Rewriting social security

Written by: Andrew Strong, Assistant Director (Policy and Communications), the ALLIANCE

Published: 10/06/2019

Illustration of a laptop screen displaying the caption 'social security'

Following consultation on disability entitlements, Andrew highlights the latest views from ALLIANCE members on social security in Scotland.

Twenty years on from the creation of the Scottish Parliament, the biggest addition to the Holyrood Parliament’s powers is now under construction.

Following on from the Scotland Act 2016, it was agreed that responsibility for eleven of the social security entitlements run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) would be transferred to Scottish Government control.

The disability related entitlements Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Child DLA and Attendance Allowance (AA), are already inextricably linked with matters already debated by the Scottish Parliament, including health, social care, housing and transport. For instance, local authority charges for non-residential social care often draw from disabled people’s income from PIP and access to Transport Scotland’s blue badge scheme relies on eligibility for disability entitlements. This ongoing interdependency requires people with long term conditions, disabled people and unpaid carers to navigate social security and other matters in tandem with each other – often with difficult, and rights infringing, results.

The Scottish Government has just completed a consultation on the future of disability entitlements after devolution (this link will take you away from our website). Its policy proposals include three new age specific entitlements, close working between Government agencies to actively gather supporting information and a greater reliance on home assessments and light touch awards to cut down the number of face to face assessments. Central to all this is the notion that the Scottish Government will not make “significant rule changes” which could result in difficulties in transfer during the process of devolution.

It is hard to disagree that, in isolation, the Scottish Government mantra in this context of “safe and secure transition” is reasonable. Ministers must ensure that people are still able to access social security on the go live date of disability assistance into Scottish control.

The challenge, however, is whether the fundamental review of Personal Independence Payments, advocated by many of us in the third sector throughout this process, will have happened. From the proposals included in the consultation paper, it still remains to be seen whether disability assistance will move Scottish claimants away from a points-based, deficits focused and assessment driven eligibility criteria and there will be limited opportunity for opposition politicians to propose changes to the policy once we reach the regulations stage of Scottish Parliament scrutiny in the coming months.

As a result, I would expect more radical suggestions in relation to disability assistance to be included in the party manifestos, which as we begin preparations for the 2021 elections provide fertile ground for the third sector to propose variations.

The ALLIANCE is likely to be one of the organisations campaigning for change. In our submission to the disability assistance consultation we called for:

  • The rebranding of disability entitlements to reflect the human rights based principles of the Social Security Act (referring to independence, dignity or equality in the names of each entitlement)
  • Supporting evidence should be gathered not just from professionals but also from unpaid carers and other family members who might have important insight and observations
  • Removal of any reviews in circumstances where the individual’s condition will not change.
  • Extending the timescales to request a redetermined decision and reducing the time in which someone must wait for a redetermination to be considered.
  • Scrapping of the 20-metre mobility rule.

These concerns were raised repeatedly by our members in our recent discussions and the ALLIANCE will continue to work closely with them to battle for a rights based person centred social security system of the future. We have a chance to ensure real change, and create a compassionate, supportive, modern social security system. Let’s grasp that opportunity.

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