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13 March 2015, 06:00
It's claimed more than half of Scots who claim disability benefit will lose money in the latest shake-up to the benefits system.
Citizens Advice Scotland says its evidence also shows many are experiencing great hardship and distress due to delays in the assessment process.
The CAS claims Government estimates have already shown that 55% of existing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimants in Scotland will receive less money as a result of the change to Personal Independence Payment (PIP). It says new evidence shows that many claimants are finding the change extremely problematic, with delays and uncertainty leaving them without income for long periods and making their health conditions worse.
It's calling for the whole programmed of change to be halted in Scotland ahead of the devolution of disability benefits to Holyrood in 2018.
CAS Policy Manager Keith Dryburgh said: "This CAB evidence shows that too many people are experiencing problems in claiming PIP, including significant delays in receiving any money. This is causing considerable distress for many sick and disabled people in Scotland, often leaving them facing severe hardship and unable to meet basic living costs.
"The figures are quite startling. The Scottish CAB service saw a 78 per cent increase in the number of new PIP issues between July and September 2014, when compared with the same period in 2013. Over half of our advisers believe the delays are leaving clients in severe hardship and unable to pay for living essentials.
"Nine out of ten advisers say the delays are causing additional stress and anxiety for clients, and nearly four in five advisers say clients' health is getting worse as a result.
"In making this change, the government stated its aim of reducing expenditure on disability benefits by 20%. It’s true that some people are receiving more money under PIP, but most receive less, and a significant number are losing their benefit altogether.
"And these are crucial benefits for many sick and disabled people. They aim to help people cope with the extra costs of being sick or having a disability, such as additional heating, additional travel costs, special diets or specialist equipment.
"We would support efforts to help people live independently, but the evidence so far suggests that the PIP is doing the opposite, and causing problems for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities."
Following the Smith Commission's recommendations, CAS is urging today that the migration from DLA to PIP should be halted in Scotland. Keith Dryburgh added: "We now know that powers over disability benefits are going to be devolved to Scotland in 2018, and it is highly likely that the system will then be changed again.
"It seems to us both uncaring and unnecessary to put thousands of vulnerable people through the distress and uncertainty of two benefit upheavals in just a few years. Resources would be better used on fixing the problems with the current system for new claims before continuing with the migration of existing DLA claimants in Scotland to PIP."