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Disability Assistance for Working Age People (Scotland) Regulations: equalities impact assessment (EQIA)

The equality impact assessment (EQIA) considers potential effects of the Disability Assistance for Working Age People (Scotland) Regulations 2022 and how it impacts on people with one or more protected characteristics.


Race

Just under 4% of Scotland's population belong to minority ethnic groups, and 7% of our total population communicate in home languages other than English. Although we do not have statistics showing the number of people within Scotland who are in receipt of disability benefits and who belong to minority ethnic groups, we know that they generally make up 3.7% of those with a reported learning disability or developmental disorder.

The 2011 census found that, for the general population, "White" people are more likely to say their day to day activities are limited "a lot" or "a little" by their long-term health conditions, compared to their share in the population. This is not true for any of the other ethnic categories apart from "Caribbean or Black" respondents aged 0-24 who are slightly more likely to say their day-to-day activity is limited "a little".

There was a wide variation between men and women in different ethnic groups. Women from the three groups Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Gypsy/Traveller recorded higher rates of 'health problem or disability' than women from the "White: Scottish" ethnic group, while men from only two ethnic groups, "Pakistani" and "Gypsy/Traveller", recorded higher rates of "health problem or disability" than men from the "White: Scottish" ethnic group. Additionally, findings from the UK Government's race disparity audit[14] found that Black women (29%) were more likely to have experienced anxiety or depression than White women (21%) and were less likely to seek treatment. This is the same regardless of gender with 7% of Black adults in the United Kingdom compared to 14% of White adults reporting receiving treatment at the time of the report.

We are aware that there are particular barriers for individuals from minority ethnic groups in applying for disability benefits, especially those with English as a second language, as there may be difficulties in accessing or understanding their entitlements due to language or other communication barriers. In particular, participants in our Experience Panels stated that they were not confident in using online resources or other materials because, while they felt they could speak English conversationally, they did not feel comfortable making sense of the complicated and technical language often used by authorities. To address this, work has been undertaken with ethnic minority groups alongside the main Experience Panels as part of our Benefit Take-up Strategy.

Experience Panel engagements with people who use English as a second language also showed that there is often an assumption around the most commonly translated languages. There is an expectation that Social Security Scotland will mirror provision by other public sector organisations, and speakers of less common languages have told us that they will generally opt for letters in English, on the assumption that there are no materials available in their home language. This removes individual agency, forcing some individuals to rely on support to apply, and creating a barrier to take-up. Additionally, many participants also expressed concern that they would misinterpret information and, as a result, they would be sanctioned or prosecuted because of language barriers.

Refugees

The ethnic minority population also includes refugees. Scotland has resettled 3,180 people under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme since the start of 2014. Refugees are eligible for benefits such as disability benefits, but typically experience additional barriers to the general population in accessing them. We have undertaken specific engagement with this group to understand better some of the barriers to applying disability benefits.

The issue of language presented challenges for the Syrian refugees in our focus groups who could speak or understand very little English. This was exacerbated by lack of (Syrian) Arabic interpreters at advocacy and/or third sector organisations within their geographical area.

We were told during our engagements with Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme Syrian refugees that accurate information about eligibility to disability benefits was difficult to access, with some being told that refugees are not entitled to benefits at all. All spoke of a lack of knowledge of the benefit system, a fear of government officials and insurmountable challenges presented by language and dialect.

Many reported having their initial disability applications rejected, or receiving a lower rate than they expected. Some indicated that embarking on the appeal process might have been to their financial detriment, with the significant threat of no award presenting an insurmountable risk.

There is also evidence that attending an assessment may be particularly stressful for people with experience of the asylum system. Some people have traumatic experiences of being required to travel to an official government location for an appointment and are therefore reluctant to attend an assessment.

Only awards of those deemed to be "ordinarily resident" in Scotland on the day their case is reviewed for transfer will be subject to the transfer process. This will likely impact those that live more transient lifestyles, especially those regularly moving between Scotland and other parts of the UK, more so than those with a more settled lifestyle.

This residence requirement is therefore more likely to impact on the gypsy/traveller community. However, we do not have sufficient data to determine how many of the just over 4,000 people in Scotland (0.1% of the population) who identified their ethnic group as "White: Gypsy/Traveller"[15] regularly travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK. As a result, it is difficult to determine what, if any, negative impact this may have on this community.

