The Scottish Government has pledged £192,000 to help disabled people and carers through the benefits application process, it has been announced today.
Pilots will be launched in Dundee, Falkirk, Glasgow and Midlothian to support people who need to be assessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
The projects will be overseen by The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) and delivered by four local advocacy providers, who will provide one-to-one tailored support to vulnerable people who are struggling to navigate the complex and complicated benefits system.
Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil announced the new funding during a visit to VOCAL, who will be responsible for delivering the Midlothian project. The charity will provide advocacy to disabled people and carers who currently lack support, or feel anxious about going through the disability benefit assessment process.
Alex Neil said: “The process of applying and being assessed for benefits can be stressful for anyone, but for people with disabilities it can be a traumatic experience which can worsen their condition.
“This £192,000 funding boost for new advocacy projects will remove some of the anxiety of applying for benefits and will make sure people with disabilities receive the support they are entitled to. This is part of our £104 million investment mitigating against the effects of the UK Government’s austerity agenda.
“We believe people should be treated with respect and dignity during the whole process of applying for benefits. This pilot will ensure people are supported through their assessments, giving them confidence to speak about their situation in what can be an overwhelming situation.
“When Scotland gets its new powers over disability and carers benefits we will work to introduce fair, simple and responsive policies which do not stigmatise people who claim benefits, but treat them with dignity and respect.”
Ian Welsh, Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE), said: “The significant changes to the social security system over the last five years have received substantial criticism from many of our members, including disabled people, people with long-term conditions and unpaid carers. Many have expressed fears for their health as a result of going through the assessments.
“In our view, assessments for social security must aim to support people to live as independently as possible, whilst taking into account the range of long-term conditions and impairments they may live with and the impact on their everyday lives.
“Independent advocacy has a crucial role to play in both supporting people through the process and guarding against inaccurate assessments.
“We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to supporting people through the process, whilst reducing the impact on their health and wellbeing.”