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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Thousands waiting for disability benefit assessment

This news post is about 10 years old

The Scottish Parliament's welfare reform committee is seeking people with experience of Personal Independence Payment to tell MSPs their story.

Thousands of disabled people have been left waiting as long as six months to be assessed for the new form of disability benefit according to a national consortium of disability groups.

Inclusion Scotland described the situation as "completely unacceptable" as it welcomed a Scottish Parliament call for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) applicants to tell the welfare reform committee about their experiences.

We find it incomprehensible that these access issues were not addressed at the design stage

The charity said it is extremely concerned with a number of issues regarding the replacement for disability living allowance (DLA).

Those waiting for assessment, it said, are being left without any benefits to support their care or mobility needs and will remain so until the UK Department for Work and Pensions decides on their case.

Some claimants, particularly deaf or deaf-blind people, can’t even access the initial application as their only option of applying for PIP is by telephone.

“We find it incomprehensible that these access issues were not addressed at the design stage,” Dr Pauline Nolan, policy and engagement officer at Inclusion Scotland, told TFN.

“This benefit is essential in enabling people’s participation in wider society and in meeting the extra costs associated with disability. Without it disabled people will suffer isolation and financial hardship.

“Inclusion Scotland members living in remote rural areas who need a face-to-face assessment in the home have told us that they have been told they could wait indefinitely for an assessment… this practise and the growing backlog of claims is completely unacceptable.”

The Scottish Parliament’s welfare reform committee launched its call for views on PIP, which was introduced to new applicants in June 2013 and started transferring existing DLA claimants in October 2013, after the contractor running the process in much of Scotland gave evidence to the committee on its perception of how the changeover.

Committee convener Michael McMahon MSP has already said that he fears people’s responses will be negative.

“By asking those who have experienced PIP to contact us, we hope to be able to shine a light on the reality of life for many welfare claimants with a disability,” McMahon said.

“What we have seen with our evidence sessions on the bedroom tax, work capability assessments and benefit sanctions is that people claiming benefits feel victimised. I hope our evidence on PIP does not reveal such a deficit of dignity but I fear that hope could be in vain.”

Those wishing to share their experiences of PIP can do so by emailing the committee or writing to it at the Scottish Parliament.

Inclusion Scotland is also looking for people to tell it about their experiences. If you have applied for PIP, email Rosalind Greig, or call her on 0131 281 0865.