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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

1.    Why are social security powers coming to Scotland?

2.    Which social security benefits will the Scottish Government be responsible for?

3.    What will the Scottish Government do with its new social security powers?

4.    Who will be impacted by these powers?

5.    Why a new social security agency?

6.    Where will the new agency be based?

7.    How will the social security powers help to tackle poverty and inequality?

8.    How will the new powers help support people back to work?

9.    What will the Scottish Government do about sanctions?

10.  What about Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance?

11.  How will the Scottish Government afford a welfare system?

12.  When will the Scottish Government take on these powers?

13.  Why can’t the Scottish Government deliver the new benefits now?

14.  How is the Scottish Government involving people in the process?

15.  How can people get involved in the Experience Panels?

16.  What is the process for transferring benefits?

17.  Will the Scottish Government have control over all disability benefits?

18.  How will you ensure assessment for benefits is proportionate?

19.  Why use the phrase “social security” rather than “welfare” or “benefits”?

20. How will you ensure that people receive the benefits they are entitled too?

 

1.   Why are social security powers coming to Scotland?

After the independence referendum in 2014, the Smith Commission recommended that the Scottish Government should be given more powers over social security.

In 2015, the UK Government published a new Scotland Bill which set out proposals for the devolution of further powers to Scotland, including limited social security powers.

In March 2016, the new Scotland Act 2016 was passed by the UK Parliament. This gave legal effect to the changes proposed in the Bill and by the Smith Commission, to devolve new powers over social security to Scotland over this parliamentary term.

 

2.   Which social security benefits will the Scottish Government be responsible for?

The Scottish Government will be responsible for:

  • Personal Independence Payments (PIP)
  • Carer’s Allowance (CA)
  • Attendance Allowance (AA)
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Winter Fuel Payments
  • Cold Weather Payments
  • Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA)
  • Industrial Injuries Disability Benefits (IIDB)
  • Funeral Expenses Payment
  • Sure Start Maternity Grant (will be replaced by the Best Start Grant)
  • Discretionary Housing Payments 

The Scottish Government also proposes to use its powers to introduce a new Job Grant to help young people aged 16-24 who are returning to work after a period of six months unemployment.

The Job Grant will supplement new and existing support for young people to enter the workplace.

These powers amount to the equivalent of 15% of the UK Government’s current spending on social security in Scotland each year. The other 85% will remain with the UK Government.

Although some powers over payment arrangements and calculation of housing costs within Universal Credit are being transferred to Scotland, the UK Government will maintain control over Universal Credit (which replaces Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credits and Housing Benefit).

Read more information and a full overview of responsibility for social security powers devolved and those which will remain reserved to the UK Government.

 

3.   What will the Scottish Government do with its new social security powers?

Successfully transferring these new social security powers to Scotland will be the biggest programme of change since devolution.

Due to the complex nature of the transfer, the priority is to ensure a safe and secure transition, ensuring that households continue to receive their benefits on time and in the right amount.

The Scottish Government is committed to making a number of changes to ensure we have a social security system that is fair and has respect and dignity at its heart. Specific policies we are committed to include:

  • Effectively abolishing the bedroom tax in Scotland

  • Increasing Carer’s Allowance so that it is paid at the same level as Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • Exploring the possibility of a Young Carer’s Allowance

  • Extending Winter Fuel Payments to families with severely disabled children

  • Maintaining disability benefits and ensuring they are not means tested

  • Establishing a Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group to provide recommendations and guidance on how often assessments should be, what conditions should be given on automatic or lifetime awards, and eligibility criteria

  • Using powers over Universal Credit to offer more frequent payments and to have payments made directly to social and private landlords

  • Introducing a new Best Start Grant aimed at low income families with children, offering financial support at key points in the early years. (First child £600; subsequent child £300 at birth; two additional payments of £250 in the pre-school years).This targeted approach will mean a two child family will receive £1900 over the first five years of their children’s lives (£1100 first child, £800 for a second), £1400 more than under the UK Government, making a significant difference to low income families

  • Introducing a new Job Grant which will be a payment of £100 or £250 for people with children plus a three months bus pass for 16-24 year olds who have been claiming benefit for six months or more and are starting work

 

4.   Who will be impacted by these powers?

The Scottish Government estimate that 1 in 4 people in Scotland currently receive a benefit that will be devolved, which is approximately 1.4 million people.

