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The Scottish Government unveiled its ambitious plans for how it’s going to deliver the 11 welfare benefits devolved to it from Westminster. In a break from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) hostility to claimants, the Scottish system concentrates on claimants welfare, rather than how much they’re costing them. Having looked at the plans, all I can say is that people in the rest of the UK should start telling MPs in Westminster to look north.
Some people may be unaware, but The Scottish Parliament is taking control of 11 benefits currently given by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
They will be delivered by a new agency called Social Security Scotland (SSS).
Here is the list of benefits the Scottish Parliament are in the process of taking control of;
- Sickness and Disability Benefits:
- Disability Living Allowance
- Personal Independence Payment
- Attendance Allowance
- Severe Disablement Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Carers Allowance
- Sure Start Maternity Grant (replaced by the Best Start Grant)
- Funeral Expenses
- Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Payments
- Discretionary Housing Payments
- Some powers in relation to Universal Credit (e.g. the ability to split payments between household members)
Working age benefits like Universal Credit and Tax Credits and others such as The State Pension and Child Benefit, are to continue being delivered by the DWP.
A new horizon
The Scottish Government is already helping thousands of people on Carers Allowance out by giving them a £221 payment every six-months. This is called the Carers Supplement. This is only until they take full control of Carers Allowance from the DWP. It is the most complex to take over due to the supplements it gives claimants on other non-devolved benefits.
2019 sees four new benefits being rolled out to young carers and low income families. They are;
• Best Start Grant nursery age payment – a £250 payment that will be made to low income families around the time a child can start nursery
• Best Start Grant school payment – a £250 payment that will be made to low income families around the time a child can start school
• Funeral Expense Assistance – providing eligible low income families with a contribution towards the cost of a funeral.
• Young Carer Grant – The grant will be awarded to young carers aged 16 to 18 who do at least 16 hours of caring a week, but don’t qualify for Carer’s Allowance. It will help to improve young carers’ quality of life, helping them take part in employment, social or leisure opportunities.
The recognition of young carers is especially important as unpaid care by a young family member is said to be on the rise. The payment to families for children starting school and nursery will be a life line to many as they struggle to pay for the essentials needed for their child education.
A Revolution of Welfare Delivery
On the 28th of February Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville set out the Scottish government’s plans on the benefits it will start delivering from April 2020 and beyond.
This will be the most complex for the new agency but most rewarding for claimants.
The first disability benefit to start taking new claims will be; Disability Assistance for Children and Young People. This is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children. A major thing to note is that they are also raising the age so children can claim until they’re 18.
This is in contrast to DLA which stops at their 16th birthday.
2020 will also see 16,000 children and their families benefit from a £200
Winter Heating Assistance. This is for children getting the highest care component of Disability Assistance.
At the end of next year Disability Assistance for Older People will begin to take new claims. This is for claimants over the state pension age who need someone to look after them due to an illness or disability.
People who look after more than one disabled child will also benefit with the introduction of a payment to recognise the extra costs they face.
2021 – The Hardest Test
From 2021 Social Security Scotland (SSS) begins its most difficult task. This is when they will begin to take new claims for Disability Assistance for Working age People. thus replacing the DWP’s Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
In her statement Cabinet Secretary Somervillie gave this assurance;
“From early 2021 when we launch new claims for our PIP replacement, I guarantee that no one in Scotland will undergo a DWP face-to-face reassessment for disability benefits. Before someone reaches the end of their DWP award period, we will take over their case so this cannot happen.”
The assessment system is the most contentious part of the PIP process. The Scottish Government are keen to avoid the situation whereby 71% of claimants who appeal a PIP decision win.
Also a major thing to mention is this. Claimants being moved from PIP for Disabled Assistance will NOT have to make a claim. They will be automatically moved to the new benefit. This is in contrast to claimants being moved onto Universal Credit who have to apply like anyone else.#
This is something that will ease the anxiety of so many people and should be applauded.
Why Westminster need to learn from Holyrood
The Scottish Government have the advantage of watching how not to deliver a welfare system. The debacle of Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment is something the Tories are stained with forever.
Benefits requiring any form of medical assessment will only be carried out by suitably qualified staff. This means an end to paramedics dealing with complex health conditions they’ve never heard of.
What’s more, assessments are a last resort in the new Scottish Welfare system. The new agency will use evidence from your own doctors and health professionals when making a decision. After all, it is them who understand your abilities best.
Carers also will have some of the financial burden lifted from them. Unpaid carers are doing a job that others are paid thousands for. The least we can do is the support them properly which the Scottish Government rightly are.
Throughout the entire process, claimants have been involved in the design of the new system and will continue to be as they move forward. This means that Scotland will now have a welfare system that is humane and supportive.
My only hope is that Westminster take heed of what’s happening in Scotland and follow suit. If they don’t it is going to lead to a two tier system whereby those in Scotland are better off financially and mentally just because of their postcode.
I doubt they will listen though, the current government are incapable to even constructive criticism let alone accepting they got it completely wrong.
If you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, I suggest you write to your local MP and demand they take notice of the new Scottish Social Security System. If they truly want a fair and humane system they will listen.
For more information on the new Scottish Welfare System please visit the Scottish Government’s website here for more in depth explanations of how it will be delivered.