Roll-out of new Scottish benefits to be delayed
New Scottish benefits due to be introduced this year have been delayed due to the impact of coronavirus, Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has announced.
Due to the focus on “responding and recovering” from the COVID-19 outbreak, the Scottish Government has announced its replacement for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and the introduction of the Child Disability Payment will be delayed. The UK Government has agreed to continue to deliver disability benefits to Scottish clients over a longer transition period.
Additionally, the £10 Scottish Child Payment, due to be introduced from this autumn, will also be delayed. The Scottish Government will aim to start taking applications for this payment “by the end of 2020 with payments being made from 2021, subject to sufficient staff being in place”.
Announcing these changes in a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, Somerville said: “I have had to take the difficult decision to halt the introduction of disability benefits that were due within the coming year.
“These will continue to be delivered by the UK Government. This is the only way to ensure people continue to get the financial support they need. It provides certainty and security of payment at a time of great anxiety.
“While I cannot make guarantees around a revised timeline for the introduction of these benefits, I can guarantee that the work will not stop. And I will provide an update to timelines as soon as I am able to do so.
“Our priority is maintaining our front-line services and delivering the seven benefits we have in place to support low income families, carers and people facing a bereavement. The Scottish Government, DWP, local authorities and – importantly – our health and social care services are focused on responding to the ongoing pandemic. When we get through this, these organisations will then take time to recover.”
She said the Scottish Child Payment’s delivery would be prioritised.
“We will do everything humanly possible to deliver this payment as soon as practicably possible. This new payment will play a major part in tackling child poverty, helping those who may be facing even more hardship as a result of coronavirus, and our remaining resources will be directed at that.”
Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland chief executive Ian Welsh told Holyrood it was “desperately disappointing” that the devolution of disability entitlements would be delayed due to the pandemic.
“The creation of a new social security system in Scotland requires far greater input from disabled people, people with long term conditions, unpaid carers and those who know them best – including health and social care staff,” he said.
“They are the people most at risk from COVID-19 and those working hardest to prevent its worst impacts.
“Reluctantly we agree that the timeline should be delayed if this will allow the Scottish Government ensure that the roll-out of new devolved social security entitlements achieves its aims of dignity, fairness and respect.”
Save the Children head of Scotland Claire Telfer said the charity welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver the Scottish Child Payment as soon as possible.
“An extra £10 per week for families with young children will give families crucial extra money, going another step to providing the financial security they need,” Telfer said.
“Whilst we understand the huge pressures the Scottish Government faces to tackle the current crisis, families in poverty need financial help today.
“Best Start Grant payments and Best Start Foods will provide vital support to families during this time but the delays to other new benefits will be disappointing news for many low-income households.
She urged governments to “go further and make full use of its powers to urgently deliver more money to families and protect children from the harsh reality of the crisis”.
Somerville also announced a new decision-making process for disability benefits in Scotland, which will mean no face-to-face assessments and decisions.
Instead, it will be informed by the professional judgement of health and social care practitioners.
Social Security Scotland will make decisions using the information provided by applicants and then check this against existing guidance.
Where it is not possible to make a decision, applicants will be able to tell Social Security Scotland about the health and social care professionals who already support them.
A minority of working-age clients will be invited to a discussion with a health and social care practitioner.