The Impact of Welfare Reform in Scotland - Tracking Study

The aim of the study is to explore the impact of on-going welfare changes on a range of households in Scotland over time. This report provides a review of the literature and presents the results of the first sweep of interviews which took place from September 2013 to January 2014.

4 Key Emerging Themes

  • Chapter 4 presents the key emerging themes from the interviews with participants in receipt of welfare benefits. Quotes taken from transcripts have been used to illustrate the issues as participants experience them.
  • There is a need for clear, concise information about benefits and benefit changes. Many participants feel poorly informed about their entitlements and impending changes to these.
  • Some participants had experienced delays or administrative errors in receiving their benefits which, without external support, can create great hardship.
  • The assessment process for ESA was cited repeatedly as a source of stress for those obliged to participate in it. Participants also complained of a lack of dignity in the process. Those with fluctuating or 'hidden' conditions did not feel that the criteria used in the assessment reflected the impact of their condition on their lives.
  • Many participants struggled to get by on the money they received and to meet basic needs such as heating, electricity and food. Often trade-offs had to be made. Most had restricted their participation in social and leisure activities, and some had accumulated debt.
  • Most of those interviewed were not in work. Some did not feel able to work at all, but even those who wished to work often felt that there were few realistic job opportunities for them, due to factors such as caring responsibilities or health conditions.
  • Participants did not like being 'benefit claimants', and felt stigmatised by others for having this status. This was often exacerbated by the portrayal of claimants in the media.
  • Many participants felt anxious and/or poorly informed about future changes to benefits, such as the move to UC. Most were troubled by the prospect of a single monthly payment, and the difficulty of budgeting over this time period.

4.1 This chapter presents some of the findings from the interviews with participants in receipt of welfare benefits. It summarises the findings under five themes that have emerged from the research: the lack of clear information and good advice; problems with the current administration of benefits; the struggle to make ends meet; the failure to account for specific needs; and stigma, financial insecurity and wellbeing.

The lack of clear information and good advice

4.2 Many participants felt that there was a lack of clear, concise information about their benefit entitlements and how these might change.

"It is hard to get clear and concise information at the moment. It is a bit of a minefield to find out information." Male, 60 years.

4.3 All participants were broadly aware that there would be changes to the benefit system over the next couple of years, but they were not necessarily clear about the details of the changes, or how they would be implemented in practice.

4.4 With regard to UC, none of the participants had any knowledge of exactly when changes would impact on them personally, or if changes to one of the benefits covered by the UC award would impact on the entire UC payment awarded. Participants commented that they did not have enough information about UC and were confused as to what the changes were and why different benefits were being changed.

"I don't know enough about it [UC]. I think it is quite strange how they're trying to bring in lots of different benefits at the same time, and then trying to replace the ones they're bringing in, it seems very confused…It would be good to have a bit more information about it, they don't seem to tell you about these things until they're actually happening." Female, 34 years.

4.5 Generally participants stated that they had not found the Jobcentre or the DWP telephone number or website helpful in getting information about benefits or benefit changes. Communications from the DWP and the Jobcentre about the changes to benefits were cited as confusing and unclear, and some participants had found the tone of these communications threatening. The majority of participants cited that they did not necessarily know where to find information about changes to benefits, and noted the large amount of time used to find the information that they needed.

"There was the change from IB to ESA which happened last year…. So I made some phone calls and spent hours on the internet trying to find out information. And it was very, very difficult. There was very, very little information…." Male, 56 years.

4.6 Participants cited a range of alternative sources that they have turned to for information, or could do so if they needed it. Most of these were local access centres or specialist third sector organisations (e.g. organisations working around a particular health condition). Participants who used this provision tended to be very positive about the help provided. Some looked for information on the internet. However, some participants did not know of any sources of information at all.

4.7 Opinions were mixed regarding the service provided by the Citizen's Advice Bureau. Four participants reported negative experiences with their Bureau, noting they lacked specialist information. There were also long delays reported in being able to obtain an appointment. However, four other participants reported very positive experiences with the assistance provided by the organisation.

"I wouldn't phone the DWP [for advice on benefits]. I did that once and never again. I normally go to my advocacy worker. I went to the [Citizen's Advice Bureau] but sometimes I feel these organisations are useless." Male, 43 years.

