SOCIAL security is a human right and none of us knows when we might need it – it is a shared investment to help build a fairer society, together. That is why we – the Scottish Government and Social Security Scotland – are committed to making sure that the process of applying for our newest benefit, Adult Disability Payment, will be a positive and compassionate experience.

Adult Disability Payment will launch for new applications in pilot areas in March and be rolled out further over this summer, with nationwide coverage beginning at the end of August. This will be a new payment for adults under pension age who do not already get disability benefits – Personal Independence Payment or Disability Living Allowance – through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Our Scottish Government Adult Disability Payment has been designed in partnership with people who will use it. Their input has been crucial in designing an improved service that will be very different to the DWP’s system.

People with lived experience of applying for disability benefits told us that DWP assessments were often “traumatising” and we don’t want anyone seeking assistance from Social Security Scotland to go through anything that makes them feel like that. That is why we’re delivering significant changes to the process people will experience when applying for Adult Disability Payment.

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Firstly, and significantly, we will always start from a position of trust and we will never use private-sector third parties. There will be no

DWP-style assessments and there won’t be any functional examinations. On occasions when people will be asked to attend a consultation, what they will experience is a compassionate conversation with a health and social care practitioner focused on their needs.

People will be told of everything that has been noted during the consultation and they will have a chance to review it and respond. The consultation will also be audio recorded and a copy of the report will be provided to the person applying.

Also different from the DWP system, Social Security Scotland will only need to collect one piece of formal supporting information when making a decision on an application, and the onus will be on Social Security Scotland to collect that on people’s behalf. Furthermore, we know how important the insights provided by family, friends, unpaid carers and anyone who may be part of an informal support network can be, so we will place equal consideration on all sources of information.

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We will also fast track applications from people with a terminal illness. Clinicians will use their judgment to determine whether a person is terminally ill, rather than being bound by fixed periods of life expectancy. At a time when every day is precious, we will make sure that people get the highest rate of payment they’re entitled to as quickly as possible.

Another key aspect of ensuring that people get everything they are due is making them feel confident and capable to challenge our decisions if they wish to. We hope to reduce the need for people to go through a re-determination or appeal process by getting the decisions right first time. However, where we don’t, there will be the opportunity to challenge and amend decisions.

The independent advocacy service we’re funding will also be available to support people with re-determinations and appeals, as well as applying.

We are also making changes to the review process. People who get disability assistance rely on this financial support. If through a planned review the amount of financial assistance changes, and they feel this is not the right decision, we don’t want to leave people worse off while we look again at their award, as currently happens in the DWP system.

That’s why we have made another new and innovative change. People challenging an Adult Disability Payment decision will be able to access Short Term Assistance. This will provide people with the same amount of money they were getting before a decision was made to lower or stop their payment. To ensure people are not put off seeking an appeal or re-determination, Short Term Assistance doesn’t need to be repaid. Planned reviews will also be light-touch and will take place less regularly than in the current DWP system.

Importantly, anyone who currently receives disability benefits through the DWP will start to have their awards seamlessly transferred to Social Security Scotland from August – without any interruptions to their payments. We will ensure this is done safely and securely so that people will still get the same amount of money, to the same account. The date of their first payment from us will be confirmed in writing before they transfer.

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We need to make sure that we don’t create a two-tiered system while we are simultaneously transferring people’s awards from the DWP and getting our new payment up and running. This is why we are largely keeping the eligibility criteria for Adult Disability Payment the same.

The changes I have outlined show that our approach will be markedly different and improved from the current process under the DWP, and we will deliver on our commitment to treat people with dignity, fairness and respect.

Lastly, getting this service up and running, and transferring awards, isn’t the limit of our aspirations for improving disability assistance in Scotland. In tandem with all of this work, we will commence a two stage independent review of Adult Disability Benefit later this year, to consider what further changes and improvements could, and should, be made in the future.

We are building an enhanced and compassionate social security system in Scotland in an ambitious, structured and responsible way, and the launch of Adult Disability Payment is an important next step. We look forward to seeing communities across Scotland benefiting from the improvements we will deliver.