Warning Over Benefit Change

20 January 2015, 05:00

Moving disabled Scots on to new benefits before control of the payments are transferred to Holyrood is a waste of time and money and could lead to delays and uncertainty for claimants, Scotland's advice service has warned.

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has urged the UK Government to halt the introduction of new Personal Independence Payments (PIP) to disabled claimants in Scotland.

PIP is the replacement benefit for Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and was introduced as part of wider reforms to the welfare system.

But under the Smith Commission proposals for further devolution to Holyrood, control of this benefit is due to be handed to the Scottish Government in 2017.

CAS has argued this will see Scottish claimants being switched to another system now, only to be moved again in two years' time.

CAS chief executive Margaret Lynch said: "As we know that the Scottish Government will be developing and introducing its own PIP equivalent, we don't want to see disabled claimants having to go through changes in their payments, how they are paid, and how much they are paid, twice in a short period of time.

"I think this will be of major detriment to claimants and is unnecessary and possibly very distressing. In addition it seems a waste of resources to pay for the assessments of tens of thousands of disabled people to transfer them on to a system that they will not be staying on.

"Therefore I'm calling on the UK Government to halt the migration of all existing DLA claimants to PIP and I hope this will be backed by the Scotland Office and the Scottish Government."

She added: "CAS has already detailed the massive delays that new claimants are seeing in getting a PIP assessment and then having a decision made. Whilst these delays continue, sick and disabled clients are facing severe hardship, unable to meet the costs of living, and getting into debt.

"The Department for Work and Pensions should concentrate on getting the process right for these new claimants and let current DLA claimants stay on their current award until such time as the new Scottish system is in place."

Ms Lynch has written to Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith urging them to halt the introduction of PIP in Scotland.

A DWP spokesman said: "Under the Personal Independence Payment, claimants receive a face-to-face assessment and regular reviews to ensure support is directed according to need.

"Latest figures show just that, with over 22% of people getting the highest level of support under PIP, compared to 16% under the outgoing DLA system.

"To halt this progress now would be to disadvantage disabled people across Scotland."

SNP MSP Christina McKelvie said: "Westminster's disastrous welfare reforms are causing real hardship for vulnerable people across Scotland - with record numbers of people forced to rely on food banks to put a meal on the table.

"This is exactly why full powers over welfare should be in Scotland's hands, rather than in the hands of an out of touch Westminster establishment who seem more interested in attacking vulnerable people than supporting them.

"Until the process of legislating for Scotland's new powers is agreed, it is absolutely essential that the roll-out of Iain Duncan Smith's Universal Credit should be halted in Scotland - as supported by Citizens Advice Scotland and organisations from across the third sector."