SCOTLAND’S Social Justice Secretary has written a letter to the UK Government raising “deeply concerning” changes to how people are assessed as being able to work.

Changes to work capability assessments were announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt earlier this week.

New rules will mean that people could receive less support based on a change of criteria as opposed to a change in their health, Shirley-Anne Somerville has suggested.

Writing to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Secretary Mel Stride (below), she highlighted how the Scottish Government has taken a different approach with its social security system.

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She said: “I remain deeply concerned about the changes to the activities and descriptors for ‘getting about’ for limited capability for work, and the mobilising and substantial risk criteria for limited capability for work-related activity.

“The changes you are proposing, including the extension of the sanctions regime, will have very significant additional impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our communities who need our support most.”

The letter continued: “In Scotland, we have taken a different approach to devolved employability support – our services remain voluntary, and we want the support we provide to be seen as an opportunity, not a threat, with fairness, dignity and respect at its heart.

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“In delivering our first devolved employability service, Fair Start Scotland, Scottish Government officials had a close working relationship with Job Centre Plus to ensure we were collectively working to provide support for the people of Scotland.”

Addressing the Commons on Wednesday, Hunt pledged to increase Universal Credit by 6.7%, in line with September’s inflation figures.

However, as expected, he set out a tougher stance on benefits as he looked to move more people into work.

“If after 18 months of intensive support jobseekers have not found a job, we will roll out a programme requiring them to take part in a mandatory work placement to increase their skills and improve their employability,” he said.

“And if they choose not to engage with the work search process for six months, we will close their case and stop their benefits.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “We are determined to provide a welfare system that supports people into work, while providing a vital safety net for those who need it most.

“That is why we are changing the Work Capability Assessment, shifting the focus to what people can do rather than what they can’t, while keeping protections in place for those with the most significant health conditions.

“We are also offering existing health claimants a ‘Chance to Work Guarantee’, allowing people to try work without fear of losing their benefits, alongside our Back to Work Plan which will support up to 1.1 million people with long-term health conditions, disabilities or long-term unemployment to look for and stay in work.”