Disability benefit cuts hit hundreds
Region’s residents lose £1 million in payments
Stewartry residents are being“robbed” of hundreds of thousands of pounds following cuts to disability benefits.
More than 400 people across the region have been turned down for benefits following the switch from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments.
The figures were revealed following a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Work and Pensions by investigative journalism website the Ferret.
Dumfries and Galloway Citizens Advice Service, which has a branch in Castle Douglas, say they have a very high success rate when it comes to disability benefits.
Operations manager Christine Sinclair said: “The benefits are backdated if the appeal is successful. There are different steps people have to go through and that can be quite stressful.
“Some people maybe don’t go through the appeal processes and don’t come to us to get help. The important message to get out is that help is out there.
“The people we are seeing are more vulnerable people and people with medal health illnesses. It would appear the medical assessment does not take into account medical health problems and it is more physical health problems.”
The figures estimate that the annual loss to disabled people across Scotland is £56.4 million. Some 440 people have been turned down across Dumfries and Galloway, costing them more than £1 million.
SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said: “It is absolutely devastating that Tory welfare cuts have taken almost £1 million from those who need it most in Dumfries and Galloway.
“This really hits home at how disastrous these cuts have been for people across Dumfries and Galloway – robbing our society and vulnerable people of the money they were entitled to until the Tories decided that they no longer were.”
Labour MSP Colin Smyth added: “This is a nasty and vicious attack by the Tory Government on disabled people in Dumfries and Galloway and shows that it is the most vulnerable who are paying the price of austerity. Those MPs voting for this should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.”
A spokesman for Conservative Dumfries and Galloway MP Alister Jack said that all benefit applications were assessed based on individual circumstances.
However, he added: “Alister and his team are always ready to hear from people who feel their case has not been treated in a fair way.”
Conservative Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson said: “I have been contacted by many people seeking assistance on cases surrounding the transition from DLA to PIP.
“I have ensured that each individual case has been dealt with in the correct and most appropriate manner by the agencies, to enable a smooth transition.
“I believe the UK Government has taken the necessary reforms to make the welfare system fit for purpose, but we must continue to ensure those most in need are supported every step of the way.”
A spokesman for the DWP said: “PIP is a fairer, more modern benefit than its predecessor, focusing support on those who most need it.
“The UK Government spends more on disability benefits than ever before, including £5.4bn more on PIP, DLA and Attendance Allowance than in 2010.
“We are committed to ensuring that disabled people get the support they’re entitled to.
“Decisions for PIP are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant and their GP, or medical specialist, and anyone who is unhappy with their decision can appeal.
“Scotland has significant welfare powers, including key disability benefits. The Scotland Act 2016 gave the Scottish Government the powers to top-up existing benefits, to pay discretionary payments and to create entirely new benefits altogether.”
The figures can be seen in full at https://theferret.scot/
Here to help Christine Sinclair of the Dumfries and Galloway Citizens Advice Service