"Who do I talk to who basically knows everything about all benefits, that's what I would like. Somebody who doesn't work for DWP or the Jobcentre, but somebody impartial who you can go to. It's meant to be Citizen's Advice but to be honest they don't have a clue about the disability thing." Female, 26 years.

4.8 Participants tended to favour specialist services, for example one participant was highly positive about a support group specifically designed for people with her specific health condition.

Problems with the current administration of benefits

4.9 For those reliant on income-replacement benefits, the administration of the benefits caused significant stress and reduced wellbeing of many participants. Errors and delays in payments are a source of considerable financial instability. These delays and stoppages have taken considerable time to resolve even when due entirely to errors caused by DWP. There was considerable stress associated with the process of moving people with disabilities to new benefits and with the reassessment process.

Inconsistencies, errors and delays

4.10 Some experienced delays in payments, for example when making a transition from one benefit to another. The participant quoted below was transferred from IS onto JSA when his youngest child turned five years old. He was not notified that he would receive his payment on a different day, which meant he had to go for four days until receiving a payment.

"On the Monday that I always got my money that I budgeted for…the money didn't go in…they failed to tell me that the money doesn't go in until the Thursday on JSA….so I have lost 4 days money haven't I?...I argued with them and got nowhere…I was phoning up and I didn't know that every time I picked up the phone and phoned that number…it cost me about £18 in phone calls…" Male, 49 years.

4.11 Seven participants also expressed problems with benefits being stopped without any prior notice or communication. The participant quoted below found her benefits stopped with no notice when her ESA was altered from income to contribution based[18]. Her experience draws attention to a lack of knowledge about benefits of some DWP staff.

"[My benefits] were stopped between changing from income related to contribution based. And I phoned up and asked DWP what's the difference and they said they didn't know, so why did they stop the money?" Female, 26 years.

4.12 Participants also noted considerable inconsistency in the outcomes of claims, suggesting whether or not an award would be made was dependent upon 'whose desk the paperwork landed on'. This meant that participants felt that being accepted was very much about chance rather than whether or not the benefit should be awarded. Such inconsistency was a feature of participants' experiences of engaging with the Jobcentre:

"You end up getting different decisions and different decision makers - the decision making is inconsistent and flawed." Male, 60 years.

"I was originally put into work related. I appealed it and I was obviously lucky with the decision maker I got. But when I was in WRAG [the] worst I had to do was go to the Jobcentre, but I found a nice advisor and she didn't give me a hard time." Male, 43 years.

The assessment process for disabled claimants

4.13 Most participants with a disability spoke about their experiences of moving from IB onto ESA (or failing to do so in some cases and having to move onto JSA), and the work capability assessment they were required to undertake in doing so. These assessments were a huge source of stress, and participants complained of a lack of dignity in the process.

4.14 A key deficiency of the work capability assessments appears to the participants to be a lack of understanding of the assessors about fluctuating or 'invisible' health conditions. Several participants reported having good days and bad days, with work capability varying day to day, but that the assessment criteria were unable to capture this fluctuating impact of their condition. This applied both to those with physical or mental disabilities.

4.15 Some participants also claimed that they were being incorrectly assessed as able to work because their condition was not immediately obvious. One participant was placed in the WRAG group until a successful appeal allowed them to transfer into the Support group. This participant had a particular visual impairment which meant they were unable to use computer programs which can be used by other visually impaired people. Despite this, the Jobcentre staff failed to take this into account whilst he was in the WRAG group.

4.16 Another issue raised with the assessment process was the lack of input from participants' own medical professionals, who better understood their condition.

"If they relied more on your own medical team rather than someone who has never met you …. They're moving away from what your own doctor says to what the Atos doctor says ... I think that is going in the wrong direction." Female, 29 years.

4.17 One participant cited that they found the process of applying for ESA depressing, as it served to reconfirm and highlight the problems he had.

"Initially I found it depressing because when you have a health issue…there is that reconfirming that you have a problem….what I hate is having to divulge…is the opening yourself up and having people looking at your private life." Male, 36 years.

4.18 The uncertainty and stress caused by reassessments in relation to ESA seemed considerable among many disabled participants, as the outcomes of the reassessment would have a considerable effect on their future incomes and life. It was noted that this uncertainty may reoccur each time there was a reassessment. This was felt strongly by one participant, who also highlighted that it took a long period for the decisions to be made, which left them living in 'limbo'.

