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How Frances Ryan Felt When She Passed PIP Assessment

July 19, 2019

Can you be lucky if you get something you deserve? I felt lucky last week as I read the letter informing me I’d been awarded personal independence payments (Pip). Like a couple of million other disabled people, for years I’d received Pip’s predecessor, disability living allowance, without any problems in order to pay for the extra costs of my disability – but it was recently reassessed in the name of “welfare reform”.

It’s the oddest of things, “welfare reform”. You sit there, opposite a stranger, asked to detail the sort of intimacies you’d be reluctant to share with a lifelong friend. “Are there parts of your body you can’t reach to wash? Which ones?” “How do you put your bra on?” You wonder why exactly such lines of questioning are necessary, or how the tens of pages you filled out for hours beforehand weren’t enough, and then explain, as politely as you can, the extra painkillers it took in order to get dressed for this assessment this morning.

The assessor tries – because she is polite and you are lucky she is kind – complimenting you on your nice home, even though you both know you’d like her to leave it as soon as possible. You also know that you are “lucky” that you were granted permission to be assessed at home; you could just as easily have been forced to travel miles, exhausted, or sent in your wheelchair to a centre with steps and no ramp. You consider how exactly the employee of a private company is in a better place to judge your health needs than your own consultant who has provided evidence, and whether putting foundation on was a mistake in case you look “too well”.

Throughout it all, there sits the elephant in the room: that this is all pointless. That by virtue of genetics, it is scientifically impossible that you have been cured since your last assessment. And yet you sit there, going through the motions, because non-disabled cabinet ministers told the rightwing media that people like you shouldn’t be “allowed to fester” on benefits.

Pip is, of course, just one part of sweeping disability benefit “reform” in recent years, in which “reform” has become a euphemism for savage cuts. This week research by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a coalition of more than 80 UK disability organisations, showed changes to the social security system over the past 10 years have left disabled adults four times worse off financially than those without a disability. It has long been understood that disabled people have borne the brunt of austerity, but this is the first time a comprehensive study has laid it bare.

The details of the report paint a picture of the government running a cruel game: the more health problems you have, the more you actually lose out – people with six or more disabilities are losing more than £2,100 each year on average, compared with someone with one disability, who loses £700 – while disabled children have been targeted too. Households with one disabled adult and one disabled child have had their support cut most, with average losses of more than £4,300 a year. This is a nation of distorted priorities, in which prospective prime ministers flex tax cuts for the healthy and wealthy, and the already poor and sick are pushed further into hardship.

The DBC study details the way in which many disabled and chronically ill people put through “reforms” feel “highly stressed, distrusted, and constantly challenged”. One woman with multiple sclerosis told the researchers that she had had her Pip cut and was about to lose the Motability car she needed to get to work. The anguish brought on a severe MS relapse. She’s now lost all feeling in her left leg.

I was “lucky”. Unlike some, I didn’t have to skip meals because my disability benefits had been removed. I wasn’t forced to go through a lengthy and exhausting appeal. I wasn’t, like the late Stephen Smith, forced to discharge myself from hospital in order to attend the tribunal to fight my case. But it is surely a sign of a broken system when disabled people relying on Britain’s safety net are grateful if it catches them without too much pain.

In this way, “welfare reform” reinforces the narrative drilled into members of marginalised groups – that while for many the state is a vehicle to support them in times of need, for others it offers little more than abuse and disbelief.

The DBC report offers conclusive proof of what disabled people have long known: benefit cuts are unjust, harmful, and widespread. Ministers may one day begin to care – if we are lucky.

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Do My Wheels Look Big In This?

July 18, 2019

This is a guest post by Geek ‘n’ Proud who Tweets @geeknproud42.

Do my wheels look big in this?

Why am I asking this? To clarify, I am not talking about whether your wheelchair, if you use one, has a good fashion sense. However, I am going to discuss a topic which I hope you will find equally, if not more interesting, and that is the potential frustrations that many people with disabilities can face, with respect to sexual and romantic relationships. I speak from the perspective of mainly my personal experiences, and hopefully I will be able to draw some conclusions from it, which may be useful to you.

So, before we start with my story, let’s remember that, although I can tell you what worked for me, there is not one magic bullet that will ensure that everyone who has a disability will have a happy and fulfilled personal life. Please also remember, that you may have a different perspective on the situations that I will describe, but it is important to know that no one has walked in another person’s shoes and hence we should all respect each other’s stories.

