Holyrood minister in Eskbank visit

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil at VOCAL centre in Midlothian - l-r - Alister Ballantyne, Alex Neil, Iain Walker
Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil at VOCAL centre in Midlothian - l-r - Alister Ballantyne, Alex Neil, Iain Walker

A Scottish Government minister was in Eskbank last week to announce support for 
vulnerable people applying for disability benefits.

The Scottish Government will fund projects in Dundee, Falkirk, Glasgow and Midlothian to support people who need to be assessed for Personal Independence Payment and Employment and Support Allowance benefits.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil announced the £192,000 funding on a visit to VOCAL, the charity responsible for delivering the Midlothian project. VOCAL provides one-to-one advocacy during the assessment processes for disabled people living in the Lothians and their carers.

He said: “The process of 
applying and being assessed for benefits can be stressful for anyone, but for people with disabilities it can be a traumatic experience which can worsen their condition.

“This £192,000 funding boost for new advocacy projects will remove some of the anxiety of applying for benefits and will make sure people with disabilities receive the support they are entitled to. This is part of our £104 million investment mitigating against the effects of the UK Government’s austerity agenda.

“We believe people should be treated with respect and dignity during the whole process of applying for benefits. This pilot will ensure people are supported through their assessments, giving them confidence to speak about their situation in what can be an overwhelming situation.

“When Scotland gets its new powers over disability and carers benefits we will work to introduce fair, simple and responsive policies which do not stigmatise people who claim benefits, but treat them with dignity and respect.”

Ian Welsh, Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland, said: “The significant changes to the social security system over the last five years have received substantial criticism from many of our members, including disabled people.

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to supporting people through the process, whilst reducing the impact on their health and wellbeing.”