Disability Assessment Services

Part of Leaving the Eu: Fishing – in Westminster Hall at 4:58 pm on 13th March 2019.

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Photo of Patricia Gibson Patricia Gibson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Consumer Affairs) 4:58 pm, 13th March 2019

Thank you, Sir Christopher. I will be as brief as possible.

Support for those living with a disability is a mark of a civilised society but, as we have heard, the process that too many seeking support have to go through is often found to be daunting. That is certainly the case in my constituency. The rate of successful mandatory reconsiderations and appeals demonstrates that the process is fundamentally flawed. Evidence-based reviews conducted on behalf of the DWP have identified a pervasive culture of mistrust around PIP and ESA processes. That is simply not good enough.

There is no place in a welfare system for private companies, because that immediately introduces the profit motive. Looking after and supporting our sick and disabled should not be influenced by how much profit a private contractor can make. The Scottish Government will therefore remove the use of private companies for assessments.

We all have cases of constituents who have had an unfavourable decision made about them because information on them has been inaccurately recorded. Unbelievably, for example, someone with a heart condition has been assessed by a mental health professional, or vice versa. How does that promote faith in the assessment system? We need an overhaul of the system, a true recognition of the fact that life costs more for someone who lives with a disability. That is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of fact. For that reason, in Scotland the bedroom tax has been fully mitigated by the SNP Scottish Government, because we know that people who live with a disability are disproportionately affected by the tax.

The PIP evidence-gathering process should be streamlined—that is the way forward. The stress and bureaucracy that claimants are put through, which I see every day in my constituency, are unacceptable. They cause real harm to people who are already struggling every day with serious and debilitating conditions. The system must take more account of the often very vulnerable people with whom it deals, and be redesigned accordingly. Otherwise, when our constituents need support, they will continue to face cruel and unnecessary barriers. Scotland is building a social security system that is fair to all. I urge the Minister to look critically at the system in place and do what she can to improve it for the people who use it.