As I was writing this, I realised that my experiences had some recurring themes. I started off as a young teenager, thinking I was really into quiet geeky guys. As you will see, I have gone the long way round the houses to find I am still into quiet geeky guys, but other people too. But no spoilers. I have also noticed that I have had to consider paths that I might not have thought about, if I wasn’t negotiating this situation with a disability. I also think, that one of the main things I have learnt about this subject, is that it is all down to attitudes. I think this is particular to the combination of relationships and disability, compared to disability and other areas of life. It is certainly true that, if all entrances to a building have steps, then the building is not accessible to someone using a wheelchair, irrespective of the attitudes of the people inside and outside of the building. I also think that I can point to a lot of examples of different minority groups welcoming each other, but again no spoilers.

Let’s go back to the beginning, well almost. Back to my teenage years, at least. As a teenager, I felt very worried that my disability would interfere with romantic and sexual relationships. When I met up with friends, I seemed obsessed with asking them “do you think I’ll ever find someone? How do you think I should make that happen?”. Around me, I saw my friends pairing up, and unpairing, and I wanted to be in on the action, but I didn’t see how to make that occur. You have to realize that, until I was 18, I didn’t have full time personal assistants, and my parents helped me out. Now, my parents are absolutely awesome, and they gave me every opportunity possible to live life to the full. But, as we all know, the combination of parents and puberty is a difficult one at the best of times. It’s a kind of a dampener when you turn up to a date with your mum in tow. I feel like every other aspect of my disability was extremely well supported, but the issues surrounding sexuality were something I had to figure out for myself. I would say this is probably unavoidable. After all, who really wants to talk to their parents about how they are going to get up to no good? This situation was also partly my choice. I was, and still am, extremely passionate about science (particularly physics) and it was always my overarching ambition to study physics at university, and go into research. At one point, I had a choice of whether we employed a scribe at weekends, to write down my homework for me, or a personal assistant to help me get out and about. I chose the scribe without question, because I really wanted to get into the best university I could, and I knew I had to study extremely hard. I am not at all saying that I wasn’t also swayed by the fact that my scribe was a teenage boy who I had a bit of a soft spot for. But also, in a way, I used my success in my studies to substitute for my perceived lack of success in relationships. I almost saw doing well at school as an act of rebellion against all the people who assumed I couldn’t do things. I was a bit of a weird kid.

However, my best friend at the time was absolutely convinced that I was some flavour of queer. As it turns out, she did have a point, but I was a bit slow on the uptake in that respect. Being a physics student, I was surrounded by teenage boys and, hence there was always plenty of choice as, like I have already said, I thought geeky guys rocked! If one was in any way friendly towards me I would develop a crush on him in very short order, particularly if he was talking to me about my main passion – physics. This happened frequently, and often in front of my parents, so they came up with the mantra “Geeknproud is boy crazy!” to tease me. Of course, I was such a goody goody two shoes, that if my parents said it, then it must be right. This was despite the fact that at night I thought about naked women, because that’s what all straight teenage girls do, right?

This state of comfortable illusion lasted into my early 20s, by which time I was studying for my undergraduate degree in physics. Then, it happened! I committed the big no-no, that was to develop a serious crush on my personal assistant. You might say that I was trying to copy Stephen Hawking, who married his nurse, but it was simply that we really connected with each other, and I wanted to spend as much time as I could being physically close to her. Moreover, she was the first person who I knew well, who identified as a lesbian, and I was extremely curious about her life experiences.   More on her story later, no spoilers, but in case you’re wondering, I didn’t end up dating her. However, obviously I knew I was in a bit of a dodgy situation. I even used to believe that I couldn’t fancy women, because how could I ever have female personal assistants. I naively thought it was some kind of weird boundary that I couldn’t cross. Fortunately, she just laughed it off, and said it was just another example of me getting confused about people who I am very good friends with, which I used to do all the time when I was younger. I actually spent a whole year figuring out if it was just her or women in general. At the start of the next academic year, I finally resolved to bite the bullet, and joined the LGBT group at university, where I was surrounded by lots of other very pretty lesbians.  I had an amazing time; it was the social life I was looking for: a group of people to go to bars, clubs, museums, restaurants, cinemas with. I made a lot of strong friendships, but unfortunately no other gossip.

