Cabinet secretary says that the transition between the UK and the Scottish benefits regimes cannot be rushed
Vulnerable people will be left at the mercy of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after the Scottish Government deferred full devolution of key benefits till 2024.
Social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville confirmed that Westminster will retain partial control of 11 benefits for the next five years – as the new Scottish social security system is not yet equipped to handle them.
These include disability living allowance, personal independence payments and carers' allowances.
Overall responsibility for these welfare payments will sit with the Scottish Government from April 2020 when the new Scottish social security system gets up and running.
But Somerville indicated that the full transfer of cases and payments might not be complete until 2024.
This is despite assurances from the Scottish Government – which had welfare devolved to it in 2016 – that the payments would be administered in Scotland by 2021.
Scottish Government ministers, campaigners and the third sector have been quick to condemn the DWP’s treatment of claimants as inhumane.
But the Holyrood administration was accused of betraying the vulnerable over the devolution delay.
Scottish Labour social security spokesman Mark Griffin said: "The SNP government has left vulnerable people at the mercy of the callous DWP and the Tories for far too long already.
"Ministers must apologise to everyone in Scotland entitled to social security who is being left at the hands of the Tories.
"Delaying full control of the powers until 2024 is a betrayal of vulnerable people who were told the Scottish Government would assume responsibility within this parliamentary term.”
The response from Scotland’s third sector was muted – TFN asked a range of organisations for response, but had few takers.
Bill Scott, policy director of disabled people’s organisation Inclusion Scotland, “welcomed the progress” made by the Scottish Government. He said: “We welcome the progress that has been made so far and look forward to the day when children’s DLA, Scottish PIP and Scottish Attendance Allowance are all being assessed and paid by Social Security Scotland.”
He added: “There remains a real need to act as urgently as possible in transferring disabled children and adults over to the new Scottish disability benefits as they and their families are suffering huge stress under the UK assessment regime.
“Inclusion Scotland is also concerned that the much needed Scottish Carers Allowance has been delayed until 2021.”
Somerville insisted that the transition between the UK and the Scottish benefits regimes cannot be rushed.
She said: "We shouldn't forget that we are the first government to begin the separation of a highly integrated welfare system between two countries.
"This cannot be done without taking difficult decisions on timing. But every day, as we break new ground, we gain more experience of how to accomplish the most complicated feat of devolution attempted since this parliament was reconvened."