Exclusive:SNP ministers told to apologise as hundreds of disabled Scots dying amid wait for adult disability payments

Scottish ministers are being told to apologise to the families of those that have died

More than 200 disabled people in Scotland have died while waiting for their application for adult disability payments to be processed.

Scottish ministers are now being told they must apologise to the families of those who died, and are being accused of letting down disabled people. Adult disability payments were brought in to replace other benefits such as personal independence payments and disability living allowances.

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The Scottish Government took over responsibility for these benefits from the UK government back in 2022. Since then, 225 people have died while waiting for their application to be processed. This includes 41 in 2022, 162 in 2023, and 22 so far this year.

Jeremy Balfour MSP, the Scottish Conservatives’ social security and disability spokesman and convener of Holyrood’s cross-party group on disability, said the Government needed to apologise for these “heart-breaking” delays.

He said: “These cases are heart-breaking and shocking in equal measure and my thoughts are with those who have lost a loved one. It is tragic that over 200 Scots died while waiting on crucial social security payments.

“SNP ministers have often boasted that their welfare system would do things better, but too many people are still being horrendously let down. They should apologise to the families of those who never received these payments, and urgently outline what measures will be put in place to ensure everyone receives payments as quickly as possible.”

More than 350,000 Scots were automatically transferred to the new adult disability payment when the Scottish Government took over responsibility. However, this process is expected to take until the end of 2025.

Prior to 2022, 32,510 people died while waiting for a decision on their personal independence payment application between April 2013 and January 2022. However, this figure is for the whole of the UK rather than just Scotland. A Scottish breakdown of these figures was not available.

During this time, 6,440,520 claims were submitted in total. Adult disability payments are for those between the ages of 16 and state pension age (66) who are disabled, have a long-term health condition, or a terminal illness.

Welfare rights groups have previously criticised the SNP Government for being too slow to process these payments. Last year, it was revealed Scots were waiting twice as long as those in England to receive these payments, and at the time the Scottish Government said this was because they were using a new system.

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A spokeswoman for Social Security Scotland said the agency’s thoughts were with the families of those who died, but stressed there was a dedicated application route for people who were terminally ill, which typically takes three days. The UK government’s fast-track service for terminally-ill claimants was also three days.

A Social Security Scotland spokeswoman said: “We urge anyone who is terminally ill to use this route to ensure their application is given utmost priority. When someone who is terminally ill applies through the normal process, their application is moved to the accelerated route as soon as this is identified.

“Many factors impact the time it takes to make the right decision, including making it faster and easier for professionals like doctors and social workers to send us information in support of an application.” The overall average time for an application to be processed is 59 days, which Social Security Scotland says is down 40 per cent on April 2023.

Analysis: Is the SNP government to blame for these deaths?

When the Scottish Government took over responsibility for these payments, ministers promised they would put “dignity, fairness and respect” at the heart of the decision-making process.

But this doesn’t seem to be the case with so many disabled people having to wait unacceptably long periods to get these applications processed - especially as some are tragically dying before getting this vital payment. 

But this is not news to Scottish ministers. Significant delays have been highlighted to them several times before.

Disability campaigners also previously criticised former first minister Humza Yousaf for scrapping the dedicated social security minister role, despite the Government preparing to take over responsibility for further benefits

Newly-elected First Minister John Swinney will need to urgently address this if his Government is to keep pedalling that it is “fairer” than the UK Department of Work and Pensions when it comes to disability payments - and having a new Cabinet is no excuse, as he kept on Shirley-Anne Somerville as social justice secretary.



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