I graduated from my degree at Imperial College London in 2014, and started my PhD in Cambridge the same year. In the following year, my PhD research took me to CERN in Switzerland to conduct experiments there. It was really exciting to be working abroad, but, at the same time, I was very lonely. I was spending the majority of my time with people who I had only recently met, so one thing that really surprised me was how much I craved any kind of physical contact. It wasn’t appropriate to hug any of the people I interacted with while I was there, and apart from my parents and one friend visiting occasionally at weekends, there was no one I knew socially there.  Like during my undergraduate years, the LGBT group was the best part of my experience. I got on well with the people and we went to a lot of cool events together. I went over from the UK with a group of about 40 other PhD students who were on the same kind of course, and there was a tendency in that group to go around as a pack and not talk to anyone not from the UK, which I didn’t like. The LGBT group was much smaller and its members were a bit older and much more international, so I found their company more interesting. Due to the loneliness I felt there, on my return I was determined to make my social life more exciting.

When I returned to Cambridge, I started online dating with a vengeance. I had had an OKCupid account for years, but really it was so mild that I only ever got platonic pen pals from it. I’m not saying that it will work for everyone to make their dating profile cheeky, but it seemed to do the job for me. And to be clear by cheeky I don’t mean along the lines of some profiles that only have naked pictures, I just wrote it with a lot more confidence to say what I was looking for. I also found that the internet gave me a lot more freedom, because suddenly I didn’t have to worry about whether someone understood my speech. Of course you have to decide how and when you tell people about your disability and I decided to write about my wheelchair on my profile in a jokey and light-hearted way. Then, as I got talking to someone, at some point I told them more details, partly to protect myself from an unpleasant meeting in public. Again, I found much more acceptance in the LGBT community – it just seemed like an unfortunate trend that the vast majority of unpleasant messages came from heterosexual men. This was on top of never really feeling like sexual attention from men in real life was genuine, and not predatory, combined with my experience of being put in the ‘friend zone’ by nice boys as a teenager. So, I all but ruled out heterosexual men.

In case you’re wondering, the internet dating was successful. I found someone and we had a very happy few months together. She also introduced me to polyamory, so all in all, that first relationship was a very big learning experience in many ways. Even after we went our separate ways, polyamory was an idea that I continued to explore for the next few years, as well as other aspects of the world of dating and relationships. It is only relatively recently, with my current partner, that I have decided that polyamory is not for me, at least in this period of my life.

I will try to pull some sense for you, out of the few years I took, to figure out what kind of relationship I wanted. There were certainly a lot of very fun times, but also more setbacks, rejections and disappointments than I care to mention. But through the bad times I remembered how frustrated I had been as a teenager and how much I had wanted to experience what it was like to have romantic relationships. Certainly, when I was a teenager, I never thought I would have those notorious casual relationships, whatever that means. For me it meant, to give you an example, I got in touch with a fellow PhD student who lived in Brighton. Every few months I would go and visit them, or they would come to me, and then we would spend some of the time cuddled up indoors talking about black holes, sci-fi books and death metal, while other times we would go to Pride events or science debates. In the intervening weeks, we might only chat online a couple of times, but when we were together the connection was just as strong. I think that I always wanted to experience moments like that to prove that I could before I focused my attention on one person. I also found that in some ways my disability might have opened doors for me. At Pride people were always very happy to see I was going out and about despite needing to use a wheelchair. I was also always welcome into trans and non-binary spaces even though I only occasionally identified as non-binary. It’s also true that a lot of my partners in that period identified as trans, I don’t know why this happened in this way, but perhaps we recognised a shared experience in each other. I can’t say for sure.

So that is, more or less, my story. However, to tie up a few loose ends, after my personal assistant stopped working with me, we continued to be close friends. A few years later, she confided in me that she had always had a preference for men, but just happened to only have relationships with women. It took a slight readjustment to think of my initial reference point to LGBT+ culture as being mostly heterosexual. However, in a cool and unexpected turn of events, I ended up introducing her to one of my male friends and they dated for a while. Also, it turns out I did manage to find at least one lovely heterosexual male, and I am happily seeing him now.

