I sympathise profoundly with anyone affected by Parkinson’s disease and I pay tribute to Parkinson’s UK for the crucial work it does in funding research, providing support and information to individuals and families and campaigning on behalf of patients for improved health and social care services.
I recognise the issue you have raised about enabling people living with Parkinson’s disease to have access to proper financial support and I am concerned that the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment process is not fit for purpose. Instead of supporting people, the process is often dehumanising, inaccurate and stressful and has the potential to worsen existing health conditions.
It is very concerning that nearly 50,000 people in Scotland have already had their PIP reviewed, with more than 33,000 facing assessments.
As I am sure you will be aware, health and some aspects of social security are devolved to the Scottish Parliament. PIP has been devolved under the Scotland Act 2016 and the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 enables the transfer of these powers to the Scottish Government.
While I welcome this important legislation, it is disappointing that the new Scottish social security system is not due to be fully operational until 2021 and that the UK Government will retain responsibility for certain benefits until then. In Scotland, we now have the power to halt the worst of the UK Government’s welfare policies and I believe that the Scottish Government must spell out how it will give people the dignity and respect they deserve.
At last year’s general election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged to scrap PIP assessments and replace them with a personalised, holistic assessment process that would provide each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers. I also support the introduction of lifetime awards for those with conditions which will never improve.
In your letter, you also highlight the importance of getting Parkinson’s medication on time. I understand the issues surrounding the administration of medicines and the consequences this can have on a person with Parkinson’s. Together with colleagues in the Scottish Parliament, I will continue to fight for investment in the Scottish NHS, to give patients the modern, well-resourced services they need for the 21st century.
I will follow these issues carefully and bear in mind the points you have raised.