she wasn’t cut out for the role.
She said: “The thing about being a civil servant is you’re not there to drive forward what you personally believe in. You’re there to deliver the agenda of elected politicians.”
Witcher started claiming welfare payments in the late 80s. But DLA is being phased out and claimants are being moved to Personal Independence Payments, with controversial assessments to determine if awards can be made.
The Scottish Government published a social security charter on Friday, setting out how people should be treated in the new system “based on fairness, dignity and respect”.
Social Security Secretary ShirleyAnne Somerville said: “There are few, if any, parallel examples of a government working so closely with the people they serve to shape a public service.”
Last week, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd admitted Universal Credit got off to a difficult start and announced some changes to welfare policies.
She said: “Maybe things that were proposed previously weren’t effective or weren’t compassionate in the way that I want them to be.”