I sympathise profoundly with anyone affected by cancer and I appreciate that charities such as CLIC Sargent offer invaluable support to young cancer patients and their families during an incredibly difficult time.
I know CLIC Sargent’s report, ‘Cancer Costs’, identified the additional emotional stress caused by financial pressures as a significant problem for young cancer patients. I am also aware that 73% of young people surveyed by CLIC found the PIP application form stressful.
I am concerned that the current PIP assessment process is not fit for purpose. Instead of supporting people, the process is often dehumanising, inaccurate and worsens existing health conditions. Furthermore, it is concerning that the process is lengthy and stressful. At the 2017 general election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged to scrap Work Capability and PIP assessments and replace them with a personalised, holistic assessment process.
As you may be aware, PIP is being devolved in Scotland. The Social Security (Scotland) Bill was recently passed by the Scottish Parliament. This Bill includes powers to create new benefits for early years. It will also confer powers on the Scottish Government to set out the rules for eligibility and entitlement – and to vary rates of assistance.
While I welcome this important legislation, it is disappointing that the new Scottish social security system is not due to be fully operational in Scotland until 2021 and that the UK Government will retain responsibility for certain benefits until then. I am concerned that this decision by the Scottish Government will result in 130,000 Scots being assessed under the current cruel system.
I believe the new powers that Scotland has over social security should have been used much sooner to make different, fairer choices to those of the UK Government.
Nevertheless, I note the Scottish Government has committed to shape a distinctly Scottish benefits system with dignity and respect at its core. I will certainly hold it to account on this and press for a functioning social security system which invests in the people of Scotland.
I hope that both the UK and Scottish Governments will listen carefully and respond to the concerns that have been raised by children, young people, parents and CLIC Sargent.