Despite new welfare powers the DWP will continue to assess disabled people in Scotland
Scottish ministers won’t stop Westminster from forcing disabled Scots to endure hated capability assessments, TFN can reveal.
Despite new welfare powers being devolved to Scotland this year, the Scottish Government said it will continue with the current arrangement until at least 2021.
It means an estimated 100,000 Scots will lose either some or all of their disability payments by the time the new social security system is in place
Although many of those losing benefits will qualify for reassessment under the new system, disability campaigners fear it will be too little too late.
Millions of disabled people in the UK are currently migrating from Disability Living Allowance to the new Personal Independent Payments under the Tory government’s controversial welfare shake up.
The process forces disabled people to undergo often demeaning and humiliating medical assessments to see if they qualify for the new benefit – a process campaigners say must end.
However Jeane Freeman, the minister charged with setting up Scotland's new social security system, quashed hopes the assessment regime would be halted.
“This is the biggest transfer of powers since devolution began and requires a detailed legislative framework and a robust delivery infrastructure to be in place before benefits can be transferred and then be delivered by the Scottish Government,” she said.
“We have always been clear that our priority is the safe and secure transition of the 11 benefits being devolved – including DLA and PIP – and that this will be delivered during the lifetime of this parliament.”
Freeman said SNP ministers had initially argued for the UK government to itself halt the migration before new welfare powers were passed over but this had fallen on deaf ears she said.
Campaigners have warned that disabled people could take their own lives because they live in fear vital benefits - for many their only source of income - will be taken away.
Personal Independent Payments explained
PIP is a benefit made to help people aged 16 to 64 cope with the extra costs they face due to ill health or disability. Not means-tested, it is gradually replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
There are two components – daily living and mobility – and eligibility is based on ability to carry out 12 activities, including eating and drinking, washing, going to the toilet, communicating and getting around.
Losing a single point could mean an individual getting less money, or losing PIP altogether if it puts them below the points threshold for qualifying.
The more severe someone's needs the more they will receive, up to a maximum of £139.75 a week.
Jenny Scott, spokesperson for East Ayrshire Carers Forum, hit out: “This is a death sentence for people facing these degrading assessments. The utter misery and anxiety they cause has to be halted.
“It is dreadful news and a huge disappointment for the thousands of disabled people and their carers that this hell will continue.
“We expected so much under the new powers but this a real bitter blow. I’m not convinced at all the Scottish Government can’t do more. It must.”
Although many of those losing benefits will qualify for reassessment under the new Scottish system, disability campaigners fear waiting up to five years will be too little too late.
Bill Scott, of disability rights organisation Inclusion Scotland, said: “We can see how the Scottish Government’s hands are tied in terms of legislation. All we can ask for is that the new system is up and running as quickly as possible and that it works better than the current set-up.
He added: “There’s a lot of anxiety around what the new criteria will entail. But we welcome a Scottish system based on equality in place of the punitive system which currently exists.
“Despite the fact the assessment procedure will remain until at least 2020, it has to be remembered that thousands of people who come to the new system will hopefully be saved the current indignity they have to endure.”
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures show that during the period December 2011 and February 2014, 2,380 people died after their claim for disability benefits ended because a work capability assessment (WCA) found they were found fit for work.
While these statistics are open to wide interpretation, campaigners say many of the deaths are directly related to capability assessments.
Layla Theiner, Disability Agenda Scotland (DAS), said: “We would welcome changes made in line with the principles outlined in the Scottish Government consultation on social security.
"Speaking to members and service users it has been clear that people want this to be done in a well-managed way taking the time to get things right.”