The Scottish Government consultation on Improving Disability Assistance in Scotland closes today. Thank you to those members who took the time to get in touch with their thoughts about how the new Scottish benefits system should work. We have incorporated what you told us into our submission. Some of the issues you raised related to benefits not covered by this consultation, such as the support for those with caring responsibilities, we will raise these points in other ways.
Our submission to the consultation we called for,
Discrimination and understanding
- the removal of references to working-age for disability benefits as there is a danger it could feed into the corrosive ‘workers vs shirkers’ narrative which feeds discrimination against people with a disability.
- an applicant’s previous experience of assessments or interactions with officialdom be taken into account. Years of stress and anxiety caused by interacting with the benefits system have will make it more difficult for some people to engage with Social Security Scotland.
Flexibility and responsiveness
- increased discretion for decision-makers when considering temporary absences; particularly when any break in benefits could have a impact on other people in the household.
- National Managed Clinical Networks to have a role in providing training to Special Advisors. We are concerned that even if Special Advisors are used they are unlikely to be able to develop and maintain sufficient knowledge of rare conditions such as bleeding disorders.
- reconsideration of the policy to make deductions from ongoing assistance to claw-back overpayment liabilities. There is a danger that reduced payments will not met people’s needs.
- the Winter Heating Assistance payment to be linked to the cost of domestic energy in Scotland so the amount of additional heating it provides isn’t reduced over time.
Rights and respect
- applicants to retain a right to speak to someone face-to-face if they choose too while supporting exemptions from assessment for younger and older applicants. Whenever there is a face-to-face contact the applicant should have a right to be accompanied by an advocate. The third sector must be sufficiently funded to provide that support.
- safeguards when supporting evidence is being accessed, particularly in relation to medical records. Care should be taken to protect those with stigmatised conditions such as blood borne viruses. For consent to access personal data to be meaningful the success of an application cannot be contingent on it being granted.
- applicants be given a 31 day deadline to request a redetermination of a decision. We have suggested that is kept under close review to make sure it is long enough and doesn’t result in excessive requests for late redeterminations. We have also suggested that there is an entitlement to one-off support for those whose application is going through redetermination.
- a right to see the observations made as part of the process whatever setting they are made in. We have concerns that observations made on home visits could feel like people are being spied on in their own home.
- claimants to have the right to refuse audio recording of assessments and those who consent should be given an unedited copy of the recording as a matter of course. Recording should not be retained once the application is determined.
- nobody to be penalised for rescheduling appointments if keeping them has the potential to damage their health or leave them out of pocket.
- any exemptions in place to disregard entitlements to DWP benefits in the calculation of other patents or support, such as the Scottish Infected Blood Support Scheme, must be extended to payments from Social Security Scotland.
Long-term or fluctuating conditions
- the Scottish Government to go further than converting set awards to review dates. When there is no prospect of a condition improving, and it is likely to have deteriorated, it is wasteful of public funds, and distressing to those affected, to have their entitlement reviewed between 8 and 16 times during their lifetime.
- more appropriate eligibility criteria; they are too tightly defined around a 24 hour care cycles of day and night to be able to effectively consider fluctuating conditions.
- the points based system to include recognition that for some conditions achieving the described level of activity could do permanent and irreversible damage. The system should not require people to damage their health with medically inappropriate activity before qualifying for higher payments. People should be incentivised to protect their long-term health and be supported in the self-management of their condition.
- it to be made clear that those who make extraordinary efforts to attend appointments are not penalised by assumptions about their normal levels of mobility as a result.