"It is so stressful when you are reassessed and they take so long to take a decision that it is the length of time that you are left sort of in limbo, not knowing, em, if you are to have an income, you know, after another couple of months…. So if it is taking 3, 4, 5 months and that is being done every year, then obviously that is a huge chunk of the year that you are being really stressed out……" Female, 29 years.

4.19 Another disabled participant argued that for some disabilities, there is no need for assessment. This, in his opinion would not only relieve such people of a stressful experience but would also free up DWP staff to focus on other claims.

"if someone clearly cannot walk they should be given mobility automatically. They shouldn't have to fill in a form." Male, 60 years.

Struggling to make ends meet

4.20 The majority of participants reported struggling financially and there was evidence of considerable financial hardship. The amount of support received by those on out of work benefits was found to be insufficient to meet basic needs.

Surviving on a low income

4.21 Most participants identified problems in managing financially. The vast majority of participants (n= 39) said that benefits payments did not cover utility bills and food. Some described the very careful budgeting that they had to undertake, and the need to prioritise some bills over others.

"An absolute nightmare, we've never got any money, you have to prioritise what you need and things like that." Female, 39 years.

"I had to use the money that was for my food to pay for my bills…I am finding that [I have to use] the money that I have allocated for my food." Female, 43 years.

4.22 Some attempted to reduce household bills by cutting down on their heating costs, although this was not an option available to all participants.

"We keep the heating off. We have to keep our jumpers and housecoats on so we can keep the hot water for a bath." Female, 24 years.

4.23 Finances were especially problematic for participants who were lone parents or the carers of disabled children. This appeared to be due to the low income received by lone parents and the additional costs experienced by carers with disabled children; for example, households with disabled children often reported having higher energy bills. Participants employed a number of strategies to get by, such as bulk buying food, in order to reduce costs. Parents also skipped meals/had smaller meals so that their children had enough to eat.

"…..I've went without eating to make sure there is electricity and [daughter's] got her milk and nappies." Female, 19 years.

4.24 For many participants, 'treats' that went beyond basic sustenance such as days out and socialising with friends were impossible. Participants and those in their household were unable to engage in many forms of social interaction with others, due to the fact there was insufficient money to do so.

"I would like to buy little luxuries like toiletries, the cinema, theatre. I can't meet with friends because I can't afford a cup of tea." Female, 56 years.

"Well I can't afford to go out. Now and again I can maybe go to the cinema." Female, 24 years.

"We can't afford to do anything. Even bus fares are a struggle…." Male, 38 years.

"Quite often I get money on Tuesday and by Wednesday I have got pennies in my purse. I don't have £2 to give to my daughter to go to her Guides thing." Female, 43 years.

4.25 Participants also noted the additional costs of buying equipment to access the internet, and issues around being able to afford monthly internet bills. This is problematic for those who are required to look for work in order to receive their benefit. This was especially the case for lone parents, who were often unable to obtain childcare so that they could use the internet in public libraries or the Jobcentre.

"I had to borrow money for a computer to do my job search because I couldn't do it at libraries because that wanted me to do it for three hours a day…..obviously I can't take a five year old to the library for three hours a day." Female, 24 years.

4.26 Some participants had turned to family and friends for emotional or financial support but this was not available to all. For some this support is absolutely crucial. However, participants did not like being in the position where they had to ask for money from family and friends.

"If I have got no money the only people I can turn to is my parents for money and I am lucky enough that they can give me money." Female, 43 years.

"There are only so many times I can ask my Gran for help, she's not always going to be here. And I don't like it. She's only on a pension." Female, 24 years.

4.27 Some participants found themselves getting into debt when an unforeseen problem arose, such as household equipment breaking down, or funeral costs. Twenty one participants had used credit cards, commercial loans and/or loans from friends/family when they were short of money, and one participant had pawned jewellery.

"I'm not getting into debt because I'm going on luxury holidays. I'm getting into debt because I need everyday things for my house, like if my washing machine breaks down." Female, 42 years.

"I've got two items, one in the pawn at the moment, one in the cash generator. If you have a crisis in your life which you haven't allocated for…I had to pawn my mother's engagement ring….but that's life in the have no money lane, you know?" Female, 56 years.

