Pressure mounts on Scottish social security agency to ban hated disability tests

Chamber

New social security system must prevent disabled going through humiliating medical assessments 

23rd January 2018 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Scotland’s new social security agency should scrap humiliating medical assessments forced on disabled people as part of their benefit claims.  

Leading disability groups backed Green MSP Alison Johnstone’s series of amendments to the social security bill, now at stage two of the legislative process, one of which proposes to eliminate unnecessary medical tests for people with disabilities in Scotland.

Disabled people currently have to undertake assessments as part of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) criteria for claims.

These exams are ongoing and often don’t take into account medical history or doctors’ opinions.

Private companies contracted by the DWP undertake the tests which disabled people have come to both fear and detest. 

While Scotland’s new social security agency has pledged not to use private contractors, the assessments will still take place.

Alison Johnstone, social security spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said: “We want to see an end to the harsh system of endless medical tests that are in many cases not necessary. My amendment will ensure that the Scottish Government can only order medical assessments when existing medical evidence is not sufficient.”

Johnstone is also pushing for changes to the bill so that an application for one social security payment will be assessed to see if that person has a right to any other payments.

There would also be a duty on ministers to set targets to boost the take-up of benefits.

The repeated and intrusive assessments that disabled people are currently subjected to must end - Iain Smith

She added: "This will help increase the take-up of social security, which in some cases can be very low. We know that £15 billion worth of support across the UK goes unclaimed every year, the Scottish share of which should be some of the most vulnerable people in society and supporting our economy.”

Iain Smith, policy and public affairs officer at Inclusion Scotland, backed the move.

"If respect for the dignity of individuals is to be at the heart of the Scottish social security system, then the unnecessary, repeated and intrusive assessments that disabled people are currently subjected to must end,” he said.

"Disabled people are best placed to understand the impact that their impairment or condition has on them. Medical evidence should be used only if necessary to confirm the evidence provided by the disabled person in the claim form, and assessments only required when there is no existing medical evidence."

Social security minister Jeane Freeman told TFN: “I am very clear we will make use of existing health and social care evidence to support better decision making. A face-to-face assessment should only be required upon individual request or where evidence gathered is conflicting – and no-one will ever be forced in the Scottish system to undergo an assessment with a private company.

“Under the Scottish social security system, we want people to be given what they are eligible for in respect of the benefits for which we will have responsibility for, which is why we have lodged amendments to the bill that place a duty on Scottish ministers to ensure that they are.

“We are also continuing with our benefit take-up campaign work, which we began last year with a £300,000 investment and will continue this year in partnership with local authorities.”