Disabled people should have the same chances, level of comfort and independence as others wherever possible and the SNP Government is actively working to build a Scotland where this is the case.
Recently published figures show over half of new claims in Scotland for UK disability payments are refused, with tens of thousands of disabled people completely losing their benefits.
The Scotland Act 2016 devolved new powers to the Scottish Parliament in relation to social security, including responsibility for benefits for disabled people and we are determined to do things better. Both the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 and Social Security Scotland Charter recognise social security as a human right for all of the people of Scotland as and when it is needed.
The SNP Government will replace the UK Government’s Child Disability Living Allowance this summer and Scottish Ministers will make it as easy as possible for those applying when it opens to new claimants. Applications for the new Child Disability Payment will be available online, face-to-face and by telephone, for the first time ever.
Other improvements include: local delivery staff across Scotland providing pre-application support; rolling awards with a maximum review period of ten years where an applicant’s condition is unlikely to change and the option of financial short-term assistance if a person challenges a decision to reduce or stop their disability payment.
Later this year, the SNP Government will also extend the winter heating allowance. Child Winter Heating Assistance will provide an annual payment of £200 to those in receipt of the highest-rate care component of the current Disability Living Allowance (DLA) benefit and high rate care component awards under Child Disability Payment. This will improve the health and wellbeing of the most severely disabled children and their families and help reduce fuel poverty.
DLA clients can often go through a lengthy, complex process to obtain their award. Draft regulations setting out the detailed rules for the Child Disability Payment are currently being scrutinised by the Scottish Commission on Social Security, which works independently of both Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament. The SNP Government will lay the regulations before Parliament this spring, with a view to opening applications in the summer.
The SNP Government is also keen to support more disabled people into work. It published A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan setting out how it will halve the disability employment gap by 2038. The plan focuses on working with employers, helping disabled people into sustained work and supporting young people.
Measures to achieve this include investing £1 million this year in a new Public Social Partnership to address the barriers that employers face in recruiting and retaining disabled people; a campaign to promote the positive case for employing a diverse workforce; £500,000 to help disabled people undertake work experience; ensuring disabled people have access to information and guidance about their statutory employment rights and how they can take action if those are denied; improving approaches to supported employment; and evaluating the employment support for those who suffer mental ill-health.
If we want to build a fair and inclusive society, we have to make it as easy as possible for people to get into work and ensure we have a meaningful and easily accessible safety net for those who cannot work for one reason or another. We must also ensure that disabled children are afforded all the care and attention they need to thrive.
This year will see a considerable improvement with delivery of the Child Disability Payment and Child Winter Heating Assistance, benefiting hundreds of families here in North Ayrshire and thousands across Scotland.