Disabled people applying for benefits from the new Scottish social security system will not be subjected to “degrading” assessments involving private sector firms, ministers have pledged.
The UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has come under fire for having the private sector carry out assessments and the Scottish Government has now said it will take a different approach.
Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said claimants have described the current DWP process as “traumatic and intrusive”.
She said a different process is “the right thing to do”, adding: “It is an obvious change but one that will make a massive difference to people.”
Claims made for the new Adult Disability Payment will be assessed using information gathered as part of the application process – including from health professionals.
If more details are needed, ministers plan for “consultations” to be held between the applicant and a Scottish Government-appointed doctor, with most taking place over the phone.
Some consultations will take place at a GP surgery or at an applicant’s home, but the Scottish Government said no-one will be asked to carry out tasks in order to prove the impact of their disability or health condition.
No date has been announced for when the new benefit payment will come in, with the move having been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ms Somerville said: “Two of our principles enshrined in law is that social security is a public service and an investment in people – it is there for all of us when and where we need it. So no-one should ever experience stress when accessing the support they are entitled to.
“People who require disability assistance will already face a number of challenges and interacting with a benefit system shouldn’t become another one.
“That is why I am pleased to set out plans for Scotland’s new system – plans that will make sure that people are treated with dignity, fairness and respect.
“We want people to feel that they have been treated well and fairly at every stage – from having an application form that is clear and easy to use right through to how we make sure someone is still able to access money when they want to appeal our decisions.”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “Our latest survey shows that 82% of PIP claimants are satisfied with the overall service they receive from us and we continue to work closely with stakeholder groups and assessment providers to continuously improve the overall experience.
“It is for the Scottish Government to decide how to deliver the new disability benefits it is introducing and until it is ready to do so, the two governments have agreed that DWP will deliver PIP and other disability benefits to ensure that there is no gap in provision.”
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