Scottish Government promises to reform hated disability benefit

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A Scottish Government minister has committed to reforming Personal Independence Payment assessment procedures when powers are devolved in the spring

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20th September 2016 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

The Scottish Government has vowed to radically overhaul a vital benefit for disabled people, which has been branded not fit for purpose.

Charities welcomed the announcement from Communities minister Angela Constance, who said Westminster's personal independence payment (PIP) system does not treat people with dignity and respect.

She spoke out as the Scottish Government submitted evidence to an independent review on PIP, a new benefit designed to replace disability living allowance for those with long-term conditions.

It highlighted the fact that 65% of those who appeal decisions to reduce or cancel their PIP award are successful. 

Constance said this uncovered deep flaws in the system and promised to radically overhaul PIP assessments when the benefit is devolved to Scotland next spring.

Angela Constance MSP

Angela Constance MSP

We will reform the assessment procedures to ensure they work for service users, and are committed to working with disabled people through the consultation and beyond, to get this right

“It is absolutely staggering that 65% of people who dispute their PIP award are successful in their appeal of that decision," said Constance.

“Not only does that highlight a deeply flawed system, but it shows very clearly the number of people subjected to a highly stressful, often prolonged, process to get the support they need and are entitled to.

“It completely fails to treat people with the dignity and respect that, not only do they deserve, but they should have a right to expect from a system that was set up to help them.

“The unacceptably high appeal and overturn rate, the lack of information available, the confusion over different types of support available and the inconsistent decision making, all add up to a wholly unacceptable situation.

“When we have powers over disability benefits, we will put dignity and respect at the heart of everything that we do. We will reform the assessment procedures to ensure they work for service users, and are committed to working with disabled people through the consultation and beyond, to get this right."

Inclusion Scotland policy director Bill Scott said: “Inclusion Scotland share all of the concerns voiced by Scottish Government particularly on the unacceptably low standard of Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) decision making; the shameful and disrespectful way that disabled people are treated by the DWP and some assessors, and the huge amount of stress that disabled people and their families are subjected to. 

“However we would add a couple of concerns of our own. One being the unacceptably high proportion of disabled people (over 90%) who are forced to undergo totally unnecessary and repeated face-to-face assessments when the impact of their impairments is already known and will not change.  

“Secondly, the high rate of successful appeals demonstrates that a majority of the decisions that go against disabled people are wrong but the problem is that many of those refused benefits are so stressed and depressed by the process that they do not exercise their right to appeal and are thus losing out.

“Finally we have an ongoing concern about the total unwillingness of the DWP to act on the previous concerns expressed to them by disabled people’s organisations about both the work capability and PIP assessment processes. That makes us question the value of responding to these so-called reviews. After all what is the point of speaking out if no one in government is listening?”

Citizen’s Advice Scotland (CAS), which is preparing a detailed report on the impact of PIP, also echoed concerns about the benefit.

CAS spokesperson Rhiannon Sims said: “Despite significant improvements having been made to waiting times and other aspects of benefit delivery, our evidence shows that fundamental problems remain with respect to the design of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), specifically around assessments, medical evidence, length of awards, accuracy of decision making and mandatory reconsideration.

“These are all issues that CAS raised in our response to the first independent review, and it is now crucial that solutions to these issues are found before more people experience similar problems as they undergo the transition from DLA to PIP.”

A spokeswoman for the DWP said: “We introduced PIP to replace the outdated disability living allowance. PIP is a better benefit which is tailored to suit each individual’s needs.

“We want to ensure people get the support they need and the independent review is part of our commitment to make sure the system is working as we intended.”