Support in a crisis

4.28 Participants noted that although extra assistance was provided when they encountered a crisis situation, they argued such support should come sooner, i.e. before they had reached that situation in the first place. This would allow them to avoid stress and humiliation. The following participant, who was in work, but with a highly seasonal and variable income, appreciated the help he received from his local authority in order to obtain his housing rent deposit, but found it extremely frustrating and stressful that he was unable to access this assistance until he found himself in a crisis situation.

"In order to benefit from certain things regarding housing you have to be in a crisis situation which is not beneficial to anybody's health…it's crisis management." Male, 36 years.

4.29 The same participant felt humiliated when he reached a crisis point when he felt he had no choice but to enquire about accessing a food bank. Unfortunately, he was not provided with assistance as he failed to meet the specified criteria. Again the need for greater sensitivity in providing support is highlighted.

"I actually enquired into help for emergency food and the way I was treated I felt like, they literally assume how many slices of bread you have…..I didn't meet the criteria…..naively I thought I would be able to get a week's shopping….and to go through the humiliation of having to ring them up, contact them, be questioned on the contents of your cupboard and then to be denied is humiliating." Male, 36 years.

Under-occupancy and discretionary payments

4.30 Some participants who were social housing tenants had been affected by the new size criteria, and had seen a reduction in their HB payment accordingly. Some issues were raised regarding engagement with local authorities and housing associations concerning discretionary payments to compensate for the reduction in benefits. For example, in two cases, participants were initially turned down for discretionary payments; they eventually received the payments, but underwent a great deal of stress and anxiety in the process.

4.31 There also appear to be problems regarding communication between those claiming benefits and local authorities regarding discretionary payments. For example, the following participant was unclear as to whether or not he owed any rent after obtaining a discretionary payment to cover the spare room subsidy that had been applied to him. It would appear from his statement his discretionary payment was not covering the full amount of the increase; however, due to a lack of communication from the local authority, the participant was unsure of the situation. This means that there is a possibility that the participant might be faced with a bill for the shortfall.

"They put on the bedroom tax so there was another 40 [pounds] a fortnight but fortunately we got the discretionary payment so I'm not sure if there is any rent to pay. They haven't said anything….we are getting about £13 something a week so that's about £26, so there's about seven or eight quid the difference but they've not said anything about that and I get quite confused with that. I'm not sure if I'm due or not. They are not taking anything." Male, 38 years.

Coping with a move to monthly payments

4.32 There was concern about the move to monthly payments and people's ability to budget. Only one participant felt that this would help people to budget in the same way as most households and help them if they returned to work. The majority view is that it will make life more difficult.

"I would manage but I would definitely find it harder…..because I've been used to the fortnightly for quite a while." Female, 24 years.

4.33 At best, people said they would manage because they had managed on a monthly salary when they had been in work. People noted that it would be very hard to budget a relatively small amount of money if it was only paid once per month.

4.34 Participants also noted that their resilience was limited due to the relatively large impact of one-off events such as having to find the money to replace white goods.

"I understand that people ought to budget…but when you have a limited income it's more likely you have emergencies, you'll need to fix your washing machine because you don't have a warranty for it, you need a laptop to look for work otherwise you'll get sanctioned. So when there's stuff like that happening, I can't quite picture why it would be a good idea to have it paid monthly." Female, 32 years.

Failing to account for specific needs

4.35 In addition to the problems outlined above with living on a low income, the research raised a number of issues affecting particular groups or types of claimant, which the current system of support and obligations fails to take into account.

Barriers to work, training and education

4.36 For those such as lone parents who had previously been on IS, or disabled claimants who had been on IB, moving onto JSA was often problematic, because being treated like 'just another job seeker' was not felt to take into account their specific barriers to employment.

4.37 Many of the participants cited that they could theoretically work, but in practice there were no jobs that were suitable in terms of hours and flexibility. One participant outlined how their medical condition fluctuated and while they might be able to work on some days, they might not be well enough on others. Lone parents pointed out the restrictions that their childcare responsibilities placed on their availability for work. Many participants did not feel that employers would be able to offer the flexibility in terms of hours etc. that they required.

4.38 Participants generally reported that they did not find the Jobcentre helpful in providing assistance in locating realistic work opportunities, such as employment which took into account childcare responsibilities.

