Planning for a post-COVID Scotland must include a commitment to incorporate the UN disability convention into law, and fully involve disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), according to a leading Scottish DPO.
Announcing its own manifesto for the upcoming elections to the Scottish parliament, Inclusion Scotland said disabled people wanted to “go forwards to a more inclusive future”.
Its Rights and Renewal manifesto focuses on five key areas: incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into Scottish law; social care; equal access to education and jobs; using the Scottish government’s new social security powers to reduce the number of disabled people in poverty; and involving DPOs in decision- and policy-making.
One of the disabled people who spoke to Inclusion Scotland as it was drawing up its manifesto said: “I can see clearly that, as a disabled person, I count even less and have no rights compared to before COVID-19.”
Others spoke of cuts to social care, with one saying: “I have gone from 20 hours of care to zero. I am now bedbound completely because of this.”
Another spoke of how the pandemic had impacted disabled people in Scotland, saying that “inaccessible systems and processes were put in place without consulting disabled people”.
Among the policies Inclusion Scotland wants to see introduced by the next Scottish government is a new national social care support service “that recognises that social care support is a basic right and fundamental to participative citizenship, with a set of universal criteria coproduced with disabled people”.
It also wants to see the Scottish government use its devolved powers to top-up social security payments for families with one or more disabled parents or disabled children.
Inclusion Scotland’s chief executive, Dr Sally Witcher (pictured), said: “Disabled people have told us about the problems they face daily, both before and as a result of COVID-19, and what needs to change.
“Before COVID-19, disabled people were already some of the most marginalised and excluded in society.
“We were more likely to live in poverty, be unemployed or earn less than non-disabled people, and less likely to leave school with qualifications, because of the barriers and exclusion we face in our day-to-day lives.
“The COVID-19 crisis and responses to it highlighted this, aggravating existing inequalities and generating new ones, and putting the human rights of disabled people at further risk.
“Going back to the way things were before is not the answer. We don’t want to go back. We want to go forwards to a more inclusive future.”
Meanwhile, Inclusion Scotland has responded to a Scottish government consultation on draft regulations for adult disability payment (ADP), the new Scottish benefit that will replace personal independence payment (PIP).
ADP will be introduced for working-age disabled people in Scotland from spring 2022, for new claimants, with existing PIP claims gradually transferred from the Department for Work and Pensions to the new Social Security Scotland (SSS) agency.
In its briefing on the consultation, Inclusion Scotland said it believed there were currently 10 positive aspects to the new benefit, but also six areas where it had concerns.
Among the positive changes are that claimants whose award is reduced or stopped will be able to continue to receive the previous amount until the end of any reconsideration or appeal against the decision.
Another, it says, is that the much-criticised PIP assessment will be scrapped, with most decisions made using existing supporting information, such as GP records and social work reports, and “consultations” only carried out where they are the only way to obtain the information needed to make a decision.
But among Inclusion Scotland’s concerns is the decision to keep PIP’s rule which says that a claimant must be affected by their impairment on at least half the days in a month to be awarded points for a particular descriptor.
It is also concerned that the Scottish government plans to keep the controversial 20 metres rule that was introduced through PIP.
Disabled campaigners repeatedly warned in the years after PIP was introduced in 2013 that the decision to tighten a key eligibility criterion for the enhanced mobility rate – and therefore qualify for a Motability vehicle – from being able to walk less than 50 metres under disability living allowance to 20 metres under PIP had a significant and serious impact on disabled people’s independence.
Inclusion Scotland said it was also concerned that, according to the draft regulations, anyone with at least two years’ experience of health or social care work would be “qualified” to carry out an ADP assessment for SSS.
It said this could mean that “someone with no health qualifications and who has only been employed in relatively unskilled social care work for two years could be used… to carry out assessments”.
The ADP consultation closes on 15 March.
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