Now, let me try to draw out what I think I have learned from the experiences I’ve had. I think the main point is that in the area of sexuality, relationships, and disability, a lot of the potential barriers can be broken down into the attitudes of the people involved and of society as a whole. For example, I experienced a very welcoming attitude from people in more LGBT+ friendly spaces, and a more threatening attitude from people in mainstream spaces. I also found that the validity of me going into trans and non-binary spaces was never questioned, even though, most of the time, I present in quite a feminine way. I wondered if this could have originated from people recognising that I’m also in a minority because I use a wheelchair, and whether someone who presented in a very masculine way, for example, would be questioned more. I have not tested this, so I can’t be sure. Once again, I want to stress that I am not trying to say that all LGBT+ people are accepting to everyone, and all non-LGBT people are not welcoming, because that would be a gross and unfounded generalisation. However, I am just talking about my repeated experiences. It also made a big difference when my attitudes changed. When I put a lot more confidence into online dating, and was convinced I would find someone, I did, whereas when I previously thought it was a long shot, I only got lovely platonic pen-pals. Of course, boiling everything down to attitudes can’t be applied to most issues regarding disability. But this only addresses the interplay between someone’s disability and their relationships – which is fundamentally about the connection between two people, hence attitudes.

I want to just break down some of the frankly ridiculous attitudes that often prevail around people with disabilities, and sex and relationships. Some of the most worrying ones that I have heard are:

  • People with disabilities can’t have sex
  • People with disabilities don’t want sex
  • People with disabilities aren’t sexy
  • People with disabilities can’t or shouldn’t have children
  • Patronising attitudes towards people with disabilities dating
  • People with disabilities only have kinky sex

Let me go through them and talk about where they could come from and why they are just wrong. First up, we might often hear people saying that folk who have disabilities can’t have sex. This is just an inaccurate, gross generalisation. The majority of people who have disabilities can have sex just fine. It may happen in a slightly different way to how it is portrayed in film, or other media, but as we all know, that is fake. It is true that some people with disabilities find it extremely difficult to have sex because they might have issues like pain, decreased mobility, or issues to do with mental health that could get in the way of feeling sexy. However, these people are the minority.

Then we have the myth that people with disabilities don’t want sex. This one originates from the way society often portrays people with disabilities as needing to be cared for, which could make them think of people with disabilities in the same way they think about children. Out of this could originate an idea that people with disabilities aren’t able to make their own choices because they have someone doing it for them, so how can they consent to sex? This is also myth because, at least the way I see it, and most people I’ve met, the role of the assistant is to act as an enabler. Moreover, just because someone has a disability, does nothing to change the fact that they have the same wants, needs, desires and fantasies as everyone else.

Next up, we have the damaging attitude that people with disabilities aren’t sexy. This is purely a product of the bad attitudes of society, about using a wheelchair or having a movement disorder – it’s not seen as sexy. But clearly one needs to look past the disability to the person, whether you are looking at their personality, or their body, or both – it depends what one is trying to get out of the relationship.

Then we have the idea that people with disabilities can’t or shouldn’t have children. This is plainly nonsense because most disabilities aren’t inherited, and also most people with disabilities can have children in the same way that everyone else does. There are some people who could have difficulties, but again, they are a minority.

What’s next, ah yes, patronising attitudes to people with disabilities dating. This is a product of some of the attitudes we’ve already talked about, that people with disabilities aren’t desirable, so if someone chooses to date someone who has a disability, they are doing them some kind of weird favour. I can’t stress enough how wrong this is. But it is all too easy for someone with a disability to pick up this attitude, and have it really damage their confidence.

The last one is particularly weird, and ties into the patronising attitude one: ‘people with disabilities only have kinky sex’. In other words, if you’re considering having sex with someone who has a disability, you are some kind of sexual deviant. Of course, sex with a person with a disability is nothing to do with the person or their body, what planet are these people on??!

Jokes aside, these attitudes can be seriously damaging to the self-confidence of people who have disabilities, however much we tell ourselves they are nonsense. To make matters worse, certainly speaking from experience here, but I know it is also true of many other people, we have to often spend a lot of time thinking about our bodies in the context of disability. For example, at one point when I was a kid, I had to travel to physiotherapy three times a week, decreasing to once a week during my adolescence. But still, when you include the preparation and the travelling to and from the appointment, you still have a significant part of the day where you focus on all the things your body can’t easily do, even if it is in the context of trying to make things better. It can be hard to switch from that, to thinking that you are absolutely gorgeous, and could pull anyone.

