THOUSANDS of sick and disabled Scots are being hit by another new benefit reform which is leaving many for months without money to pay for basics like food, fuel and housing – according to a new report by Citizens Advice Scotland.
The organisation said the new Personal Independence Payment, which replaced the Disabled Living Allowance over the past year as the main benefit that helps disabled people meet the costs of their basic daily living, is dogged by huge delays, which can leave the claimants in poverty for months, and many claimants are reporting that the assessment process is problematic and prone to mistakes.
“The basic cost of living is generally higher for sick and disabled people than for the average citizen,” said Susan McPhee, head of policy for CAS. “This is because of the additional costs of special food, medicines or equipment they might need, extra heating and lighting costs for those who need to stay at home longer, or transport costs for those who are less mobile. These extra costs are not luxuries. They are essential to leading a basic life of dignity, and any civilised society should make it a priority to see that people who need this help get it without fuss.”
The report found that many clients are having to travel long distances to their test centre, while others are experiencing huge delays between their claim and receiving payment. The average waiting time is six months, but some have reported delays of 13, 14 or 15 months.
“While some claimants are reporting that the system has worked well for them, we are still finding too many delays, and too many inaccurate assessments,” added Ms McPhee. “It is deeply worrying that so many problems have already emerged with the new system at such an early stage. What is especially disappointing is that some of these are problems that were previously experienced with ESA. It appears that, despite some improvements, too many of those lessons have not been learned.”