Disability assistance in Scotland: response to consultation

Our response to the consultation analysis report about the consultation on disability assistance undertaken between 5 March and 28 May 2019.

6. Section 5 – Further Comments

6.1 Policy Proposal – Further Comments

Question 64 of the consultation document asked respondents to provide any further comments relating to Disability Assistance not covered by the consultation document.

Respondent Feedback

The majority of respondents welcomed our overall approach to Disability Assistance as this will help to achieve a service that offers dignity, fairness and respect to all individuals receiving Disability Assistance.

One common theme raised was criticisms of the current system and how our approach can help to address these criticisms. Overall, there was perceived to be a lack of transparency in the current system, which is also perceived to be punitive and respondents commented on a lack of trust with Department for Work and Pensions.

Some respondents sought further detail about the arrangements for the transition from DWP to Social Security Scotland.

Scottish Government Response

We want to embed a culture of trust throughout the process that provides disabled people with the reassurance that devolved social security is taking a different approach, and works for them. Our ambition is to ensure that we reduce stigma around disability benefits in line with our core values of dignity, fairness and respect.

We have been very clear that we intend to take a safe and secure approach to delivering Disability Assistance in Scotland. Whilst we want to take a careful approach, which ensures that people continue to receive payments with minimal disruption, we will make realistic changes to the current system that reflects the needs of the people accessing it. We will therefore take account of all issues, concerns and views expressed responding to this consultation and test where we can realistically make changes to the current system without affecting an individual’s entitlement to existing, reserved benefits.

For example, we do not wish to see clients lose additional premiums and passported entitlements that they would normally be able to access through existing disability benefits. However, there is a risk that if we make significant changes to devolved disability benefits that the DWP will not recognise those benefits on a like-for-like basis. This would pose an unacceptable level of risk, when we are confident that we can make the application and assessment process more accessible, and avoid causing unnecessary stress.

In particular, we do not wish to create a two-tier system for clients, with one set of rules applying to clients claiming Disability Assistance for the first time, and another set of rules applying to clients transferring from reserved benefits such as PIP, DLA or AA. This would only introduce unnecessary complexity for clients and potentially make devolved social security benefits difficult to deliver on time, and in a fair way.

The Scottish Government is clear that the requirement for Scottish Ministers to report to Parliament on the progress made towards achieving the objectives of the Scottish Social Security Charter provides an enhanced level of oversight on the performance of Social Security Scotland. The Charter is not the end of a process, but rather the initial blueprint for how Scotland’s social security system should function.

The Charter defines our approach to a rights based system identifying the specific actions the system will take to protect and realise rights. Stakeholders, academics and people with lived experience have universally praised it. With the support of stakeholders and the Scottish Government, people who have lived experience of the UK system – those who know best how things must change, led the development of the Charter.

This process was innovative, rights-based policymaking at its best. There are few, if any, examples of Governments empowering citizens in this way. The Charter is an ambitious statement of intent; making commitments on the content and design of policy, the recruitment and training of staff, right through to delivery of services and the culture of Social Security Scotland.

Social Security Scotland is expected to live up to the commitments in the Charter and Ministers will be held accountable by the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Commission on Social Security for ensuring that it does so. For Ministers to report on progress effectively and to ensure the vision articulated by the principles is being realised in practice it is necessary to monitor and evaluate the performance of the system from the point of view of those who are using it, including clients and staff in the new system.

This work will involve detailed data collection, on-going stakeholder engagement, and continuing work with our Experience Panels to ensure that we can continue to make improvements to Disability Assistance. We will engage with stakeholders about the draft Regulations required for each form of Disability Assistance, with the Scottish Commission on Social Security providing an additional level of oversight, to ensure that we are making the right decisions.

However, as is clear from the implementation of PIP and Universal Credit, these systems are complex, and though we are working at a major pace to get them in place, we will need to take the time to do so in a safe and secure way.

Having an agency agreement in place will allow the Scottish Government to take the time needed for consultation, to refine policy, to develop systems and processes based on user research and experience panel input, and put in place the infrastructure and recruiting and training staff in the Agency to deliver the service.

The Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare has agreed to use agency agreements as a key vehicle to support the safe and secure transition transfer of caseloads without unintended breaks in claims and payments. DWP’s starting point is that where they administer a benefit on behalf of Scottish Ministers, they will do so on the same basis as elsewhere in GB. This is for operational reasons, so that DWP can avoid the costs and complexity of adding in a separate Scottish process and training their staff to administer it.

We are therefore choosing to invest our time and resources into developing our own distinctive Scottish approach to social security, and implementing it ourselves through our own agency as soon as it is safe and achievable to do so, rather than negotiating and paying DWP to implement these changes under a temporary arrangement.



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