by Stephanie Millar, CAS Policy Manager (Social Justice team).
This column was first published in the Herald on 21 March 2022.
Today is a significant day for disabled people in Scotland. It sees the biggest change to disability benefits support since responsibility for social security was devolved to Holyrood.
Put simply, at the moment if you are disabled in the UK and need support, the main benefit you can claim is the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). But PIP has always been beset by problems, so the Scottish Government has been busy developing a new system to replace it. Today sees the start of that system: the Adult Disability Payment (ADP) is now available to new claimants in Dundee, Perth & Kinross and the Western Isles, and will be gradually rolled out to the rest of Scotland by 29 August.
So, first thing’s first. If you are already receiving PIP, that will continue until you are transferred over to ADP. You don’t need to do anything; you’ll receive the same amount of money in the same way as before.
The real impact of the change is for new claimants. ADP aims to offer a better, more sensitive application system.
PIP has been a nightmare for so many people. Indeed, PIP cases make up a third of all CAB benefit queries. Behind the numbers are real people who are anxious or scared about losing their benefit and the impact this will have on their ability to live an independent life.
I’m sure you’ve all heard or read the nightmare stories of PIP: delays in processing claims, undignified medical assessments and benefits being removed from people despite them having lifelong or unchanged conditions. There’s no doubt that hearing these stories will have deterred others from claiming, meaning they’ve gone without support they badly needed. CAS has seen these cases up close for years, and we have been lobbying both the UK and Scottish governments to fix this often heartless system.
To their credit, Scottish ministers have listened to the case we and other charities have made, and on paper the new system is a big improvement on the old. Indeed, ADP is designed to create a claims and decision-making process that is person-centred and treats the claimant with dignity and respect. The much-feared medical assessment of PIP is now a consultation and will only be used if all other attempts to decide the claim fail.
So what’s my problem? Well, although the application process has been significantly changed, ADP still largely uses the same rules as PIP. These contain some much-disputed facets, such as a requirement to only be able to walk 20m to receive the enhanced rate of mobility, or needing to demonstrate that your condition affects you 50% of the time. The recent announcement that people with life-long conditions won’t have their benefit reviewed is very welcome, but it’s time for the Scottish Government to reconsider the other rules that make it difficult for disabled people to get support.
So while there is much to celebrate, I do remain a little cautious. We will monitor the rollout and subsequent transfer process to assess whether ADP works as intended. I look forward to writing an article in a year’s time: “Happy birthday ADP, one year old!” where I eat my words and apologise for my cynicism.
An improved application process is not enough. Improved rules are also needed.