WE have known for some time that UK Government cuts to our social security system hit hardest those who have the greatest need for support. But a new report out this week laid out in shocking detail just how much disabled people have lost – both in monetary and personal terms – as a result of relentless attacks on our welfare state.

The Disability Benefits Consortium’s report, titled Has Welfare Become Unfair?, shows the impact on disabled people of a wide range of welfare reforms since 2010 and the findings from 50 interviews with disabled people, conducted by researchers from the University of Glasgow.

On average, disabled people have lost benefit payments of around £1200 each year: a staggering four times the reduction faced by non-disabled people.

But these figures mask the impact on people with multiple disabilities and on the poorest disabled people. Disabled people in the poorest fifth of the population are projected to lose almost 8% of their income between 2010 and 2022. Someone with six or more functional disabilities will see their income reduced by over £2100 each year on average, with the loss to household with one disabled adult and one disabled child as much as £4300.

And, crucially, these are average figures which don’t tell us about the true scale of the cuts in the worst-hit households. Scottish Government analysis shows that losing access to PIP – a reality for tens of thousands of Scots – can alone result in losses of more than £7000 in the most extreme cases.

The loss of income can be devastating, with jobs lost because of the withdrawal of Mobility vehicles, for example, but the interviews in the research show that it is also the process of applying for support that can have an equally negative impact. Hours spent on the phone to the DWP trying to get issues with payments sorted – with one respondent saying that their six-year-old daughter remarked that every time she came home from school, mum was on the phone crying – and appeals processes so long and draining that many people simply give-up.

The report makes a large number of vital recommendations, some of which we have already begun to act on in Scotland. Scots appealing decisions regarding the forthcoming Scottish Disability Assistance will, as recommended, get an entirely new assessment of their claim.

And the innumerable problems stemming from inaccurate and stressful face-to-face assessments will reduce in Scotland as we move towards a system in which these assessments are only conducted if there is no other way of collecting the necessary evidence.

This hugely important change has been campaigned for by disabled people’s groups for years and was legislated for as a result of my amendments to the Social Security Act last year.

With Scotland taking on responsibility for some disability payments, the Scottish Government should give serious consideration to the recommendation to introduce regular, independent surveys of the actual costs of living with a disability to ensure that the level of payments under the Government’s Scottish replacement for PIP better reflect the actual cost of living with a disability.

Current proposals are to adopt the same rates as for PIP now, but this report reminds us that the extra costs of disability can be almost £600 a month.

Most fundamentally, we need to rethink how we bring to bear on policy-making the expertise of people likely to be impacted by changes to social security.

The UK Government has been able to inflict cuts on disabled people that are 400% larger than for non-disabled people, knowing, in many cases, full-well the likely impact. That is a fundamental failure of democratic policy-making process.

For almost any change to social security, you can find swathes of evidence of the impact presented to the UK Government ahead of implementation. Evidence that is often ignored.

As far back as 2012, for example, the Commons DWP Select Committee reported that Universal Credit would “impact heavily on severely disabled claimants, in apparent contradiction of the Government’s stated aim of protecting the most vulnerable” – confirmed by the consortium’s report this week.

Again, the Scottish Government’s approach is largely very encouraging. The legislation establishing the new Scottish social security system did change significantly as a result of working with other parties and the Social Security Experience panels – 2000 people with lived experience of the UK system – will be invaluable in building a better one in Scotland.

But there is still more to be done to ensure the social security system is more responsive to the needs of the people it serves.

The forthcoming Young Carer Grant for young carers of disabled people – based in part on a Scottish Green manifesto pledge – is unlikely to reach all young carers of the eligible age, despite evidence to this effect being presented to the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government’s response to its recent consultation on Disability Assistance will be very telling as to how far it is willing to go in acting on what disabled people are saying needs to change.

Setting up a new social security system that challenges the injustices and abuses of the current one will probably be the biggest task ever faced by a Scottish Government.

But, as this week’s report shows, it is a challenge to which Scotland must rise.