These figures show how much scope there is to reduce the number of disability benefits assessments that so many Scots have to suffer through.Alison Johnstone MSP
Thousands of Scots could be spared from hated benefits assessment as a result of Scottish Green changes to social security law, Greens have claimed today (10 Aug).
A Freedom of Information request to the Department for Work and Pensions shows that the introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has led to an explosion in the number of unnecessary face-to-face assessments.
However, in April this year, Greens successfully amended the Social Security (Scotland) Bill to do away with assessments of people’s health or disability in order to assess a claim for a devolved benefit, unless the information cannot be obtained through any other means. The measure was introduced by Scottish Green Social Security spokesperson Alison Johnstone MSP and supported by all parties on a unanimous vote of the Parliament.
The FOI request demonstrates that under the old Disability Living Allowance (DLA) system, only 6% of applications required the applicant to undergo a medical assessment. Under PIP, the situation is almost completely reversed, with 80% of PIP applications requiring face-to-face assessment from a Health Professional working for a privatised assessment provider.
Since the introduction of PIP in 2013, 372,000 Scots have applied for PIP, suggesting that around 300,000 have undergone an in-person assessment, far more than was the case under DLA.
Alison Johnstone MSP, Social Security spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said:
“Figures published by the Greens today show just how many people are now being forced to undergo benefits assessments that are cruel, humiliating and in many cases, entirely unnecessary.
"The old DLA system managed to make decisions on the vast majority of claims without putting people through in-person assessments, yet the PIP system does almost entirely the opposite.
"Whilst I accept that DLA and PIP have different criteria and some caution should be exercised in comparing them, these figures show how much scope there is to reduce the number of disability benefits assessments that so many Scots have to suffer through. Putting tens of thousands of people a year through assessments which worsen their health conditions and exacerbate their disabilities, have cost £512m and are overturned on appeal 60% of the time is an absolutely unacceptable situation which must end, and the Scottish Greens have put into a law a mechanism for achieving this.
"Whilst DLA was not perfect, it does show that it is possible to design a disability benefit system that can make good use of existing evidence to reach a judgement, and not force eight in ten claimants through these awful tests that cause so much misery and so often do not produce an accurate decision.
"With cross-party support in place and now this new evidence to hand, we must fully implement the framework for assessments that Greens put into the new devolved social security law. When the first applications to the new Scottish benefit are made, this could result in many thousands of Scots getting the support they deserve without undergoing these inaccurate, hurtful and often unnecessary assessments."