Social Security Blog October 2018

3rd October 2018

Disability Assistance Assessments

The development of the new Scottish Social Security System is gathering pace. The first payments of the new Carer’s Allowance Supplement have been paid, representing the first new benefit to be derived by the Scottish system. Importantly there has also been progress in the development of Disability Assistance, which will replace Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and disability living Allowance (DLA) in Scotland over the coming years.

SAMH has been campaigning for the new Disability Assistance to be based on dignity and respect, recognising the particular challenges for people with mental health problems. This is important as 37.9% [1] of people currently in receipt of PIP in Scotland do so because of their mental health, higher than any other group. The biggest problem with PIP that people told us is the face to face medical assessment. These don’t work for people with mental health problems, causing additional trauma and distress for people being assessed.[2] This is why we welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement about a number of changes on how assessments will be carried out in the Scottish system.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament last week the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People Shirley-Anne Somerville made a number of statements about the delivery of assessments, aimed at giving people more choice and control over the process:

  • People will have a choice over the time and location of assessments
  • People who struggle to travel will have the right to a home assessment
  • All face to face assessments will be audio recorded. With recordings accessible to the person being assessed and the assessor, so accuracy of assessment can be insured
  • Appeal tribunals will be able to use the audio recording of assessments to insure accuracy and trust when coming to a decision

SAMH have long highlighted the distrust people with mental health problems feel about PIP face to face assessments.[3], [4] Recording assessments will hopefully give people the assurance that assessments are accurately used when coming to a decision about eligibility for the benefit. Even more welcome is the commitment to a right to a home assessment and choice over time and location of assessments. People using and working in SAMH services have told us about the distress of having to travel, often long distances, to unfamiliar test centres:

“it’s like they’re trying to get your anxiety levels sky high before you even get there” (SAMH Service user discussing travelling to a PIP assessment)

 “Assessors do not appear to understand how hard it is for a service user to travel to an out of town appointment. The support that is required from my staff to get service users to feel ok about travelling can take weeks” (SAMH Service Manager).[5]

These changes will make a real difference, as will the commitment from the government to reduce the number of face to face assessments.

While we welcome these announcements as a good first step in embedding dignity and respect into the new Scottish System SAMH is committed to continuing to campaign to ensure the new system is supportive of people with mental health problems at all stages from application to award of benefit.

[1] Stat-Xplore [accessed December 2017]

[2] SAMH Personal independence Payment – What’s the Problem?

[3] SAMH Personal independence Payment – What’s the Problem?

[4] SAMH Fit For Purpose?

[5] SAMH Personal independence Payment – What’s the Problem?