CAS welcomes Scottish disability payment progress but ‘long delays’ still an issue

The Scottish Government has made progress with its plans to reform disability payment processes to reduce anxiety and stress but more is still needed to be done, according to Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

A consultation found that new government proposals for a person-centred approach to assessing and obtaining disability payments were favoured over the current ‘one-size-fits-all’ system of the UK Government.

The Scottish Government said the new Scottish social security system measures will include:

  • Face-to-face pre-application support delivered across the country
  • A multi-channel approach for submitting applications, including telephone, paper-based and face-to-face
  • Clear eligibility criteria
  • Simplified application form
  • Enhanced role for carers in provision of evidence
  • Greater choice and control over the timing and locations of assessment, with home-based assessments provided where required
  • Profit-making companies will not be involved in carrying out assessments for disability payments

Social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “I have heard from far too many ill and disabled people who currently know only of stigma, stress and anxiety when it comes to accessing welfare support and fear the ‘dreaded brown envelope’ from the Department for Work and Pensions.

“That is why I want a sea change in accessing disability payments. A new system designed from the ground up - together with users themselves - that puts people first.

“We are supporting people to access the financial support they are entitled to and actively seeking to move away from the stigma of benefits to recognise they are an investment in our people.

“That means a process that is clear and accessible from start to finish and ensures people understand how and when their application will be dealt with.

“It is part of our promise to the people of Scotland that our social security system is a public service and will treat everybody with fairness, dignity and respect.”

In response to the announcement, CAS social justice spokesperson Mhoraig Green said: “The Scottish Citizens Advice network helps hundreds of thousands of people every year, many of whom are disabled. Last year we helped disabled people claim £46 million in disability benefits. More than in 1 in 4 of all the people who come to us for help can’t work due to a disability or ill health, so we see first-hand the problems they encounter with the system and we are keen to see them get better support.

“Today’s announcement by the government includes a number of welcome measures which will change people’s experience of accessing social security for the better. Ensuring that evidence from peoples’ family and carers - together with further medical evidence that already exists - is taken into account when making decisions on their entitlement, will make the process more dignified for people and lead to more accurate decisions.

“We also welcome the longer time period being given to people who want to challenge an incorrect decision. This will allow more people to get independent advice and support with the process.”

She added: “However, we are disappointed that the new legal time limit for the agency to respond to challenges has been set at eight weeks. CAB clients have consistently told us that long delays have left them in limbo and without payment, which means many are pushed into debt and poverty.

“We will continue to work with the Scottish Government to help them achieve their aim of a more compassionate social security system. We all need to work towards a system that is rights-based and fully supports independent living for disabled people in Scotland. Today’s changes are a big step towards that, but more needs to be done.”

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