So what is the upshot of all of this? Well, certainly I think it is unfortunately fair to say that most people who have disabilities, at some point lack confidence in the world of dating and relationships. On top of this, the situation isn’t helped at all by the lack of representation of people with disabilities dating, in the media, or even people with disabilities doing anything. This not only does not provide people with positive reinforcement, that the character in the film got a partner, therefore I can, but it also does nothing to relieve the bad and unfounded attitudes that people with disabilities aren’t date-able. It can also be very difficult and embarrassing to know where to turn. As a teenager, I felt bad about chewing my friends’ ears off about how I was going to accomplish the seemingly impossible. And I don’t think I was alone.

But, what I’m trying to say is, this problem is easily fixable. All we have to do is keep challenging these bad attitudes, wherever they come from, and always remember how sexy we all are!

@GeeknProud42

Teens With Downs Voted Prom King And Queen

July 18, 2019

A teenage couple with Down’s syndrome have been crowned king and queen of their school prom, following a vote by fellow pupils.

Dylan Hughes and Amelie Barker, both 16, were “really chuffed” to hear the news at Monmouth Comprehensive’s end-of year dance in Ross-on-Wye on Sunday.

Their parents say they met when they were three years old and have plans to get married in the future.

“She was really, really pleased – she was beaming,” Amelie’s mum said.

Despite knowing each other most of their lives, their romantic relationship only started about six months ago.

“As teenagers do, they start looking at each other with different eyes and added interest,” explained Amelie’s mum, Katharina.

“It has very much been driven by the two of them – they told us they were boyfriend and girlfriend and that they want to get married eventually. It’s all been planned out.”

Dylan has represented Great Britain at the Down’s syndrome Swimming World Championships in Canada, and is preparing to compete in the European Championships in Sardinia.

He is “sports mad” and either wants to be a PE teacher or play rugby for Wales, his mum Victoria said.

Amelie will be starting a course in childcare at Gwent College in Newport in September.

“She very much likes to work with children – she has a real knack for it,” Katharina added.

Katharina and Victoria met while Dylan and Amelie were very young and set up 21 Plus, a charity which supports families with children with Down’s syndrome, about 10 years ago.

Dylan and Amelie may not see as much of each other after they finish school, but both families have committed to helping them see as much of each other as possible.

Work Improves Mental Health Scribbles Boris Johnson

July 17, 2019

Same Difference pastes this only to stop our readers having to register for the Telegraph.

It is one of the most fascinating and consoling features of the life of Sir Winston Churchill that, for all his giant strengths of courage and resilience, he was also prone to bouts of depression. He called it his “Black Dog”. And there was only one means by which he really succeeded in chasing that Black Dog away. It certainly wasn’t alcohol. It was the same therapy that lifts the spirits of hundreds of millions if not billions of people around the world – and that cure is work.

In Churchill’s case that meant the almost superhuman production of books, speeches and articles. He wrote more words than Dickens and Shakespeare combined – and that is before we have even considered his epic memoranda, or the industriousness of his oil painting.

It was with work that he pitchforked off his depression; and what was true for Churchill is basically true for all of us: that to a very large extent we derive our self-esteem from what we do. It is often from our jobs – from being engrossed in our daily tasks – that we get that all-important sense of satisfaction.

Yes, it is work that sometimes stresses us out, and work that causes anxiety; but it is also work that can absorb us and take us out of ourselves until the clouds have gone.

If work is the cause, it is also part of the cure. So if anyone faces prolonged stress or depression, or mental illness of any kind, it will in general be far better if they can get the treatment they need without necessarily being forced to leave their job, and thereby giving up not only their livelihood but also that vital psychological support.

This country is making huge progress in tackling and demystifying the problems of mental health. Taboos are being lifted. Discussions are being held with a frankness that would not have been possible 20 or 30 years ago.

We have far greater understanding and confidence about what can be done. We know that people can be helped, that therapies exist, and that they are effective, that seemingly invincible darkness can be dispelled and that people’s lives can be turned around. We grasp the crucial importance of sport, and physical exercise.

If you want some good news – and you know I believe in the good news – the rate of male suicide is now down to 15 per 100,000, the lowest since records began in 1981. Female suicides are down to about five per 100,000. Better mental health care is saving lives; but every suicide is still a tragedy. No statistic is any consolation to the bereaved, and we have far more to do.

