Publication - Consultation paper

Disability assistance in Scotland: consultation

Published: 5 Mar 2019

Seeks views on our proposed approach to delivery of devolved disability assistance in Scotland.

85 page PDF

622.3 kB

85 page PDF

622.3 kB

Contents
Disability assistance in Scotland: consultation
3. Safe and Secure Transition

85 page PDF

622.3 kB

3. Safe and Secure Transition

Through our ongoing consultation with people with lived experience of the current benefits system we have learned that the main concern is that Scottish Government ensure the delivery of disability benefits safely and securely. An Experience Panel survey undertaken in January 2019 about people's priorities as Social Security Scotland takes over cases from DWP showed that 57% of the 400 participants said they wanted the Scottish Government to strike a balance between transferring cases quickly, and making sure there are no mistakes. A further 29% would rather we took still more time to avoid errors.

In responding to people's concerns we will ensure the continued payments of disability benefits with minimal disruption. We are also committed to maintaining the level of the disability benefits paid to individuals, once the powers are transferred, and to uprating them annually by inflation, as set out in sections 77 and 78 of Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018.

We will deliver three forms of Disability Assistance which are based around the criterion of age entitlement for people with longer term disabilities or conditions which have an impact on their day-to-day life. We do not intend to make significant changes to the rules and structure of the benefits to ensure that people continue to receive payments with minimal disruption. Making significant changes to the way Disability Assistance is delivered would require further significant developmental work potentially resulting in a delay to the date on which we can commence delivering Disability Assistance. Making significant rule changes may also result in difficulties in transferring clients to the Scottish system, creating a risk that clients were not paid correctly or on time. Therefore our safe and secure approach will allow us to protect the entitlement to these forms of assistance for those who are currently receive them from DWP.

However, it is important that we ensure that while this structure is maintained, that we ensure people will be treated fairly, with dignity and respect. We must ensure that the process is open and transparent and that communication from Social Security Scotland is clear and in accessible format. That means making realistic changes to the current system which reflects the wants and needs of people accessing it. With this in mind, we are making a number of 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.

Some of the changes we have committed to already are outlined in the table below:

You said:

We listened:

Assessments

The private sector should not be paid to undertake assessments to assess entitlement to Disability benefits.

People are given little choice about how and when their assessment takes place. They have had to travel for hours to get to assessments, those who are too ill to leave the house have been refused home assessments

There are too many unnecessary assessments - even when it is clear that a condition or disability will not improve.

There is no clear guidance on the role of companions.

People are expected to gather their own supporting evidence, often at a cost to them. It is not clear what evidence people should provide to support their claim.

Assessors are not given enough time to consider evidence before an assessment begins.

Assessment reports are often inaccurate and do not reflect what happens at assessment.

Recordings should be available for audit purposes

The private sector will not undertake assessments. Social Security Scotland will deliver assessments to determine eligibility for Disability Assistance, fully supported by public sector health and social care professionals.

We want to ensure that people with disabilities can access a flexible, person centred assessment service across the length and breadth of the country.

People will be offered a choice of an appointment date and time that suits them, home visits will be available when they are required.

We are committed to significantly reducing face-to-face assessments. This will only happen when it is the only practicable way to gather additional information to make a decision about entitlement.

People will have the right to be accompanied to an assessment, and to have that person participate in the assessment. This right is included in the Social Security (Scotland) Act.

The Agency will be pro-active in collecting evidence and provide clear guidance on what evidence will support a claim, being open and transparent about what information is necessary.

By reducing the number of face-to-face assessments being undertaken, we will reduce time constraints on assessors, allowing them more time to fully consider the evidence provided.

As part of our commitment to trust and transparency, audio recording of assessments will be provided as standard.

The appeal tribunal will be given the recording and they may choose to use it to inform their determination.

After an assessment

A copy of the assessor's report is not sent alongside the initial decision.

People are not informed about whether/how each piece of evidence has been used

Social Security Scotland will send a copy of the assessment report alongside the decision letter.

The decision letter will explain how the decision has been reached, and what evidence has been used in doing so.

Application

The application process is not accessible.

Guidance on filling in application forms and preparing for assessments is not available in accessible formats

It is not made clear that information from previous assessments will not be re-used

Employment should not disadvantage a person's entitlement.

We will ensure that the application process for Disability Assistance is inclusive, accessible, provided in a range of formats, can be completed in a range of routes (online, phone, post) and is simple, transparent and works for those making claims to Social Security Scotland.

A review is on-going of current content and communication products, and we will ensure that all information is accessible.

We are exploring the range of health and social care evidence which could be used to support decision making. We will use information held by the Agency when undertaking a review.

Disability Assistance will not be means-tested and in line with this a person's employment status will have no influence in relation to their entitlement.

Young People 16-18

Young people are expected to transfer to PIP when they are approaching 16. This is at an age where young people may undergo a number of transitions into adult services, which can cause anxiety.

We will automatically extend awards of Disability Living Allowance and Disability Assistance for Children and Young People to age 18, to ensure that they don't have to apply for a new working age benefit at a time when they are transitioning between children and adult services in other areas of their lives.

Terminal Illness

The current definition for accessing disability benefits is too restrictive, resulting in some people not getting access to the right support, when they need it most.

We will provide a new definition of terminal illness so that medical practitioners can use their clinical judgement to decide when an individual is regarded as terminally ill and eligible for Disability Assistance under special rules. Under special rules, an individual's application will be fast-tracked, and they will be entitled to the highest level of the award component(s) to which they are entitled.

Advocacy Services

Concern that Advocacy support is not sufficient to assist people with disabilities to engage sufficiently when applying or being assessed for disability benefit eligibility.

People will have a right to independent advocacy, if owing to a disability they require the help of an advocate to engage effectively with the Scottish social security system.

We are developing 'advocacy service standards'. We are working closely with advocacy organisations to ensure that those organisations delivering advocacy services are delivering their services in line with these standards.

Accessible Communication

The current system is inaccessible for some people with a disability.

Inclusive communication will be considered in all that we do.

To ensure that this happens, the requirement in the Act has also been reflected in the Social Security Charter.

We are developing communication channels which will allow for a more inclusive, personalised and efficient process that meets the expectations of applicants.

Making significant changes to the benefit rules and structures will mean longer delivery timescales. We want to avoid delays because people have told us that they would like the Scottish Government to take responsibility for these benefits as soon as possible. When developing our approach set out in this document, it was our aim to prioritise this safe and secure approach to safeguard people's rights to assistance but to also consider new policies and processes to ensure that Disability Assistance meets the needs of the children and adults who will apply for and receive it.

For example, a consistent theme that has emerged from our engagement with users of the current system has been that there should be a transparent and easy-to-access process of application, assessment, decision-making and award for people requiring assistance. That is what we want to achieve. We want to make sure that the process from start to finish is clear, inclusive and accessible, and that people understand how and when their claim will be dealt with.

The following part of the document will set out our intended approach to the safe and secure transition of Disability Assistance in Scotland and seek your views on this approach.


Contact

Email: ross.trotter@gov.scot