Disability and Carer Benefits Expert Advisory Group - beyond a safe and secure transfer: advice
This proactive advice outlines a number of recommendations the Disability and Carer Benefits Expert Advisory Group made on the additional positive impact which disability and carer’s assistance could make, following the safe and secure transfer of all clients on to new forms of Scottish assistance.
The Scottish Government will have transferred over 500,000 existing cases from the Department for Work and Pensions following the establishment of the newly devolved social security benefits by 2025. The commitment to a safe and secure transfer has been outlined to ensure that clients continue to receive the right payments at the right time throughout the process. During this time, and as a result of the decision taken to follow this method of transfer, the Scottish Government's system will largely mirror the existing UK system to support the maintenance of payments and to prevent what has been described as a 'two-tier' system.
Whilst the Scottish Government has introduced some improvements at this time including a system based on the principles of dignity, fairness and respect; reducing face-to-face assessments for disability benefits; improving communications and processes; offering disabled people that need help with the application process independent advocacy; introducing Short-term Assistance; and involving people with diverse lived experiences of social security in developing policy there are many aspects that remain unchanged, unfair and problematic.
Beyond a safe and secure transfer, the Scottish Government has the opportunity to introduce transformational changes to the Scottish social security system to create a world-leading rights-based system of support. Throughout this advice document we have provided 6 calls to action with related recommendations under each which we believe Scottish Ministers should accept to make this a reality.
These calls to action can be summarised as follows:
1. Given the well-established direct links between poverty, being disabled and being a carer, payments must be increased in amount in line with the human rights principle of adequacy. Additional resources should be dedicated to improving take-up by those that are eligible ensuring that people can realise their right to an adequate standard of living.
2. In recognition of the fact that all poverty cannot be addressed by disability and carer benefits alone, the Scottish Government should commit to developing and implementing a Disability Poverty Action Plan and a Carer's Poverty Action Plan. These should be interdependent with ambitious targets to truly lift people out of poverty. Both direct and secondary costs should be addressed.
3. Changes are needed to the stated purposes of disability and carer benefits to express the intent of improving support over time in order to advance equality and progressively realise rights for disabled people and carers of all ages. This should enable them to participate equally and fully in society and communities.
4. The social security system should be transformed in line with the social model of disability, taking a human rights-based approach.
5. There should be a reduction in the myriad of complications associated with benefit eligibility rules and the way they interact with reserved benefits, particularly around carer benefits. Any unintended consequences of the new system should be fully and thoroughly assessed to ensure no one is ever worse off than they are in the current DWP system. Close and collaborative cross government working should continue given the number of interactions between the two systems towards effective future-proofing.
6. From the Group's inception DACBEAG members have continually recommended that services, support and advice should be fully integrated with active referral paths implemented and streamlined for a truly 'no-wrong door' approach. To compliment and support this, benefit assessments should be holistic at every stage of the process for income maximisation.
We ask that Scottish Ministers commit to these changes in order to truly deliver on the principles set out in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018.
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