It is only now, as we gain in maturity and understanding of the issue, that we can see the full economic and social cost of the psychological burdens carried by the workforce – where one adult in six will suffer from some kind of mental ill health in the next week. Of all the working days lost to ill health in this country, 57 per cent are due to stress, depression or anxiety.

According to a recent study conducted by the John Lewis Partnership, mental-health problems and other stress-related conditions are combining to reduce national productivity by £84 billion per year. When people are obliged through stress to leave their jobs, the burden falls on our hard-pressed mental health services; to say nothing of the cost in welfare payments, and the destabilising effect that unemployment has on families.

And as soon as someone leaves their job, and forsakes that self-defining sense of purpose, they are at risk of entering a downward spiral of depression.

Then there are the many employees who stay in their jobs, but who are prevented by stress from performing to the best of their abilities – the so-called “presenteeism” phenomenon.

We only heard about this ‘column’ when we came across this Tweet online:

Thank you Poorna Bell for phrasing the thoughts of so many so well!

Disabled Claimants Benefits Cut By £1,200 A Year, Disabled Households By £4,300

July 17, 2019

With many thanks to Benefits And Work.

Disabled claimants have had their benefits cut by an average of £1,200 a year because of a series of changes introduced since 2008, a report by the Disability Benefits Consortium released today claims. Households with a disabled adult and a disabled child have lost an average of £4,300.

The report, ‘Has welfare become unfair – the impact of changes on disabled people’ argues that whilst most claimants have lost out on £300 a year in benefits, the effects on disabled claimants has been much more dramatic.

According to the researchers:

“The more disabilities you have the more you lose out, for example someone who has six or more disabilities loses over £2,100 each year on average, whereas someone with one disability loses around £700 each year.”

“Households with one disabled adult and one disabled child lose out the most, with average losses of over £4,300 per year.”

The cuts have come about because of a whole raft of changes introduced over the last decade, including:

  • Move from incapacity benefit to employment and support allowance
  • Time-limiting of contributory ESA
  • Abolition of work-related activity group for new ESA claims
  • Move from disability living allowance to personal independence payment
  • Benefit freeze
  • Rollout of universal credit

The report estimates that the cuts to benefits will amount to £38 billlion by 2022-23.

Although households with at least one disabled person make up less than a third of the population they will have suffered almost two thirds of the cuts.

The reports authors argue that:

“These changes have had a devastating impact on disabled people. Financial security for the majority of disabled people has all but vanished. Disabled people have been left living in poverty and isolation as a result.”

“This has created an environment that is difficult and unforgiving for disabled people. Those with the

greatest needs, who are most vulnerable and with the fewest financial and social resources, are left to navigate a complex, stressful process. It’s a process that ultimately leaves them with their health worse and with less financial support.”

The report calls for a long list of changes to the current system, including:

  • Ending the benefit freeze
  • Restoring ESA/UC work-related activity component
  • Introducing a disability element to Universal Credit to replace the disability premiums that have been cut from the system.
  • Removing the benefit cap for everyone who receives a disability-related benefit

You can download a copy of the report, ‘Has welfare become unfair – the impact of changes on disabled people’ from this page

Rose Brown- The Woman Who Chose Her Own Voice

July 16, 2019

When Rose Brown was aged 12, she was hit by a drink driver and left unable to walk or talk.

Now aged 21, she has been given the opportunity to create a bespoke digital voice to transform her ability to communicate.

Reporter Claire Jones has been to meet her.

Disabled Scottish Claimants To Get Free Advocacy Support

July 16, 2019

With many thanks to Benefits And Work.

The Scottish government has begun consulting on how best to provide free advocacy support for disabled claimants beginning in the summer of 2020.

In yet another sign that claimants in Scotland are to be treated with a degree of dignity and respect that is almost entirely absent south of the border, the consultation will look at how to ensure that disabled claimants receive the highest standards of service when applying for Social Security Scotland benefits.

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“Our social security service provides dignity, fairness and respect. Advocacy support for those applying for Scottish benefits is an integral part of delivering those principles.

“To protect disabled applicants’ rights and ensure everyone is fully involved in the decisions that affect them, advocacy support will be provided where necessary.

“To make sure this support is of the same high quality across Scotland, the consultation launched today is asking for people’s views on draft service standards. The responses will ensure services meet the needs of people.

“I believe this is important additional help we can give that’s not currently available in the Department for Work and Pensions administered system.”