"For me, walking into the Jobcentre is just the most soul destroying thing you ever had to do in your life. I absolutely hate it…they don't have a clue about what it's actually like…I'm a single parent so I'm excluding anything flexible like overnight, weekends, so I'm disregarding all those jobs because I can't get the childcare…" Female, 40 years.

4.39 Some participants felt that the focus of the Jobcentre's staff was getting them into any kind of work - even if that work was not suitable, or did not fit the skillset of the participant. What the individual actually wanted to do was felt not to be taken into account.

"It's the attitude of Jobcentre staff.…it doesn't matter if you've got plans in place…they just see part-time work coming up and they say you should go for that, cleaning jobs or whatever, and I feel really frustrated at it." Female, 32 years.

4.40 For participants who were lone parents, the availability and cost of childcare presented a key specific barrier to employment. They found it very difficult to find work offering hours which would fit around childcare. None of the couple households with children in the sample cited childcare as a particular issue, although that is not to say that childcare is not an issue for couple families.

"Well … I can't get a job that's between 10am and 2pm. It's impossible and that is what I am trying to get." Female, 24 years.

"…this year my daughter started school, and I thought my day's going to open up so much more, but it's kind of not been the case, because I feel like I'm under more restrictions to find something 10 till 2, but there's nowhere really that offers that, and there's so many people wanting the same hours." Female, 32 years.

4.41 Some lone parents were very keen to improve their chances of competing successfully in the job market by studying, however, they found doing this and juggling childcare and maintaining their jobseeker's agreement very difficult. Furthermore, participants indicated that there is pressure to obtain any job - even if that means having to give up an opportunity to engage in further education. This may mean that people lose out on opportunities to be able to compete for better paid, more secure positions by virtue of their achieving qualifications.

"I found this course on my own, the Jobcentre didn't tell me about it. Because it started in August that was good because my son started school in August so I knew I'd be able to come to it for two days a week. But they still check up on my job search, they need to make sure I am applying for jobs. I can't say no to a job. If I get an interview I can't say no and if I get accepted for a job I have to take it. If they say you don't qualify for this position then that's fine but if I get one and I don't take it, they stop my benefit so I need to take a job if I get offered it. I don't have a choice. I want to do this course so I can get into college and get a decent job." Female, 24 years.

Managing financially: experiences of different groups

4.42 Most of the lone parent participants highlighted that they could not rely on regular (or any) child maintenance payments coming from the parent who did not take on the primary caregiving role. Delays and errors in benefit payments are particularly critical when they are the only source of household income.

"Sometimes it [child maintenance] doesn't come because the youngest's father…has had a pay cut…so I can't ask him…..It is not reliable. I can't use it as every month to know that I have got that to pay for things." Female, 43 years.

4.43 Participants claiming disability benefits noted that their disability was often accompanied by expenses which were not covered by the money they received. One participant, who cares for their daughter, had to pay £300 for a new mobility aid, as there was no provision to cover broken medical equipment. Other additional expenses cited by participants claiming disability benefits include greater use of heating, washing machines and clothing.

"My washing machine is on all the time, and the tumble dryer and things because of [son's] problems and the money I get doesn't take into account the extra costs of that." Female, 39.

"I probably do have higher costs; the [medical equipment] cost fifty pounds every time…My heating is probably higher than most people as well." Male, 39 years.

4.44 Participants in general directed attention to the rising cost of living; however, the six participants who resided in rural areas felt that the cost of living was higher in rural areas, especially in remote parts, citing higher costs of food and reliance on cars.

"We have to have the car where we live. We pick [son] up and take him to school each day, that is sixty miles. We have a motability car." Female, 39 years.

"Everything's going up - electricity, food, oil. And are we getting more benefit to pay for these things? We're not. They're even taking more away from us." Female, 42 years.

4.45 Mobility for disabled people in rural areas may be particularly problematic. One participant outlined how they had needed to pay for a taxi themselves in order to access the care provision they needed, as using standard public transport was not feasible. Fortunately, following a campaign, a community bus service was then provided by the local authority, which permitted the participant to leave the house. However, such a service is down to the discretion of local authorities

Occupancy rules and complex circumstances

4.46 Changes regarding occupancy rules in social housing were especially problematic for disabled people, who found themselves having to challenge the changes made to the payment of HB relating to under-occupancy when it was applied to them, as they needed a spare room. The participant quoted below had to launch an appeal against the changes made to her payment of HB relating to under-occupancy which was applied to her. This participant required a spare room for when she needed care, and also to accommodate her partner when they came to stay with her. The participant cited the importance of taking into account people whose situation was not clear cut and had fluctuating support needs.

