A leading charity has called on both the UK and Scottish government’s to improve the benefits support available for people with disabilities, as new figures show that more than one in four people (28%) who visit the charity for advice are unable to work due to illness or a disability.
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) is calling for a substantial reduction in the number of face-to-face benefit assessments, as well as the complete abolition of repeat assessments for claimants whose medical conditions are unlikely to improve.
They are also demanding a change to the eligibility criteria of Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
Under the current rules, claimants can only access the highest level of the PIP mobility component if they are unable to walk more than 20 metres without severe pain or discomfort.
CAS wants this rule to be increased to 50 metres, as it was under the previous system Disability Living Allowance, so that a greater number of applicants with severe mobility issues can access the support they need and hopefully prevent the loss of specially adapted vehicles.
Other recommendations include:
- A shortened legal deadline of 28 days for responses to be made on challenges to decisions, otherwise known as ‘redeterminations’
- Ensure redeterminations and appeals appear as one seamless process from the applicant’s perspective as opposed to the current two tier model
- Keeping the criteria and assessment process under continuous review for improvements
CAS Chief Executive Derek Mitchell said: “The most striking about this snapshot is the high proportion of people who are unable to work because of ill health or a disability.
“This suggests that many of those who are among the most vulnerable are finding it hard to get by at the moment and need some kind of advice or assistance, and they see our network as the place to get that help.
“We’re publishing this data today to send a signal to the Scottish and UK Governments that there needs to be better support in place for disabled people.
“The devolution of new powers around disability payments is an opportunity to make the system better.
“For starters we are backing a cut in the number of face to face assessments and an increase in the mobility component of the payment.
“Every year the Scottish CAB network sees hundreds of thousands of people across the country, helping them with a variety of problems with free, impartial and confidential advice.”