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Scottish social security benefit

Angela Duncan, solicitor at Castlemilk Law and Money Advice Centre, sets out new benefits already in place in Scotland, or arriving shortly

Social Security Scotland is now responsible for the administration of devolved Social Security benefits for people in Scotland. This currently covers 10 benefits and will extend to include Employment Injury Assistance (replacing Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit), Severe Disablement Allowance and the replacement of other existing disability benefits.

Social Security Scotland is introducing Disability Payments for children, adults and people of pension age (eventually replacing Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments and Attendance Allowance).  The delivery of Scottish disability benefits will take the form of a staged transfer of people from existing benefits to the new Scottish disability payments from 2021 to 2025 starting with applications for the Child Disability Payment in 2021.

The administration of the main ‘income replacement’ type of benefits which make up the vast majority of benefits payments  - Universal Credit, Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Income Support, State Pension and Pension Credit and Carers Allowance - will remain reserved and administered by the UK Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

The existing devolved benefits are briefly described below and further information about eligibility, application and payment rates can be found on the Social Security Scotland website here.

Scottish Child Payment (coming in February 2021 - Applications open from November 2020)

Scottish Child Payment helps towards the costs of supporting your family. It's a weekly payment of £10 that you can get for every child you look after who's under 6 years of age. You'll get the payment every 4 weeks if your application is successful. You must be getting, or have applied for, an income-related benefit to be eligible.

Carer’s Allowance Supplement (from 3 September 2018)

Extra payment for people in Scotland getting Carer’s Allowance

 

Young Carer Grant (from 21 October 2019)

A payment for carers aged 16, 17, or 18 who care for someone normally paid a qualifying disability benefit. The payment of over £300 can be applied for once a year. The payment is in acknowledgement of the young person’s carer role and is intended to help access life opportunities that are the norm for many other young people. Young carers can spend this money as they choose.

 

Job Start Grant (launched in August 2020)

You can apply for Job Start Payment if you're a young person who's been out of work and are on certain benefits. You must have been offered a job on or after17 August 2020 to be eligible. You also need to meet the other requirements. You can get a one-off payment of £250, or the higher rate of £400 if you're the main carer of any children.

 

Other benefits include:

The Best Start Grant: Pregnancy and Baby Payment (from 10December 2018)

The Best Start Grant: Early Learning Payment (from 29April 2019)

The Best Start Grant: School Age Payment (from 3 June2019)

Best Start Foods (from 12 August 2019)

Funeral Support Payment (from 16 September 2019)

Child Winter Heating Assistance: if you have a child on DLA (paid at end of 2020)

Some of these benefits replace similar schemes previously administered by UK DWP but there are also significant changes.  For example, Universal Credit can be paid every 2 weeks instead of monthly, and the housing element can be paid direct to landlord. These choices help avoid the worst impacts of the transition to UC, which is paid monthly by default.

Importantly, Scottish Social Security takes a different approach to that of the UK by increasing entitlements for carers, young people and those on the lowest incomes by introducing new benefits such as Carer Allowance top-up and Child Payments.

The most significant transfer of control over welfare provision is in disability benefits. The language of ‘benefits’ changes e.g. from‘ allowances’ to ‘assistance’, and the provision of disability benefit aims to take a ‘person-centred’ approach treating claimants as individuals and with dignity, fairness and respect.

The application and assessment processes for disability assistance will change to reflect these aims with plans for fewer and less intrusive assessments, longer awards and no private sector involvement in the assessment process.

Children in Scotland will be eligible for Child Disability Assistance up to age 18 and before this is introduced, can currently continue to claim DLA to 18 instead of having to apply for PIP at 16 (so long as they continue to meet disability conditions)

The PIP / DLA /AA will be the same as the administration of benefits transfers to Social Security Scotland.

The Scottish Government has set out to design Social Security differently as ‘an investment in the people of Scotland’ – Section 1 Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 (the Act). This is the major piece of legislation dealing with the Scottish benefits system and sets out real points of difference to previous provisions.  New values and principles are set out in Section1 of the Act and decision makers have the power to take these into account. In doing so this legislation is ground-breaking in its purpose to set out a rights-based approach to social support, putting respect for the dignity of individuals at its heart, and recognising social security as a human right. It remains to be seen how far the delivery of benefits in Scotland will be informed by the distinctive approach set out in the Act.  The deepening economic crisis following the Covid pandemic may divert financial and other resources. There has already been a delay in the roll-out of important benefits including Disability Assistance.

Constitutional changes, Brexit, and the ongoing Independence debate will also matter to the extent that they energise or over shadow the political debate around reducing poverty and disadvantage through social support. It is important to remember the vast majority o benefit payments will still be delivered by UK DWP and people in Scotland will be claiming benefits administered by UK DWP alone or in combination with Social Security Scotland benefits for years to come. It is expected that changes will be well-publicised and take-up campaigns rolled out to maximise the positive impact of the new Scottish benefits.  

If you would like help to check what benefits you may been titled to, or with applications, please get in touch with the Law Centre or another experienced advisor.

Angela Duncan, Solicitor

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