Ben Macpherson MSP updates on important changes to Scotland's social security system
Scotland’s social security system continues to grow. We have made remarkable progress since the Social Security Act was passed four years ago. In that time we have introduced 12 new benefits, seven of which are only available in Scotland, and we have established and developed Social Security Scotland to administer the payments.
We have also started transferring Disability Living Allowance for children cases from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to Social Security Scotland through our new Child Disability Payment.
And we’ve begun the roll out of Adult Disability Payment, our replacement for the UK government’s Personal Independence Payment. Adult Disability Payment is currently available in three local authority pilot areas and will be phased in across ten more areas ahead of full national introduction at the end of August.
Adult Disability Payment is without doubt the most complex benefit we have introduced, and transferring tens of thousands of disability benefit payments will be a significant next step.
We are determined to ensure this transfer is a seamless process for all recipients and we will transfer cases in a safe and secure manner. However, this will not be a simple administrative process. We are transferring then refining information from DWP systems, some of which are decades old, on to Social Security Scotland’s new, agile single benefits system.
Making sure we have the right information, and that no one falls out of payment across hundreds of thousands of awards, is a project that will take some time. Nevertheless, we are doing this work at pace, but only where this does not risk the process being safe and secure. To do this transfer we rely on receiving the relevant information at the right times from the DWP, and we are committed to going faster if and when we can.
Protecting payments is our absolute focus. These payments are money that people rely on and we have to make sure recipients continue to get paid the right amount of money at the time they expect.
Achieving this will require us to work closely with DWP to test processes and ensure we get the data we need. We are reliant on their input and commitment to the shared process of case transfer.
Cases will transfer from mid-June, starting with the same pilot council areas where we introduced Adult Disability Payment – Dundee, Perth and Kinross and the Western Isles. The first to move to Adult Disability Payment will be people in these areas whose Personal Independence Payment awards are due to be reviewed. In addition, people from all over Scotland will also have their claim start to move if their fixed-term Personal Independence Payment is due to finish immediately after August’s national launch.
From the end of August, we will also start transferring the awards of individuals on Working Age Disability Living Allowance, if they request to transfer or would otherwise have to apply for Personal Independence Payment.
Wherever possible, people will be prioritised to have their payment transferred before they would otherwise be required to undergo a DWP face-to-face assessment – for example when someone reports a relevant change of circumstances or is scheduled to have their award reviewed or come to an end. We will also prioritise the transfer of anyone who would meet the Scottish rules for terminal illness who is not already on the highest level of both care and mobility.
We’ve worked with people in receipt of DWP disability benefits on the design of this case transfer process. We want it to be as straightforward as possible, giving people reassurance and to reduce any anxiety that could come with change. Importantly, the process will be automatic – people will not need to reapply and they will be kept informed at all times.
Taking this measured and controlled approach will ensure we get the level of contact right with people through this process. We will write to people twice as their claim transfers from DWP to Social Security Scotland. The first contact will be three to four months out from their award moving so they know what to expect. We will remind people that we know everyone’s circumstances are different and can change at any time. This correspondence will also advise clients that up until they have received confirmation that their award has transferred they should keep the DWP up-to-date. The second point of contact will be when Social Security Scotland writes to confirm their decision on the award.
We will continue to transfer Personal Independence Payment awards until the last cases are moved across in summer 2024, and estimate over 300,000 people will have their awards transferred to Adult Disability Payment.
Overall, we are taking a positive, responsible and compassionate approach to delivering disability benefits, centred around our principles of dignity, fairness and respect. We want to make sure that people have confidence in the different approach that we are taking.
In doing this, we have to make sure that we don’t create a two-tiered system while we are simultaneously transferring people’s awards from the DWP and introducing and delivering our new payment. Preventing a two-tier system is why we are largely keeping the eligibility criteria for Adult Disability Payment the same, as we undertake and complete case transfer. However, our approach to delivering Adult Disability Payment is markedly different and improved from the process under the DWP, and we have plans for further improvements.
In tandem with all of this work, we will also carry out a two stage independent review of Adult Disability Benefit, to consider what further changes and improvements could, and should, be made in the future.
I am proud of the social security system we have developed in Scotland in just a few short years. With the introduction of Adult Disability Payment, soon we will be delivering for over a million people through benefit payments of around £3.6 billion. This will make a meaningful difference for many households.
What has been achieved so far is helping a lot of people and we are ambitious and determined to do more, building on strong foundations and growing Social Security Scotland’s capacity. Completing case transfer is an important and complex step in taking our operational programme forward, and in creating a modern, compassionate, high performing system that will serve the people of Scotland for decades to come.
Ben Macpherson MSP is the minister for social security and local government.