Disability campaigners and their allies are urging the Scottish Government to act NOW to stop the horrendous benefits cuts being inflicted on disabled people. Following a demonstration at the Scottish Parliament activists from Black Triangle and Disability History Scotland presented a petition with this demand to be considered by the First Minister.
“We are hopeful that the Scottish Government will now act to mitigate Personal Independence Payment cuts in the same way that it has protected disabled people and the poorest in our society from the iniquitous and notorious Bedroom Tax, soon to be abolished in Scotland,” say Black Triangle.
Disabled people are being hit hard by the switch from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The replacement benefit PIP aims to drastically cut entitlement: in June 2010 George Osborne announced a target to cut the DLA budget by 20% through the introduction of PIP. The switch from DLA to PIP has resulted in 27% of those who have faced re-assessment suffering a complete loss of this benefit. Between 400 and 500 adapted cars, powered wheelchairs, and scooters are being taken away from disabled people every week in the UK.
Now PIP is being devolved to the Scottish government. But for disabled people nothing has yet changed.
Those on DLA are still being summonsed for re-assessment for PIP by the multinationals ATOS and CAPITA, who continue to follow orders to cut benefits.
Now campaigners in Scotland are demanding that the Scottish Government cover the loss of DLA/PIP for all whose medical status has not changed according to the clinical opinion of their own GPs and specialists, pending the creation of the Scottish system.
Activists from Black Triangle, Disability History Scotland, Disabled People Against the Cuts, Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, Radical Independence Campaign, Midlothian TUC, Midlothian Against the Cuts, RISE, ACE and North Edinburgh Fights Back were among those who signed the petition with this demand at the demo at the Scottish Parliament on 13 July. Meanwhile activists in Dundee and Glasgow were taking action at the local PIP assessment centres, as part of the UK-wide Day of Action against unfair PIP assessments.
DEMAND TO SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT
The Petition makes the following call:
“We, the undersigned, call upon The Scottish Government to re-instate the benefits of Scottish-based Disability Living Allowance (DLA) recipients who have lost all, or part, of their disability benefits entitlement owing to having been re-assessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) under existing powers soon to be devolved under the Scotland Act, that are currently reserved to the U.K. Government and administered by the DWP.
We note that, in spite of demands made on our behalf by our First Minister and Scottish Government ministers that a moratorium on assessments be implemented by London, the DWP is continuing at full-speed with its reassessments programme in Scotland and that this is having a catastrophic impact upon our community, therefore we request that pending the establishment and satisfactory functioning of the Scottish Social Security Agency to administer Social Security entitlements for sick and/or disabled Scots (not to begin until circa 2019/2020 according to Scottish Civil Service estimates), that our Scottish Government takes immediate measures to mitigate this patently unjust loss of support for our group which may include some of the most vulnerable people in our society. This must occur where those with chronic illnesses, physical and/or mental impairments people affected can demonstrate by medical evidence provided by their GPs and/or specialists that there has been no positive improvement in their impairment or health condition since they were originally assessed for DLA.”
Bill Scott of Inclusion Scotland, speaking to CommonSpace, echoed the call for urgent action:
“On the DWP’s own projections over 100,000 Scots disabled people will lose entitlement to some or all of their disability benefits when they are assessed for PIP. This will include nearly half of those currently entitled to the Higher Mobility Component. This can only further intensify disabled people’s isolation. Thousands might even be forced out of employment because they can no longer afford the transport costs.”
The eligibility-assessments for Pip in Scotland are currently carried out by private firm Atos. Bill Scott said: “The disabled people we talk to are completely opposed to private companies being involved in the assessment process. The National Audit Office found that Pip assessments are three and a half times more expensive than the system it replaced.”
Black Triangle say: “Alec Neil gave Black Triangle a solid commitment that people with long term conditions would not face reassessment under the Scottish system and recently Angela Constance MSP Cabinet Secretary for Social Security gave an undertaking that private for profit companies will not be permitted to have anything to do with the assessment of sick and or disabled people in Scotland.”
READY FOR ACTION
Outside the Scottish Parliament speakers from Disability History Scotland, Black Triangle and Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty addressed the crowd. People expressed their willingness to take further action if the Scottish Government did not act to stop disabled people being penalised.
The Tribe of Moles believes that a significant factor leading to the Scottish Government putting in the money to cover the Bedroom Tax was the realisation amongst local and national government in Scotland that the Bedroom Tax was unworkable here. Tens of thousands weren’t paying the resultant shortfall in their rent, and local anti bedroom tax groups round Scotland were pledged to act to stop any evictions resulting from these rent arrears. Counter power in action.
If necessary, we need to be prepared to take direct action to stop the catastrophic impact of the PIP cuts on the disabled community.
The Edinburgh demo against unfair PIP assessments was organised by Black Triangle, Disability History Scotland and Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, the Glasgow demo was organised by Glasgow DPAC and Black Triangle and the Dundee demo by Scottish Unemployed Workers Network.
The UK-wide Day of Action against Unfair PIP Assessments was called by Disabled People Against the Cuts, Mental Health Resistance Network and Winvisible.
It’s vital when applying for PIP or any disability benefit to have support and advice and be accompanied to any appointments or assessments. This underlines the injustice of the sentence of 150 hours community service imposed on Scottish Unemployed Workers Network advocate Tony Cox on 21 July at Dundee sheriff court.
His crime? Accompanying a claimant to a work capability assessment at Maximus in Dundee. Those demonstrating in solidarity with Tony in Dundee declared that we would not be intimidated by this clamp-down, and that the best response was to step up frontline advocacy and collectively fight back against the so-called welfare reforms, which as Tony says are really “an attempt to transform the welfare state into a form of disciplining and controlling workers, both employed and unemployed.”
More on this in next week’s Tribe of Moles!