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GSD to lobby for change to disability benefit system

The GSD has vowed to lobby for changes to the current system of benefits and sheltered employment for people with disabilities, insisting that little has been done in this area over the last decade.

The party acknowledged that much has been done for disabled people in other areas but explained that the way in which the disability benefit is awarded and operates is a “constant theme” that features in GSD political surgeries.

GSD MP Daniel Feetham said: “The current system on benefits and sheltered employment needs to be improved significantly to ensure that people with disabilities can enjoy equal opportunities and best possible quality of life.”

He added that the party will be raising these issues in Parliament to lobby for effective changes.

“The benefit is awarded at the discretion of the Director for Social Security who is advised by an assessment panel as to whether an applicant’s disability “severely and adversely affects” their daily life.”

“Our experience from listening and helping people who are disabled, is that the test is being interpreted and applied too narrowly.”

“The party also questions whether that test is compatible with the definition of disability in the Disability Act 2017 which defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities”.

“Our view is that if you come within the definition of disabled because your disability “has a substantial and long-term adverse effect [on your] ability to carry out day-to-day activities” you should not have to demonstrate your disability “severely” affects your daily life.”

“It is a higher and unnecessary threshold,” Mr Feetham said.

According to the GSD the application process and criteria for disability benefit needs to be examined with a view to improving the system.

“We need to ensure it is brought into line with the Disability Act 2017 and applied properly,” Mr Feetham said.

There party has also advocated for greater transparency and clarity in how the benefit is awarded and administered, so that people understand why decisions are taken and why the benefit is awarded in some cases but not others.

In 2012 the Government took the decision to reduce levels of disability benefit awarded when a disabled person is employed and earning a wage, the GSD said.

“One constituent who has been in an employment sheltered scheme for the last nine years earning the minimum wage had his disability benefit substantially reduced as a consequence.”

“That is not the position in the UK where Personal Independence Payments are not means tested and they are paid whether someone is working fulltime, part-time or not at all.”

“They are designed to help with the extra costs of disability or long-term health conditions for people aged 16 and over.”

“As in the UK people with disabilities in Gibraltar face higher costs of living and disparity in wages and opportunities, they should not be penalised further by the reduction of their benefits.”

The party further reiterated that more sheltered employment opportunities should be provided to disabled people.

“In this regard it will be recalled that the Government stopped providing further sheltered employment opportunities prior to the last election with the promise that they would reintroduce the scheme should they be elected. The GSD hopes this promise will be fulfilled soon.”

“Too many people with disabilities continue to face an uphill struggle in finding and getting employment in Gibraltar.”