Visiting the new Social Security Agency in Dundee


Last month, myself and three other City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) tenants (Barbara Stark, Christine and big Jim Galloway (who was the driver) were invited to visit the new Social Security Scotland Agency headquarters in Dundee.  The purpose of the trip was to find out a bit more about the work of the Agency and ask questions.  We first had a meeting with Miriam Craven, (Head of local Delivery and Client Experience of Social Security Scotland) and her colleagues.  We found out some interesting facts and were impressed that our questions were answered not like “oh we’ll get back to you, or I don’t know but will find out.”  We were then shown round the offices which are on the 1st floor of Dundee Council offices it was a real eye opener for us.

We were part of a working group which helped to formulate ETF’s response to the Social Security Scotland consultation and it was good to see that many of our recommendations have already been implemented.  Below is what we each thought of our day in their office.

Myself: I found it very informative, especially reading different stories from people Social Security Scotland have helped by issuing the new Carers Supplement Benefit for those in receipt of Carer’s Allowance.  The supplement is given twice a year and £221.00 is usually given every 6 months. For some families the money is a life saver.

Big Jim: Just a fun day with lots of important information gained by myself.  Being given a chance to speak to the new staff on the front line gave me a good insight into what is happening with the new rules. The company was nice, and a good day was had by all.

Barbara: It was a great day and it was very informative.

Christine: It was very good and to actually see the work in action was brilliant.

One card got the tears to us all, it simply read “This has stopped me from ending it all, the money was a god send I can now feed my kids.” Another card simply read “I can now give my children Christmas presents, thank you”

Sharon Robertson, CEC tenant, Gorgie

My First Deputation

My name is Sharon Robertson and I am a City of Edinburgh Council tenant who’s an avid tenant participator in all things. This blog is the first one I have ever written. It’s about my experience of giving a deputation to councillors earlier this year about rents.

I and two other people, Christine Hudson and Jan Mawdsley wanted to talk about the rent increase proposed by the City of Edinburgh Council and how it would affect not just ourselves but those in difficult financial circumstances, and we asked for the rents to be frozen.

We wanted to present together; we are all individual Council tenants with one active in a tenants’ group. To prepare, we met up a few times to put the deputation in our words; simple with no jargon, so everyone could understand.

Due to the fact that two of us are not members of a tenants’ group we weren’t allowed to give the deputation as individuals. This perturbed us as we are on the Tenants Panel which was setup to allow individual tenants to participate in tenants’ interests.

Eventually, it was agreed that one of us could present, but with less time and attached to ETF’s own deputation. So we had to narrow our own experiences down to about four to five minutes. This upset us as we couldn’t be heard individually – each of us with our own concerns.

It was agreed that I should present our views to the full council at the City Chambers. This was very daunting as I had only presented to a small meeting before.

After I gave our presentation I ended by saying, “You’ve said a lot about financial pressure on HRA for the council, what about the tenants and our mental wellbeing? Who’s going to be investing in us as people?  When you consider the rent increase, take this away today – consider the impact it’s going to have on vulnerable tenants.”

I invited councillors to for a month to walk in our shoes, without your credit cards, without your current salary or living in comfort to experience the way a lot of your tenants live from day to day; deciding whether to choose heat, food clothing over your rent costs, then come back to the tenants and justify your 2% rent increase.”

So far no councillors have taken me up on that suggestion, nor did they ask me any questions, nor did they come forward after to discuss what I had said in the deputation.

I actually felt like I had been looked down upon and not treated as an equal. It made me quite angry to hear I had not been heard with our deputation.

To make deputations you need to be attached to a group not a single tenant, which defies logic as most Council tenants are individuals and not linked to any residents’ group.

It was a good experience to do this though, as it has given me new skills to speak up, for not just myself, but for others too.

Sadly, a short time later one of the people who had helped during the making of our deputation Jan Mawdsley passed away. May she rest in peace.

Christine Hudson, Sharon Robertson, Clare MacGillivray, Jan Mawdsey