Scottish disability benefit branded a ‘missed opportunity’ just months before its launch

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A new disability benefit has been described as a “missed opportunity” by the first permanent wheelchair user to become an MSP.

The Scottish Adult Disability Payment – due to launch this summer – will replace the controversial Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which was run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Holyrood’s social security committee unanimously backed the change but only after two MSPs voiced serious concerns they do not go far enough.

Labour’s Pam Duncan-Glancy, a permanent wheelchair user, said the new benefit was a “missed opportunity” because it fails to immediately scrap the controversial 20-meter rule.

DWP rules mean claimants who can walk one step over 20 meters in a single attempt do not qualify for the higher rate of mobility support.

Scottish Government proposals do not change this requirement but minister Ben Macpherson told the committee this could be changed after a review is undertaken.

Duncan-Glancy said: “So many disabled people are in poverty.

“Thousands have spent blood, sweat and tears to get the support they need to live their life, only to be told that they don’t qualify for that, or that support has been cut.

“The regulations here today could have changed that – we could have consigned to history degrading and arbitrary measures like the 20-meter or 50% rules.

“We could have developed indicators that reflect the real experience of disabled people and the support they need.

“And we could have been voting on rates of payment that reflect the real cost of living for disabled people.

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“But, we are not and I cannot mask my disappointment.

“None of the regulations in front of us change who is eligible or for how much… they replicate PIP rules.”

The Glasgow MSP went on to say the proposals “miss the opportunity we have to redeem the rules on something that could properly have addressed disabled people’s poverty”.

Labor voted for the new regulations but Duncan-Glancy described them as “underwhelming”.

She added: “I would like the record to show that we are voting for the regulations because disabled people have waited long enough, and so we must proceed.”

Duncan-Glancy’s views were mirrored by Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour.

“Interestingly, both members on this committee who are actually on PIP and who have disabilities are voting for (the regulations) with a heavy heart,” he said.

Perhaps that says a lot about who we are today.

“The disability community are accepting this because there is nothing else on offer.

“We are not addressing fundamental issues such as mobility, we are not addressing people who have variable conditions such as MS or epilepsy who are still not going to get an award – they may be told no in a nicer way, but they are still going to be told no.

“This is a lost opportunity for this Parliament and this country.”

In a letter to the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee in September, the Scottish Government said the new payment will mirror PIP during the transition phase, due to the “risk of DWP deciding that Adult Disability Payment is not a comparable benefit to PIP and withdrawing automatic entitlement to reserved payments from Scottish clients”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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