Citizens Advice Scotland’s Chief Executive Margaret Lynch has written to the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Work and Pensions calling for a halt to the introduction of the new Personal Independence Payments (PIP) to claimants in Scotland in light of this benefit being one that will be devolved to the Scottish Government.
Speaking just days before the draft legislation based on Smith Commission is due to be published, Margaret Lynch said:
“PIP is the replacement benefit for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and is an area that will be devolved to the Scottish Government following the Smith Commission recommendations. However it will take to October 2017 to be fully rolled out to all DLA claimants – and that is if there are no further delays to its introduction.
“As we know that the Scottish Government will be developing and introducing its own PIP equivalent, we don’t want to see disabled claimants having to go through changes in their payments, how they are paid, and how much they are paid, twice in a short period of time. I think this will be of major detriment to claimants and is unnecessary and possibly very distressing. In addition it seems a waste of resources to pay for the assessments of tens of thousands of disabled people to transfer them onto a system that they will not be staying on.
“Therefore I’m calling on the DWP to halt the migration of all existing DLA claimants to PIP and I hope this will be backed by the Scotland Office and the Scottish Government.
“CAS has already detailed the massive delays that new claimants are seeing in getting a PIP assessment and then having a decision made. Whilst these delays continue, sick and disabled clients are facing severe hardship, unable to meet the costs of living, and getting into debt.
“The DWP should concentrate on getting the process right for these new claimants and let current DLA claimants stay on their current award until such times as new Scottish system is in place.
“I had very much hoped that issues like these, and the halt to Universal Credit that has also been called for, could be raised and discussed with relevant stakeholders before draft legislation is published but it has been a disappointing process. The very short time scales we have been hampered by has led to a short sightedness of being able to look at all the complex and inter-related issues that need discussed and debated.
“This is not the first time I’ve pointed to process and timescales hampering the need for full and frank discussion and debate. This has to be taken seriously. All parties and stakeholders must have time and forums to bring out issues such as these and look for a way forward. The migration of DLA claimants to PIP is just one example of an area we would like to influence on behalf of the 330,000 clients we deal with every year. Whilst I recognise that the Scotland Office has tried to bring people together, it’s clear that we need to have all UK government departments playing their part in the processes that are required following the Smith Commission.”
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
1. From October 2013 to September 2014 CAB dealt with 45,972 PIP issues and since its introduction is now within the top ten of benefit issues that bureaux see.
2. The text of the letter to Alistair Carmichael MP, Secretary of State for Scotland and Iain Duncan Smith MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which was sent on Thursday 15 January, follows. It has been copied to Alex Neil MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners' Rights and John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister.
Halt to migration of Personal Independence Payment to Claimants in Scotland
Due to Personal Independent Payments - PIP (the replacement benefit for Disability Living Allowance – DLA) being a benefit that will be devolved under the legislation coming forward following the Smith Commission, Citizens Advice Scotland would like to request a halt to the migration of all DLA claimants based in Scotland to PIP.
As the three main UK Parliamentary political parties are signed up to the recommendations of the Smith Commission, PIP will be a benefit that is devolved to the Scottish Government in legislation which will be brought to the new UK parliament following the general election.
We recognise that the DWP has already agreed to a slower migration of existing DLA claimants to PIP and that the majority of claimants will now be migrated from October 2015 to October 2017. This is welcome but will still be very close to the time of a new PIP benefit system and structure being put in place in Scotland. This means that DLA claimants would have to go through two changes of regime within a short period of time, possibly even just months as they need to be migrated from DLA to PIP under the DWP then from PIP to the Scottish Government’s PIP system.
CAS has three concerns regarding this. The first, and most important to our service, is that this will be of major detriment to claimants who have to negotiate two different processes in a short timeframe. As we have already seen from new PIP claimants there are major delays in being assessed and in decisions being made. We could even have a situation where someone is waiting for a decision on PIP as they are being migrated to a new Scottish system. Current claimants have already been awarded DLA so that award should continue until such times as a new Scottish system of PIP is established.
The second concern is cost. The UK Government will be paying for the migration to a new benefit - and the assessments for this alongside the benefit - within a short time frame of people being moved to another system under the Scottish Government. This seems a waste of time and resources for all concerned.
It would seem to us to a most sensible and practical solution to call a halt to the migration of Scottish DLA claimants that is due to take place between October 2015 and October 2017. In addition, also due to the above two concerns, we also believe there should be a halt in the migration which is in place in the current reassessment areas in Scotland – currently in areas around Edinburgh, Galasheils, Dumfries and Galloway, Greater Glasgow, and parts of Highlands.
The third concern we have is that the migration of around 225,000 people from DLA/PIP to a new Scottish system will be a massive undertaking. As we have seen from the transfer of DLA to PIP, from the announcement to final completion of claimant migration, the process will be approximately seven years.
Continuing our pragmatic approach, CAS believes that those claimants who are not existing claimants of DLA and who are applying for PIP for the first time should still be assessed for PIP. We believe this will be best way of ensuring these new claimants get the support they need immediately and this can only be done through the new PIP system as DLA is not available to them. These claimants will still have to undergo a process of migration to any new Scottish system if they are still eligible. However we believe that as they will have gone through a recent assessment process, this will give the Scottish Government the space they need to set up a new system and decide when to transfer over the two clear and manageable tranches of claimants that will need to be migrated to a new system, namely DLA claimants and PIP claimants.
I hope you will urgently address this matter and I would be happy to discuss with you and the Scottish Government, a way forward in this matter.
 This includes: those with fixed period DLA awards which expire on or after 17th March 2014; children turning 16; those with a reported change of circumstances which might affect their rate of payment, such as an improvement or deterioration in their condition, but not issues like going into a care home or hospital or changing address; existing DLA claimants aged 16-64 who wish to make a PIP claim, including people who have a fixed-term or indefinite award of DLA.
 HM Treasury announced the Government's intention to reform DLA in the June 2010, it was introduced by the Welfare Reform Act in 2012, and process of migration is currently due to finish October 2017