Data from the Paperworth Trust found that women are slightly more likely than men to be disabled in the United Kingdom (23% of females compared to 19% of males). A report by the Women's Budget Group has also found that, overall, women are twice as likely to rely on social security as men. The higher percentage of female compared to male disabled people can also be seen when examining data from Department for Work and Pensions who, as of July 2020, reported 124,186 male and 149,717 female clients entitled to Personal Independence Payment in Scotland.
Within these groups, the largest proportion of clients entitled to Personal Independence Payment had a 'psychiatric disorder', totalling 108,081. There were slightly more male (56,559) than female (51,521) clients though this was not always the case when looking at individual conditions. Within the category of 'psychiatric disorders', there were significantly more male clients with a behavioural or learning disability such as autistic spectrum disorders (7,324 male compared to 2,128 female), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder/Attention Deficit Disorder (1,813 male compared to 412 female) while female clients were significantly more likely to report a mental health condition with the largest proportion experiencing mixed anxiety and depression (21,675 female compared to 15,698 male).
There is evidence that gender inequalities are likely to have become even more pronounced in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. healthcare systems come under pressure it becomes increasingly likely that women will take on further caring responsibilities. Responses to our public consultation on Adult Disability Payment highlighted that many disabled women have caring responsibilities themselves and have taken on increased responsibilities as a result of the pandemic.
We also know from engagement with stakeholders that there are specific issues which arise for disabled women. This was also a key theme in feedback received through our recent consultation. For example, Engender have highlighted that women are far more likely to experience domestic violence and abuse and that this is compounded for disabled women.
Engender also highlighted that, for many women who attend Department for Work and Pensions face-to-face assessments, they face specific barriers due to assessors making assumptions based on stereotypical gendered roles. They noted that there has not been enough research conducted on the topic to provide a detailed analysis. This was linked to research examining the gendered history of 'incapacity benefits' which asserts that awards tended to punish women who engaged in household labour because it was viewed as potential work activity for women, while men undertaking similar activities did not face such scrutiny at an assessment. The research further linked this to Department for Work and Pensions data which shows that men are more likely to be awarded the enhanced rate of the daily living component (52%) compared to women (46%).
As has been set out above, we will not carry out functional examinations of clients in order to decide eligibility for Adult Disability Payment. By removing functional examinations in all circumstances, there is less opportunity for gendered assumptions to affect expectations around daily living activities and mobility in a consultation. The consistent application of the 'reliability criteria' to ensure that clients' full range of needs are taken into account should also ensure consistency and fairness and limit the possibility of women being penalised for undertaking certain activities such as household labour.
Practitioners will be required to discuss any informal observations made during a consultation with the client. This will ensure that assumptions based on stereotypical gender roles made must either be discussed, giving the client the opportunity to disagree, or not taken into account. In practice this will enable a practitioner to gain an accurate understanding of the client's needs rather than making assumptions about the client.
Our approach to making decisions will be person-centred and based on the values of dignity, fairness and respect. People employed by Social Security Scotland will be required to undertake equalities training which will help to ensure that clients do not face discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of sex.
Recruitment of practitioners
This EQIA has considered provisions in the regulations relating to the experience and qualifications required of practitioners (referred to in the regulations as "assessors") in order for them to carry out a consultation (referred to tin the regulations as "assessments"). The policy intent behind these provisions, described in more detail in the "policy aims" section above, is to ensure that practitioners are suitably qualified. This is intended to address significant concerns in the current system with PIP assessors. We have received extensive feedback that PIP assessors often lack the professional background and/ or understanding of the health conditions and disabilities being discussed.
Therefore, we have specified in the regulations the level of qualifications and experience required of practitioners who will undertake a consultation. Practitioners will need to be registered with the relevant regulator and will be required to have worked in a relevant field for two years following initial qualification. A practitioner will be one of the following:
- an allied health professional with valid registration in the register maintained by the Health and Care Professions Council
- a registered adult, learning disability, or mental health nurse with valid registration in the register maintained by the Nursing and Midwifery Council
- a social worker with valid registration in the register maintained by the Scottish Social Services Council
- someone with a social care qualification to a minimum of Level 9 of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework with valid registration as a social service worker in the register maintained by the Scottish Social Services Council.
These requirements are a result of extensive consultation with experts and stakeholders and were supported by a majority (69%) in our consultation on the draft regulations. We have considered any equalities impacts of these provisions in relation to the Equalities Act 2010, specifically that "a public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to—
(a)eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act;
(b)advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it;
(c)foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it."
Ensuring that practitioners can demonstrate up to date fitness for practice at the point of employment is essential for meeting our policy intent. We have considered whether there are other ways of practitioners demonstrating this without requiring such registration. It is vital that clients trust that the practitioner they are speaking to is appropriately qualified. Up to date registration, at the point of employment with Social Security Scotland, provides reassurance to clients and is the only way Social Security Scotland can be assured that a practitioner's experience is up to date and that they have no fitness to practice issues, while also ensuring that all practitioners are required to meet the same, or an equivalent standard.
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