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Latest change to benefit system shows continuing problems for disabled Scots

3 Oct 2014

Thousands of sick and disabled Scots are being hit by another new benefit reform which is leaving many for months without money to pay for basics like food, fuel and housing – according to a new report by Citizens Advice Scotland.

The new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has been introduced in Scotland over the last year. It replaces the Disabled Living Allowance (DLA) as the main benefit that helps disabled people meet the costs of their basic daily living. 

But evidence recorded by CAB advisers across Scotland shows that the new system is dogged by huge delays, which can leave the claimants in poverty for months, and many claimants are reporting that the assessment process is problematic and prone to mistakes. While some claimants are satisfied with the system, it is notable that many of the problems we have identified follow the pattern of previous welfare reforms like the Employment Support Allowance (ESA), suggesting that many lessons have not been learned. 

The problems with PIP are outlined in today’s CAS report (attached). The main points include:

  • The assessment process is problematic for many clients, with some having to travel long distances to their test centre. 24% of CAB advisers report that the assessment decisions are inaccurate and need to be appealed.  
  • Clients are experiencing huge delays between their claim and receiving payment. The average is 6 months, but some have reported delays of 13, 14 or 15 months.
  • Over half of our advisers say these delays cause the claimant severe hardship, with many of them needing to use foodbanks. 78% say this causes their condition to deteriorate, and 95% say this impacts negatively on their ability to claim other benefits. 

Publishing today’s report, CAS Head of Policy Susan McPhee says, 

“The basic cost of living is generally higher for sick and disabled people than for the average citizen. This is because of the additional costs of special food, medicines or equipment they might need, extra heating and lighting costs for those who need to stay at home longer, or transport costs for those who are less mobile. 

“These extra costs are not luxuries. They are essential to leading a basic life of dignity, and any civilised society should make it a priority to see that people who need this help get it without fuss.  The evidence we are publishing here shows that, under the new Personal Independence Payment, too many disabled people are not getting that support, and many are falling into poverty as a result. 

“While some claimants are reporting that the system has worked well for them, we are still finding too many delays, and too many inaccurate assessments. It is deeply worrying that so many problems have already emerged with the new system at such an early stage.  What is especially disappointing is that some of these are problems that were previously experienced with ESA. It appears that, despite some improvements, too many of those lessons have not been learned. 

“In reporting these problems today we ask the Government to take them seriously and address them urgently, as they are causing great detriment to some very vulnerable citizens and their families.”

This is the latest in a series of evidence reports we have published which focuses on aspects of the UK government’s welfare reforms. The series is entitled Voices from the Frontline. Other reports from the series are on our website at www.cas.org.uk 

ENDS

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