The Social Security Committee of the Scottish Parliament is reviewing the issue of take-up, with a particular focus on the introduction next year of the disability benefits they’ll be taking over from the DWP. I gave evidence to a witness session last week, alongside David Bell and Mark Shucksmith. The video is here. My written evidence is in the agenda papers; the verbal evidence is now out in the Official Report of proceedings.
I’m sceptical that much can be done about takeup. I’ve long argued that the problems of ignorance, complexity and stigma played as much of a role in relation to non-means tested benefits as they do for means-tested ones. Putting a kinder face on benefits will not go to the root of the problems. Disappointingly, the Scottish Government has opted largely to replicate the existing system, with all its muddles, anomalies and confusion.
2 thoughts on “Evidence on benefit takeup”
I have still to absorb much of the material and of course the committee continues next week. However I too am disappointed. The Scottish Government (i.e. the elected politicians and senior civil servants involved in developing the new benefits) have chosen to go down a narrow route, simultaneously claiming that the Scottish system will treat people differently (much better) whilst retaining most structural and procedural aspects of the existing UK system. At an early stage (and largely behind closed doors), “radical” options have been set aside in favour of a “conservative” approach which is a bit more than, but not much more than, a re-branding. The fiscal politics of devolution seem to be the main driving force in all decisions. Devolving 15% of the benefits system to an administration which has limited powers to raise additional revenues doesn’t make much sense. We shall see what happens in December when the draft regulations for the new child disability benefit (DLA/under 16) are to be published as this is the first significant benefit launch.
Disability and sickness benefit take-up could be increased really easily: make the process less hostile! I’ve heard about 10 people on the Scope Forum say that they just can’t face the stress and bullying of applying, and that the dishonesty so prevalent in the reporting of assessments makes them think there’s no way they’d get the benefits without fighting.