Our approach

Social Security Scotland will create a range of Adult Disability Payment stakeholder resources and content in accessible formats that will be proactively supplied to relevant stakeholder organisations through the National Stakeholder Engagement team, for organisations to distribute to people in local communities. The languages we proactively translate materials into were selected through stakeholder consultation. These are: British Sign Language, Farsi, Mandarin, Cantonese, Urdu, Gaelic, Polish, Arabic, braille and easy read formats, and materials in other languages are available on request.

Social Security Scotland communications will work with community radio and foreign language press to provide messaging on Adult Disability Payment to communities. In some circumstances, printed marketing materials may not be the right way to engage with these communities and where this is the case we will provide an engagement approach through work carried out by the National Stakeholder Engagement and Local Delivery functions.

Replacing face-to-face assessments with client consultations only where they are needed will mitigate the particular negative impacts we have heard that assessments have on people from ethnic minority groups. Most consultations will happen over the phone or they may happen in-person, at a location local to the client or at the client's home, where it is appropriate or requested by the client.

We were also informed anecdotally that Gypsy/Travellers operate within the 'cash economy' and that they are more likely to have a post office account than a bank account. This can be problematic in terms of receiving payments. We recognise that the payment method will be important for some people and in particular Gypsy/Traveller communities. In addition to Post Office and Credit Union accounts, payments can be made using iMovo which is a secure digital voucher system that can be delivered to individuals in several media (SMS, email). These can be redeemed at one of 2850 PayPoint outlets in Scotland. This has also been found to be useful for young adults who have not yet opened a bank account.

Social Security Scotland will continue to work with experts who have experience of benefit take-up in specific communities, such as Black Asian Minority Ethnic women and Gypsy/Travellers. The purpose will be to monitor and provide management information to effectively target take-up activity, produce take-up resources for Social Security Scotland staff and stakeholders, and liaise with and support stakeholders and frontline staff with take-up activities. Our specific approach will draw on best practice from take-up initiatives and campaigns undertaken across Scotland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

The 'Past presence test'

A small number of respondents commented that the 'past presence test', would be discriminatory and unfairly exclude some individuals. Concerns were raised over potential impacts on refugees, asylum seekers and people granted Discretionary Leave to Remain; international students; and newly resident disabled people. It was also suggested that those impacted by COVID-19 travel restrictions could be negatively impacted. A number of stakeholders believe that the 'past presence test' be reduced or dropped entirely and some responses favoured no qualifying period for eligibility required.

Since the public consultation launched, a change has been made to the regulations to reduce the past presence test from 104 out of 156 weeks to 26 out of 52 weeks. Removing the test entirely, would carry a financial cost as well as a number of delivery implications. The test also provides for a number of exceptions such as for individuals with a terminal illness. We believe this strikes the right balance between meeting the policy intent behind the residence and presence eligibility criteria and ensuring fairness to clients.

Terminal illness

It is known that there is a low uptake of palliative and end of life care services for British and Minority Ethnic groups. This was found to be a 'common theme' in the 45 studies included in 'Palliative and end of life care for BAME groups in the United Kingdom'.[16] Potential explanatory factors for the low uptake included lack of referrals, lack of knowledge about services or about what palliative care involves and religious traditions and family values in conflict with the idea of palliative/ hospice care. It is likely that some of the reasons for low uptake of palliative care could also lead to low uptake of disability assistance when terminally ill.

There is some evidence that ethnic groups can vary in the extent to which individuals would wish to know about their terminal diagnosis. This issue is discussed in relation to Chinese families and also in a cross a cultural study involving some East Asian countries.[17]

Our approach to terminal illness has been developed in a way that is supportive of clients from minority ethnic groups where explicit knowledge of a terminal diagnosis may be considered not to be in the best interests of the patient. The Chief Medical Officer Guidance contains important information for practitioners to support sensitive communication with individuals relating to their diagnosis. It also makes allowance for situations where sharing the terminal diagnosis with the patient would be harmful to them. To support terminally ill clients it will also be possible for a third party to complete the application form and this will similarly be supportive of clients where explicit knowledge of a terminal diagnosis is deemed not in their best interests. In these ways, the terminal illness policy is supportive of clients from minority ethnic groups.

We do not have data for individuals who are terminally ill disaggregated by ethnic group. As the numbers are small, caution would be needed to prevent the identification of individuals. To mitigate this, although the provision of diversity information is not compulsory it will form part of the application process. This should lead to collection of better data which can be used to inform future work on Adult Disability Payment and, where relevant, our overall approach to terminal illness.

Contact

Email: matthew.duff@gov.scot

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