"That was a total minefield when it came to: was I going to get help or not. I got it sorted eventually….they have written these guidelines but there are going to be people that aren't going to be clear cut one [way] or the other, who are going to have fluctuating support, and I think that's one thing that with the benefits they don't always take into account." Female, 26 years.

4.47 Another participant cited that he could manage alone but sometimes required overnight care, and therefore needed a spare room for his carer.

"I don't need 24 hour care but there could be a time I am not well and somebody has to stay with me.…..They actually sent me a bill in for the yearly tariff what I was going to have to pay, when I opened it I was shocked because it was almost £4,000." Male, 37 years.

4.48 These situations reveal the changes made to the payment of HB relating to under-occupancy may not sufficiently take into account the lived realities of disabled people, whose condition fluctuates on a day to day basis. It also suggests insufficient communication of, or knowledge of, existing discretionary housing payments that may be available for people with difficult circumstances.

4.49 In addition, the changes made to the payment of HB in relation to under-occupancy is also problematic for individuals whose circumstances, whilst not related to disability, mean they do not currently require additional space in the home, but will do so in future. For example, one participant was being made to pay for an empty room as his child was not currently living with the family full-time; however, there was no option to move as the expectation was that the child would return.

Uneven impact of a move to monthly payments

4.50 Some participants noted that certain groups might find it especially difficult to manage a monthly benefit payment, such as people suffering from addictions, or people with mental disabilities which prevented them from understanding how to budget money. For example, the comment below was made by the parent and carer of an individual with learning disabilities. She had concerns over how her daughter would manage once she turned eighteen and her benefits would be paid directly to her (currently, the benefits are paid to the parent).

"She has no concept of money. If she got that money every month she would just blow it every month." Female, 39 years.

4.51 Another participant felt certain managing monthly payments would be problematic due to her mental illness.

"I would find that [managing monthly payments] difficult because I'm not very good at budgeting…I don't try to blame things on the fact that I have bipolar, but it is something, when it comes to money, budgeting, things like that, most people with bipolar, that is something they have difficulty with." Female, 30 years.

4.52 Lone parents were more likely to worry about monthly payments due to their feeling that it would be very difficult to make, what they found to be a small amount of money, last all month.

"I think that would be awful. It is not a large amount of money that you can manage. HB is already monthly, but having the others fortnightly helps as you don't have a lot of money." Female, 45 years.

"Moving to monthly is a horrendous idea, awful. I don't know how anyone will manage. At least this way I know I am buying my food week to week. Having it every month is just going to be even harder to keep control of the money." Female, 43 years.

Stigma, financial insecurity and well-being

4.53 There are a number of aspects of participants' experiences, in addition to the poverty and financial instability outlined above, which may be having a negative impact on their well-being. Participants reported feeling stigmatised for their status as benefit claimants, degraded by the process of applying for support, and anxious about the future.

The stigma surrounding benefit claimants

4.54 All participants believed there was a strong societal stigma attached to people who were in receipt of welfare benefits. Most participants identified the stigma they experience about being on benefits with feelings that negative media coverage affected them personally. They felt that there was a lack of coverage of the circumstances of all claimants in the media. This meant that wider society was being given an inaccurate description of the circumstances of people who claim benefits and the kind of lives they are able to lead. Participants especially felt that popular TV programmes gave an inaccurate representation of the majority of those claiming benefits and served to portray them all in a highly negative light.

"I think it is pretty bad that everyone perceives [those claiming benefits] as spongers and it's not the case." Female, 49 years.

"It's never positive, and because people just have these images of people scrounging, they don't seem to realise the effect that that kind of language has on people who are legitimately claiming. The way it's perceived in the press is quite damaging." Female, 36 years.

4.55 Some participants had also experienced negative and stigmatising attitudes from Jobcentre staff when claiming benefits. Many reported feeling that staff did not accept as valid the many circumstances that participants felt were legitimate barriers to taking up employment.

4.56 One participant cited that they did not like to disclose to others that she was in receipt of benefits because of the stigma. Others also felt that people might make judgements about them based on their status as a claimant.

