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We welcome Scotlands decision to ban private firms from doing disability benefit assessments

03 October 2017

Scotland will ban private firms from carrying out disability benefit assessments and work to create a system based on “dignity and respect”.

The Scottish government has gained new devolved welfare powers under the Scotland Act, and will create a new Social Security Agency to administer the benefits system.  

Ken Butler, DR UK’s Welfare Rights Adviser said:

“We very much welcome all of Scotland’s disability benefit reforms. It shows that it has listened to the criticisms that disable people have long made about the current system.

Both ESA and PIP are failing those disabled people who are wrongly being refused entitlement to it. There are several reasons for this – such as the failure to obtain and properly weigh further evidence and a mandatory reconsideration process that is not working.

But the origin of all these problems lies with the adequacy and accuracy of the Atos, Capita and Maximus assessments. Profit should not be a driving force or play any part in assessing or making decisions on disabled people’s eligibility for benefits.” 

Background

Eleven benefits are being devolved to Scotland including DLA, PIP and Attendance Allowance.

Ten of the eleven devolved benefits will be delivered directly by the new Scottish central agency with discretionary housing payments (as well as the Scottish Welfare Fund) continuing to be controlled by local councils.

In a new position paper, the Scottish Government says that it will use opportunities presented by devolution to take a different approach to providing social security for disabled people:

“We want to make sure that the process from start to finish is clear and

accessible, treats people with dignity and respect and that people understand how and when their claim will be dealt with.”

The first step in achieving a fairer assessment system is a commitment that profit making companies will not be involved in carrying out assessments for disability benefits:

“We will ensure that whoever undertakes assessments on behalf of the agency will provide a flexible service, including offering home visits if required and that the assessments process works effectively across all conditions.

…We intend to reduce the number of face to face assessments and reassessments being carried out unnecessarily. We are exploring potential to make better use of existing information within the health and social care sector and other public bodies.”

In the position paper, the government sets out other commitments for including that:

  • any child in receipt of disability living allowance will have an ‘automatic extension’ of the award up to the age of 18;
  • automatic awards will be available in certain circumstances;
  • longer term or lifetime awards will be available for people whose condition is unlikely to improve; and
  • another person will be able to apply on a claimant’s behalf when the claimant requests this to happen.

The Social Security (Scotland) Bill position paper is available at www.parliament.scot