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Government consultation on social security is real opportunity to change system

Last week we submitted our response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on social security. For the first time the Scottish Government is going to have powers over aspects of welfare - and they wanted people's views on how the system should work.

The newly devolved benefits will include Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Carers Allowance and Attendance Allowance.

There is a real opportunity to change the disability benefits system and create something new which has dignity and respect at its core.

What we’ve told the Government

Our response to the consultation, informed by what people living with MS told us, covers a range of areas from user experience to disability benefits and support bodies. Some of the key recommendations we’ve made include:

  • Make the system more accessible by cutting out jargon and providing a range of communication and application options
  • Ensure assessors have a clearer understanding of complex conditions such as MS
  • Reduce the reliance on face to face assessments
  • Listen to the individual and create support which meets their needs
  • Signpost to advocacy and other support at an early stage to make sure people get the benefits they are entitled to
  • Re-introduce indefinite awards where possible

Why the system needs to be different

Our 2015 survey on benefits and MS showed that 91% of people with MS who have been through the assessment process for disability benefits found it stressful. We also know that one in three people with MS don’t claim the benefits they are entitled to due to stigma. We can, and must, create a better system in Scotland that really meets the needs of the individual and doesn’t cause stress.

Disability benefits play a crucial role in helping maintain an independent life and can offset the significant costs of living with a neurological condition, currently estimated at around £200 per week.

How we put together our response

In preparing our response we drew from a number of sources. We held consultation events and ran an online survey. We held an event in conjunction with the Scottish Government, attended by the Minister for Social Security, so that people with MS could let the Government know their issues and suggestions.

We shared ideas with other third sector organisations and neurological charities. Further to this, we drew on previous consultation responses to the Second Independent Review of PIP and a consultation on aids and adaptations, both of which had been informed by the views of the MS community.

What next?

The Scottish Government has pledged to introduce a Social Security Bill to Parliament before July 2017. It’s going to be a long process before the new agency is delivering disability benefits in Scotland. But we need to be putting pressure on the Government at every step on the way, to make sure it meets the needs of people with MS.

We can help to make welfare make sense in Scotland.

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