"I don't advertise the fact I get DLA to anyone because there is a stigma, but if you need it, you need it." Female, 24 years.

4.57 Despite the perception of negative social attitudes towards benefit claimants, most participants believed they were entitled to their benefits, particularly those who had worked prior to becoming unable to work.

"I've worked all my days, I've paid the big stamp, so it's really my money coming back to me" Female, 58 years.

"[I've] paid in all these years as well, that's what you pay your money for in a way" Male, 56 years.

4.58 Some participants did believe there were individuals who were fraudulently claiming benefits, and these people served to portray them in a negative light. It was felt by some participants that the media focused on these cases, rather than legitimate claimants.

" can see walking around any shopping centre there are people with walking sticks that don't use them, you realise that there are people who are milking the system, but that 0.000 whatever percent have an impact on those who need it…" Female, 34 years.

"I think people who are on benefits are made to look bad [by the media]. I do believe there are some people who are just on it for an easy life but if you are a carer that is not the case at all. They should spend a week in my shoes you know." Female, 39 years.

4.59 There were also participants who believed that there were claimants who were not fraudulent, but did not 'deserve' to receive benefits, due to the idea that they 'chose' to put themselves in a particular situation e.g. having large families, or not looking for work. Such individuals were viewed negatively. This means there is a potential conflict between different groups of claimants.

"A single parent with 8 children - come on…she knew what she was doing, having child after child and thinking it's OK, I'll get benefit. Situations like that it's totally wrong, and yes I do agree with capping her money…she chose to have all these children." Female, 42 years.

"There's people genuinely needing help, but they [people shown on TV programmes about welfare benefits] sit on the street with carry outs, walking about with their top of the range phones, they're just not interested [in working]" Male, 54 years.

Anxiety about future changes to benefits

4.60 Benefit changes and a lack of clarity around their implementation meant that many participants were increasingly uncertain about the future and how they would cope if they stopped receiving benefits.

"It is the danger of it [disability benefits] being taken away and how I will cope with the constant thought of 'is this getting taken away'? And I don't know how I will be affected by UC…" Male, 43 years.

"It worries me silly, if they stop my benefits, where will I go, what will I do?" Female, 58 years.

4.61 Participants felt stressed as they dealt with the current changes to their benefits and as they worried about how their situation would transpire in relation to their benefits in future. One participant cited that this had had a negative effect on their health.

"I would say the majority of my health problems have got worse since having to deal with ESA, which is ironic because they are trying to encourage you to get off benefits." Female, 26 years

4.62 For people with disabilities, the changeover to PIP, with its stricter criteria, was a source of great anxiety. Some (not all) participants who claimed disability benefits were content with the money they received, but the uncertainty of whether or not they would continue to be entitled to them was a source of anxiety. This was exacerbated by the intention to remove the 'lower' care component of DLA when the transition is made to PIP. Two participants felt particular anxiety about the removal of the low rate mobility element, as they relied on their mobility car to look for work and get around in general.

"My main concern is the transition from [DLA] to [PIP]. The conditions for mobility are going to be far harder to meet to get the benefit to claim a mobility car. And if I don't have that it's going to make my life an awful lot more difficult in terms of work and getting about." Male, 39 years.

4.63 The '20 metres rule' was also a source of stress for participants. One participant expressed great anxiety over being assessed for PIPs, due to the fact he could theoretically move 20 metres, but only in certain circumstances. He felt that this was not realistic in reflecting day to day living.

"…you still have that worry in the back of your mind, moving on to [PIP] from [DLA] and the 20 metre rule, which I will eventually be reassessed for. I am particularly concerned about the mobility part of it…I mean I could move 20 metres but it would really need to be a smooth pavement with no kerbs or anything." Male, 56 years.

4.64 Participants also drew attention to what they believed to be a flawed assessment procedure for PIP, which failed to adequately take into account the day-to-day realities of living with a disability. Participants felt that the proposed assessment procedure, as with the current procedure for ESA, would not adequately take into account complicated and fluctuating medical conditions.

"And they are going to use a points system which is similar to the work capability assessment which is deeply flawed; obviously people have complicated medical conditions they don't just conform to a tick box. People have good days and bad days. I do. Some days I'm able to do quite a lot and other days not very much at all." Male, 39 years.


Email: Franca MacLeod

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