Policy Development and Engagement
In line with the principles of dignity, fairness and respect, the Scottish Government sought the views of people with lived experience of engaging with the current benefit system to ensure that people's views and needs are embedded in both the policy and the operations of all aspects of social security. Whilst engaging users we have also engaged groups of experts in the Social Security system who have advised and made recommendations in response to Scottish Ministers proposed approach to delivering Disability Assistance. The policy approach outlined within this consultation document has therefore been established in conjunction with users of the system, our Ill Health and Disability Benefits Stakeholders Reference Group and the newly established independent Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group.
In July 2016 the Scottish Government launched a public consultation to inform the content of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018. The consultation set out a vision and key principles for social security in Scotland. The consultation was in three parts, covering:
- A Principled Approach;
- The Devolved Benefits; and
- Operational Policy.
Some of the themes highlighted by respondents on Disability Benefits included:
- The holistic and fair approach to Disability Benefits was deemed to be positive.
- The complex and stressful application and assessment processes - particularly for DLA and PIP, and also the perception that the eligibility criteria for DLA, PIP and AA discriminated against certain groups.
- The Scottish social security system should be more flexible, accessible and person-centred.
- Applicants should be able to decide how to engage with the system, choosing from a range of options that suited them best, whether paper-based, online, by telephone, face to face, or using other types of technology.
- The importance of applicants being treated with dignity and respect throughout their dealings with the new social security agency.
- The importance of advice and advocacy.
- The importance of transparency and fairness in relation to eligibility criteria.
- The importance of ensuring that the eligibility criteria took account of a wide range of conditions or illnesses, including mental health, other fluctuating conditions, and also learning disabilities.
- Strong support for the 'special rules' that currently apply to terminally ill people, to be extended to a wider range of conditions and illness.
- Responsive, streamlined and fair processes.
- The current assessment processes for disability benefits could simplified relying on evidence from a range of key stakeholders.
- Minimise stress and anxiety, particularly inthose relation to reassessments.
The Scottish Government set up the innovative Social Security Experience Panels in 2016. The Experience Panels are made up of over 2,400 people across Scotland who have recent experience of claiming at least one of the benefits devolved to Scotland. Those people are instrumental in shaping the policy and design of Disability Assistance in Scotland, providing input to our research, providing views and opinions, which will inform our processes from end to end. Some areas the Experience Panels have advised on to date include:
- Personal Independence Payment Discovery
- Best Start Grant
- Design of the Social Security Charter
- Agency Opening Hours
- Young Carers Grant
- Disability Assistance: Automatic Entitlement & Award Duration
- Branding and Wording
- Universal Credit Scottish Choices
- Website Use
- Complaints, Redeterminations and Appeals
All reports can be found on the Scottish Government website at https://www.gov.scot/publications/social-security-experience-panels-index-of-publications/.
The independent Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group, chaired by the Joseph Roundtree Foundation's Associate Director for Scotland Dr Jim McCormick, was established to advise Scottish Ministers on specific policy options for Disability Assistance and Carers Benefits due to be delivered in Scotland.
To date the group has advised on:
- automatic entitlement of Disability Assistance
- duration of Disability Awards
- the evidence base for policy decisions
- suitably qualified assessors, Case Managers and relevant training
Details of the group membership and the work carried out by the group to date can be found on the Scottish Government website at https://www.gov.scot/groups/disability-carers-benefits-expert-advisory-group/
Section 31 of the Social Security Act (Scotland) 2018 will enable the Scottish Government to provide for non-means tested Disability Assistance, equivalent to that currently provided for through Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance. This document sets out the Scottish Government's proposed policy approach to our new benefits in these areas.
The Scotland Act 2016 devolves power over a number of non-work related disability benefits to the Scottish Government, as well as other benefits to support people on low incomes.
Following the Scotland Act 2016, the Social Security Act (Scotland) 2018 creates the legal framework under which social security assistance will be given to people by the Scottish Government, including Disability Assistance. The Act allows for Disability Assistance to be provided to an individual on account of their disability (which can be physical or mental). It also provides for Disability Assistance to be paid to people who are terminally ill.
Eligibility for Disability Assistance depends on the disability having a significant adverse effect on the person's daily activities, and not a short-term effect. There are different rules for people who are defined as terminally ill. Chapter 3 of the schedule to the Act provides four special rules that apply in those circumstances. In terminal illness cases a diagnosis by a registered medical practitioner, having regard to guidance that is produced by the Chief Medical Officer, will be sufficient evidence that a person qualifies for assistance.
The Scottish Government has committed to delivering Disability Assistance safely and securely, ensuring that people's payments are protected during this transition period as we commence delivering Disability Assistance. We must ensure that people continue to receive payments with minimal disruption and we must ensure we are implementing a challenging but realistic timetable. With this in mind, we are making a number of significant changes to both policy and to the administrative aspects of the delivery of Disability Assistance, to ensure that the Scottish social security system better meets the needs of the people of Scotland.