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Help to access disability benefits

Published: 1 Oct 2015 10:00

£192,000 to support vulnerable people through the application process.

Disabled people and carers will get help to apply for benefits through a pilot project aimed at reducing the stress of the application process.

The Scottish Government will fund projects in Dundee, Falkirk, Glasgow and Midlothian to support people who need to be assessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefits.

For both PIP and ESA, which are benefits for people with ill-health or disabilities, assessments are carried out by firms contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions, to establish how their disability affects their life and what level of support they are entitled to.

The projects, which are being overseen by The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE), and delivered by four local advocacy providers, will provide one-to-one advice and advocacy to support vulnerable people who may have otherwise felt misrepresented or nervous to go through the assessment process.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil announced the funding on a visit to VOCAL, the charity responsible for delivering the Midlothian project. VOCAL provides one-to-one advocacy during the assessment processes for disabled people living in the Lothians and their carers.

He said: "The process of applying and being assessed for benefits can be stressful for anyone, but for people with disabilities it can be a traumatic experience which can worsen their condition.

"This £192,000 funding boost for new advocacy projects will remove some of the anxiety of applying for benefits and will make sure people with disabilities receive the support they are entitled to. This is part of our £104 million investment mitigating against the effects of the UK Government's austerity agenda.

"We believe people should be treated with respect and dignity during the whole process of applying for benefits. This pilot will ensure people are supported through their assessments, giving them confidence to speak about their situation in what can be an overwhelming situation.

"When Scotland gets its new powers over disability and carers benefits we will work to introduce fair, simple and responsive policies which do not stigmatise people who claim benefits, but treat them with dignity and respect."

Ian Welsh, Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE), said: "The significant changes to the social security system over the last five years have received substantial criticism from many of our members, including disabled people, people with long term conditions and unpaid carers. Many have expressed fears for their health as a result of going through the assessments.

"In our view, assessments for social security must aim to support people to live as independently as possible, whilst taking into account the range of long term conditions and impairments they may live with and the impact on their everyday lives.

"Independent advocacy has a crucial role to play in both supporting people through the process and guarding against inaccurate assessments. We welcome the Scottish Government's commitment to supporting people through the process, whilst reducing the impact on their health and wellbeing."

Notes to editors

The pilot project supports people during the assessment phase. In doing so it complements the work of other advice and information services which provide support in form completion, collation of supporting documents and with appeals.

The Scotland Bill will transfer powers over social security benefits for disabled people with long-term health conditions and their carers. This will cover a series of benefits currently delivered by the UK Government through Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payments, Attendance Allowance, Carer's Allowance, the Industrial Injuries Schemes, Severe Disability Allowance and the Motability Scheme.

VOCAL is a carer-led charity, serving unpaid, family carers across the Lothians. Further information can be found at: