Part 2: The Devolved Benefits - Disability Benefits
About this Part of the Consultation
Part 2 of the consultation explored the devolved benefits in detail. Many of the questions related to disability benefits. These questions covered:
- the current benefits of Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance;
- how the new Scottish social security system should operate in terms of disability related benefits;
- proposals for eligibility;
- terminal illnesses and a 'whole of life' approach;
- proposals for assessments;
- proposals for awards;
- alternatives to cash;
- additional support;
- alignment with other devolved services;
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit; and
- Severe Disablement Allowance.
Here we provide an overview of the main themes emerging from the consultation responses, for Part 2 questions relating to disability benefits.
Scope to modernise and simplify the approach
Respondents highlighted the positive aspects of DLA, PIP, AA and IIDB, including that the approach was holistic and fair, and the benefits were non-means tested. They also identified a number of weaknesses of the current approach, which related mainly to the complex and stressful application and assessment processes - particularly for DLA and PIP, and also the perception that the eligibility criteria for DLA, PIP and AA discriminated against certain groups.
Accessible, person-centred and flexible approach
Overall, respondents felt that the new Scottish social security system should be more flexible, accessible and person-centred. It was felt that applicants should be able to decide how to engage with the system, choosing from a range of options that suited them best, whether paper-based, online, by telephone, face to face, or using other types of technology. Others underlined the importance of applicants being treated with dignity and respect throughout their dealings with the new social security agency. There was support for better joint working and communication between agencies. In relation to data sharing, there was some concern about potential breaches of security, and respondents emphasised the importance of securing consent.
The importance of advice and advocacy
Respondents highlighted the importance of having access to advice and advocacy support, to help applicants through the application, assessment and appeals processes, as and when required, and that this should be clearly signposted.
The importance of transparency and fairness
Overall, respondents were keen to ensure that the eligibility criteria was transparent and fair. A large number of respondents felt that the current approach to determining eligibility, based on assessing the impact of a condition or illness on an individual's daily life was appropriate and fair. However, respondents underlined the importance of ensuring that the eligibility criteria took account of a wide range of conditions or illnesses, including mental health, other fluctuating conditions, and also learning disabilities. In addition, there was strong support for the 'special rules' that currently apply to terminally ill people, to be extended to a wider range of conditions and illness.
Responsive, streamlined and fair
In relation to supporting people with terminal illnesses, most respondents felt that the current UK-wide PIP and AA process was responsive and appropriate. Respondents felt that people were treated in a compassionate way, with their claims being processed quickly to minimise stress and anxiety. Some respondents highlighted that there might be a role for the new Scottish social security agency to raise greater awareness amongst health professionals about benefit support available to people with terminal illnesses. Most respondents agreed that the Scottish Government should explore a consistent approach to eligibility across all ages.
Simplified approach based on evidence
Respondents felt that the current assessment processes for disability benefits could be improved, and called for a simplified approach that relied primarily on evidence from a range of key stakeholders. Some of these respondents also noted that the new Health and Social Care Partnerships should allow a more joined up approach to be adopted, making better use of data sharing where consent has been given. There was strong agreement that face to face assessments should be the exception rather than the rule, and if required, should be undertaken by suitably qualified health professionals, and held in convenient locations.
Minimise stress and anxiety
Most respondents thought that people should not have to be re-assessed where their condition or circumstances were unlikely to change, as this caused great stress and anxiety. Some respondents felt that there was scope for the new Scottish social security agency to develop a more flexible approach. Others said that indefinite or lifetime awards should be awarded to people whose conditions will not get better. Respondents identified specific instances where the system seems unfair - such as individuals losing their right to a Motability vehicle before an appeal has been heard in relation to their disability benefits.
Increased choice and flexibility
A large number of respondents thought that people should be offered the choice of spending their benefit on alternative support. Many felt that this would offer increased choice to individuals and enable them to take control of managing their care and support needs. This was seen to be important in maintaining an individual's dignity and respect. Others highlighted the importance of providing clear information about the range of options that might be available to applicants. In addition, views were fairly evenly split about whether getting a one-off lump sum payment, would be more appropriate than getting regular payments in certain situations. Many respondents called for flexibility on this, stating that the individual should have the right to choose what suited their circumstances best.
Email: Trish Brady-Campbell