Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has written to the Secretary of State for Scotland and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, demanding an immediate halt to the roll-out of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) in Scotland.
PIP is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for sick and disabled people, but the roll-out is not expected to be completed until at least October 2017.
The Scottish Government will be devising their own variation on PIP, as part of greater devolution of welfare powers in the wake of the fiercely contended independence referendum.
CAS Chief Executive Margaret Lynch warns that Scottish DLA claimants may have to go through two stressful disability benefit assessments in only a short space of time – one for Westminster’s version of PIP and another for the Scottish Government’s variation. Margaret Lynch says this “will be of major detriment to claimants and is unnecessary and possibly very distressing”.
She argues that expecting sick and disabled people to go through two different systems, before finally learning what kind of the support they will receive, will be a “waste of resources to pay for the assessments of tens of thousands of disabled people”.
Margaret Lynch said:
“PIP is the replacement benefit for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and is an area that will be devolved to the Scottish Government following the Smith Commission recommendations. However it will take to October 2017 to be fully rolled out to all DLA claimants – and that is if there are no further delays to its introduction.
“As we know that the Scottish Government will be developing and introducing its own PIP equivalent, we don’t want to see disabled claimants having to go through changes in their payments, how they are paid, and how much they are paid, twice in a short period of time. I think this will be of major detriment to claimants and is unnecessary and possibly very distressing. In addition it seems a waste of resources to pay for the assessments of tens of thousands of disabled people to transfer them onto a system that they will not be staying on.
“Therefore I’m calling on the DWP to halt the migration of all existing DLA claimants to PIP and I hope this will be backed by the Scotland Office and the Scottish Government.
“CAS has already detailed the massive delays that new claimants are seeing in getting a PIP assessment and then having a decision made. Whilst these delays continue, sick and disabled clients are facing severe hardship, unable to meet the costs of living, and getting into debt.
“The DWP should concentrate on getting the process right for these new claimants and let current DLA claimants stay on their current award until such times as new Scottish system is in place.
“I had very much hoped that issues like these, and the halt to Universal Credit that has also been called for, could be raised and discussed with relevant stakeholders before draft legislation is published but it has been a disappointing process. The very short time scales we have been hampered by has led to a short sightedness of being able to look at all the complex and inter-related issues that need discussed and debated.
“This is not the first time I’ve pointed to process and timescales hampering the need for full and frank discussion and debate. This has to be taken seriously. All parties and stakeholders must have time and forums to bring out issues such as these and look for a way forward. The migration of DLA claimants to PIP is just one example of an area we would like to influence on behalf of the 330,000 clients we deal with every year.
“Whilst I recognise that the Scotland Office has tried to bring people together, it’s clear that we need to have all UK government departments playing their part in the processes that are required following the Smith Commission.”