Publication - Research and analysis

Welfare reform: impact report on benefits for disabled people

This report examines new evidence on the effect of UK Government welfare reforms on benefits for disabled people in Scotland.

Welfare reform: impact report on benefits for disabled people
6. Scottish Government policy to support disabled people

6. Scottish Government policy to support disabled people

6.1 A person-centred approach to designing disability assistance

The Scottish Government will commence Disability Assistance from 2020 including:

  • Disability Assistance for Children and Young People – the devolved replacement for Disability Living Allowance for Children – from Summer 2020;
  • Disability Assistance for Working-Age People – the devolved replacement for Personal Independence Payments – from early 2021; and
  • Disability Assistance for Older People – the replacement for Attendance Allowance – in 2021.

Each form of assistance has been designed in a person-centred way, consulting people with lived experience and experts in the social security system to ensure that Disability Assistance is delivered in a way that meets the needs of the people it is intended to support. A full public consultation on proposals was undertaken earlier this year, closing on 28 May and with a wide range of stakeholders and individuals responding. This included 189 individuals and 74 organisations[62].

The majority of respondents were broadly positive about the proposals set out in the consultation document. The Scottish Government has considered carefully the feedback provided by respondents, as set out in the Scottish Government response report, published on 28 October 2019. A number of amendments to proposals have been made in light of feedback including, for instance, the extension of the proposed number of days to request a redetermination from 31 to 42 calendar days. This change ensures that clients have a sufficient window to receive welfare rights advice, or other support, before considering whether to challenge their award.

6.1.1 Terminal illness

The Scottish Government included provision in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018[63] to introduce a new definition of terminal illness that differs from the current UK Government definition. It removes the arbitrary timescale currently used by the DWP where the definition sets out that a client must be ‘likely to die within 6 months’. Instead the judgement as to whether a person should be considered terminally ill for the purposes of determining eligibility for Disability Assistance will be made by clinicians, based on guidance prepared by the Chief Medical Officer. This decision has received support from a wide range of individuals and stakeholder organisations.

6.1.2 Supporting information and assessments

Existing sources of information will be used by Case Managers to make a decision regarding an individual’s claim for Disability Assistance, where possible. This change will reduce the administrative burden on clients to source and provide supporting information. Case Managers will seek one source of supporting information from a formal source, where available, such as confirmation of a diagnosis or letter from a support worker. This supporting information need only be sufficient to determine, on the balance of probabilities, that the individual’s condition is consistent with the general care and mobility needs detailed on their application.

The Scottish Government has committed to significantly reducing the number of people required to attend a face-to-face assessment as part of the decision making process. Individuals will only be invited to attend an assessment where it is the only practicable way to gather additional information to allow Social Security Scotland to make an entitlement decision.

Where an assessment is deemed necessary, it will be at a time and place accessible to the individual who is to be assessed, including the option for assessments to take place in the individual’s home when required. These assessments will be delivered by Social Security Scotland, ensuring that no one will have to be assessed by someone employed by a private company, as is the case with the current DWP system.

The assessors will be “suitably qualified” health and social care professionals with experience of working within a relevant role. This will include a proportion of assessors who will be trained specifically in the impact of mental health conditions and learning disabilities, to ensure individuals with such conditions are assessed by someone qualified to do so.

6.1.3 Award duration and reviews

The Scottish Government is aware that the formal award durations for current disability benefits cause anxiety and, to address this, awards for Disability Assistance in Scotland will have no set end date. Instead, individuals will be set a review date as part of the initial determination for Disability Assistance and awards will not be stopped while the review process is being undertaken. The time between reviews will be dependent on how likely an individual’s condition is to change and, for clients with a condition that is unlikely to change, reviews will be between 5 and 10 years apart. Light-touch reviews will be carried out to minimise the stress that clients experience as a result of having an ongoing award reviewed.

6.1.4 Short-Term Assistance

To ensure that clients who do not agree with a determination are supported to challenge decisions relating to Disability Assistance, if as a result of a determination made regarding an ongoing claim, a client’s award is reduced or stopped and they are challenging this decision, they can apply for Short-Term Assistance (STA). This is a non-recoverable payment made by the Scottish Government which will “top up” an individual’s benefit to match the value previously set before the determination. The intention is to ensure an individual is not discouraged from challenging that decision or from accessing administrative justice, by having to manage, for a period, with a reduced income.

6.2 Mitigation of the Bedroom Tax

Introduced by the UK Government in 2013, the Spare Room Subsidy (more commonly known as the Bedroom Tax) is intended to reduce benefit payments to occupants of social housing which contains more bedrooms than is deemed necessary in the size criteria used by the DWP[64]. In Scotland, Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are funded by the Scottish Government to mitigate the effects of the policy.

Across Scotland, at least 68% of people who would otherwise be affected by the Housing Benefit bedroom tax are disabled[65]. Around 39,000 households with disabled people would be affected, losing an average of around £685 per year, which is in total equivalent to around £26.7 million per year[66]. The Scottish Government has allocated £52.3 million of DHP funding to Local Authorities in 2019/20 to mitigate the impact of the bedroom tax.

6.3 A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan

As noted in the introduction, in 2018 the Scottish employment rate for disabled people was 45.6%, compared to the 81.1% employment rate of people who were not disabled. This difference in employment rates between disabled people and the rest of the working age population is referred to as the ‘disability employment gap’.

In December 2018, the Scottish Government published ‘A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan’, which sets out the key actions Scottish Government will take to at least halve the disability employment gap by 2038[67]. These actions sit across three key themes that were identified through engagement with stakeholders during the development of the plan:

  • Supporting Employers to Recruit and Retain Disabled People
  • Supporting Disabled People to Enter Employment
  • Young People and Transitions

Some of the actions within the plan that are currently being delivered include:

  • The Scottish Government has set a target for external recruitment that, over the next 7 years until 2025, on average 25% of successful candidates will be disabled people. At the same time it will continue to drive towards the existing target for the proportion of disabled people entering the Senior Civil Service, currently set at 13% by 2025. The Scottish Government recruitment and retention plan was published in August 2019, and outlines the actions it will take as an employer in order to achieve these targets[68].
  • A new Public Social Partnership has been initiated, and up to £1 million is being invested in a partnership of employers, government and disabled people’s organisations to develop, test and implement solutions to barriers that employers face in hiring and retaining disabled people. A lead partner has recently been identified and next steps are underway to develop the partnership and its work programme further.
  • Up to £6 million of additional resource from the Child Poverty Delivery Fund has been invested and is targeted towards areas with the highest levels of child poverty and the lowest levels of employment of disabled people. This investment will allow policy makers to better understand and test solutions to the barriers disabled parents face to entering and sustaining employment.
  • Through the implementation of the Equalities Action Plan for Modern Apprenticeships (MA) in Scotland, the Scottish Government provides young disabled people with the highest level of MA funding, and helps to remove the barriers that have previously prevented young disabled people entering Modern Apprenticeships.