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Call to halt benefits proposals

Published: 29 Jan 2016 09:43

Changes could make it more difficult for disabled people to lead independent lives.

The UK Government should scrap plans to change eligibility around disability benefits and call a halt to further cuts to disabled people, Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil has said.

In a letter to the Minister of State for Disabled People, Mr Neil outlined the Scottish Government's opposition to the UK Government proposals to restrict eligibility for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and the reductions in expenditure that could accompany it.

Currently disabled people are eligible for the daily living component of PIP based on any aids and appliances they use to help prepare food, dress or wash. They receive assessment points based on the aids and appliances they use, ranging from walking sticks to screen readers and amplified telephones.

The UK Government is considering a range of options for people who score points solely from aids and appliances. A reduced award, a lump sum payment, or no award at all, are amongst the options.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said:

"The Scottish Government is fundamentally opposed to plans to narrow the eligibility of benefits for disabled people

"These proposals to change how PIP payments are assessed are a further blow to disabled people who have been among the hardest hit by the UK Government's austerity agenda and welfare cuts.

"The assessment process for PIP is not yet working and the UK Government should focus on getting this part of the process right, rather than adding further complex changes which will reduce the support available to disabled people. Any changes could have a detrimental impact on disabled people and make it more difficult for them to lead an independent and fulfilling life.

"We are also deeply concerned the UK Government has rushed the consultation process, and not given disabled people a sufficient voice over these benefit changes. A seven week consultation over Christmas and New Year cannot be representative of the views of disabled people across Scotland.

"New powers over disability benefits will provide opportunities to develop different policies for Scotland which are fairer and ensure people are treated with dignity and respect."

Notes to editors

PIP is still at the early stages of rolling out in Scotland, with latest statistics showing 55,582 individuals received it in July 2015 (