Scottish Government promises disabled people 'sea change' in accessing benefits

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The Scottish Government has promised disabled people there will be a "sea change" in how they apply for and receive benefit payments.

Instead of the "dreaded brown envelope" from the UK Department for Work and Pensions, Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville pledged a new system would be put in place when disability benefits are devolved.

Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP. Picture: JPIMedia

Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP. Picture: JPIMedia

A consultation found individuals and organisations were "broadly positive about the proposals" from the Scottish Government, although there were concerns from some that the changes being put forward by Holyrood ministers do not go far enough.

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Disabled people will be able to get face-to-face support before applying for benefits under the new system, with applications able to be made in a number of ways including over the phone or in person.

Ministers are promising clear eligibility criteria, a simplified application form and a greater role for carers in providing evidence of a person's disability.

People will also have more choice over where and when assessments are carried out, with these able to take place in someone's home, if required.

The Scottish Government vowed these assessments will not be carried out by "profit-making companies".

Ms Somerville said: "I have heard from far too many ill and disabled people who currently know only of stigma, stress and anxiety when it comes to accessing welfare support and fear the 'dreaded brown envelope' from the Department for Work and Pensions.

"That is why I want a sea change in accessing disability payments.

"A new system designed from the ground up - together with users themselves - that puts people first."

Ms Somerville added: "We are supporting people to access the financial support they are entitled to and actively seeking to move away from the stigma of benefits to recognise they are an investment in our people.

"That means a process that is clear and accessible from start to finish and ensures people understand how and when their application will be dealt with."

She said this was "part of our promise to the people of Scotland that our social security system is a public service and will treat everybody with fairness, dignity and respect".