The SNP’s Disabilities spokesperson has described the UK government’s Health and Disability Green Paper as “long overdue but still lacking real ambition” to support those with disabilities and long-term illnesses.

Marion Fellows MP has said the Green Paper fails to address key issues affecting disabled people in the UK social security system including benefit sanctions, the payment cap within Access to Work, and accessibility of its Kickstart scheme – all of which the SNP has long called for.

After putting disabled claimants through years of degrading assessments, the UK government should use this opportunity to follow the Scottish Government’s lead by moving away from face-to-face assessments and taking a person-centred approach.

The paper also fails to acknowledge the higher costs that disabled people have faced during the pandemic, and makes no mention exploring the widespread calls from the SNP and organisations to make the £20 Universal Credit uplift permanent and extend it to legacy benefits.

Commenting, Marion Fellows MP said:

“This paper has been long overdue but is still lacking in real ambition. 

“The Tories at Westminster have been failing those with disabilities and long-term illnesses for years. A decade of brutal Tory welfare cuts, coupled with benefit sanctions, have had a hugely damaging impact on the living standards of disabled people – and now the impact of coronavirus and lack of a proper social security net is exacerbating that.

“The Green Paper was an opportunity to right these wrongs and finally offer the welfare and employment support that disabled people deserve and is already on offer in Scotland. The Tories have refused to take it.

“Scotland cannot keep waiting for Westminster to act – we can, and must, do better than this. The people of Scotland have made it clear that they want a fairer society – not a system that is disproportionately failing people with disabilities.

“The only way we can achieve that is with the full powers of independence.”



Today in Parliament, the SNP’s Westminster Disabilities spokesperson, Marion Fellows, called on the UK Government to produce concrete proposals to close the disability employment gap.

Speaking at Women and Equalities question time, Mrs Fellows said the Tories’ manifesto commitment to reduce the disability employment gap was “another vague commitment with no target and no detail.”

Mrs Fellows has requested a meeting with UK Ministers to discuss what clear steps can be taken to close the gap, including changes to the Department for Work and Pension’s Access to Work scheme.

Access to Work offers support based on peoples’ needs, which may include a grant to help cover the costs of practical support in the workplace including special equipment and help getting to and from work.

Mrs Fellows backed calls from Inclusion Scotland to increase the budget and lift the cap on how much each applicant can be granted; and calls from Leonard Cheshire to reduce waiting times so as not to jeopardise job offers.

Figures from Leonard Cheshire show that only 14% of people with disabilities in Scotland have accessed the scheme.

Commenting, Mrs Fellows said:

“If the UK Government is serious about reducing the disability employment gap, then there must be clear and concrete proposals to do so and targets to measure performance. They cannot continue paying lip service with no action.

“Increasing the Access to Work fund, lifting the cap, lowering waiting times and raising awareness are just a few small steps which can make a big difference to peoples’ lives. We must see improved access to the scheme.

“There is no shortage of ideas which could help people with disabilities get into and stay in work. It only requires the political will which so far, the UK Government has been lacking. The Tories’ austerity regime has specifically targeted people with disabilities and has trodden them down, rather than lifting them up.

“This is in sharp contrast to the Scottish Government’s Action Plan which seeks to half the disability employment gap by 2038 and creation of a new social security system based on fairness dignity and respect.”