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Action for M.E. respond to Scottish Government consultation

November 01, 2016

Informed by the experiences of people with M.E., Action for M.E. has responded to a consultation on social security in Scotland, outlining how welfare benefits provision can be improved for people with M.E.

The consultation aims to garner input on how Scotland should implement the upcoming devolution of Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance.

The devolution of benefits provides an opportunity to influence the Scottish welfare system early on in its design. The Scottish government has made its commitment to the benefit system clear. In its 2016 paper A New Future for Social Security in Scotland, Alex Neil MSP, then Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights, outlined the government’s intention to focus on “dignity, fairness and respect, and challenge the stigma that unfairly surrounds social security.”

Action for M.E. provided evidence on how current benefit design impacts on those with M.E. and proposed ways of improving the benefits system for people in Scotland.

We highlighted that the fluctuating nature of M.E. is not sufficiently taken into account when welfare benefits decisions are made. This can happen because assessors don’t fully understand the symptoms of M.E. or because the assessment process is not appropriately designed to capture the nature of fluctuating conditions.

We stress that health professionals must have sufficient knowledge of a person’s illness to enable them to appropriately assess it, and recommend redesigning assessments so that people with less commonly understood conditions have an opportunity to highlight how they are affected.

We also highlight the importance of:

  • greater choice in using digital technology in communications
  • a clear delineation of responsibility for collecting medical evidence
  • consideration of how the cumulative effect of completing a number of activities affects a person’s functional ability

The responses to this consultation are feeding into the development and drafting of legislation, with the government planning to bring Scotland’s first social security bill to the Scottish Parliament in 2017.