 

5.   Why a new social security agency?

The Scottish Government considered a range of options for delivering new benefits in Scotland before making a decision to establish an agency. The agency will provide the Scottish Government with more control over the way benefits are delivered, and how people are treated when they apply.  The agency will be accountable directly to Scottish Ministers who are, in turn, accountable to the Scottish Parliament.

 

6.   Where will the new agency be based?

A decision on the location of the agency will be made before the end of 2017.  We are currently developing criteria to support a decision on the agency location.

 

7.   How will the social security powers help to tackle poverty and inequality?

This transfer of powers – particularly the devolution of responsibility for benefits for disabled people and carers – creates important opportunities to address fairness and equality

We have an opportunity to do things differently, to treat people with dignity and respect and put in place a system that the people in our communities deserve and value.

New social security powers can help to play a role in tackling poverty and inequalities even if our current powers only go so far.

In 2017/18 the Scottish Government is maintaining its commitment to support people in Scotland affected by the UK Government’s welfare cuts, via the Scottish Welfare Fund, mitigating the Bedroom Tax and the Council Tax Reduction scheme.

 

8.   How will the new powers help support people back to work?

Unemployment benefits, and the conditions and requirements relating to them remain the responsibility of the UK Government.

However, through the Scotland Act 2016, the Scottish Government will take over the delivery of some employment support programmes from April 2017 including for disabled people and long term unemployed. Our employment support programmes will be voluntary and will not use the threat of sanctions.

 

9.   What will the Scottish Government do about sanctions?

Sanctions do not (and will not) apply to any of the social security benefits being devolved to Scotland. The unemployment benefits on which they apply will remain reserved to the UK Government. However, the Scottish Government has made clear that participation on its devolved employment support services will be on a voluntary basis, and without the threat of sanction.

 

10. What about Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance?

Jobseekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance are not part of the benefits to be transferred. The benefits and conditions attached to them will remain with the UK Government. 

 

11. How will the Scottish Government afford a welfare system?

Under the financial agreement, the UK Government will transfer to Scotland what it would have spent in Scotland had these benefits not been devolved. This will provide around £2.8 billion of funding every year to support the payment of benefits to Scots – around 15% of the total amount currently spent in Scotland on social security.

If the Scottish Government wants to spend more on social security in Scotland, that will be a policy and spending decision for the Scottish Government to make through the normal budget and spending review processes. 

The exact costs of implementing and running a new social security system in Scotland are still being developed.

The Scottish Government will budget appropriately to ensure it can deliver a social security system based on dignity and respect while providing value for money for the public purse.

 

12. When will the Scottish Government take on these powers?

There are a range of steps to be taken in order for the powers to be transferred to the Scottish Government. The UK Government must make changes to UK legislation to transfer the powers to the Scottish Government before the Scottish Government can then take forward its own legislation through the Scottish Parliament.

We will start the legislative process in 2017 and by the end of the parliamentary term will have a Scottish social security agency delivering all devolved benefits.

 

13. Why can’t the Scottish Government deliver the new benefits now?

There is a process involved in delivering the benefits which involves changes to legislation from the UK Government and the Scottish Government introducing our own legislation. Our top priority is to ensure the safe and secure transition of the devolved benefits to those who receive them without people experiencing any interruption of their services.  This was supported by the Social Security Committee, stakeholders and people the Scottish Government met during the consultation who all pressed for a safe, secure transition with no failure in service.

The Scottish Government has always been clear on the timing of delivery and that our aim is to have a Scottish agency delivering devolved benefits by the end of this Parliamentary term.

 

14. How is the Scottish Government involving people in the process?

Dignity and respect are at the heart of the Scottish Government’s intent for Scotland’s social security system.  An in-depth public consultation to gather views on social security in Scotland ran for three months, until the end of October 2016. 

521 written responses were received and just over 120 events were held to gather views from individuals and organisations.  The Scottish Government published its response to the consultation in February 2017.  The response outlined that human rights would be enshrined in the foundation and functions of Scotland’s new social security agency.

 

15. How can people get involved in the Experience Panels?

The Scottish Government is setting up ‘Experience Panels’ which will involve at least 2,000 people who have recent experience of receiving benefits to help to design the new system to ensure it works for them.

The recruitment for the Experience Panels is now open. You can find out more, and register online, at www.gov.scot/socialsecurity.

If you have any questions about the Experience Panels, or need some extra support to register call the Freephone number 0800 029 4974. 

 

16. What is the process for transferring benefits?

A Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare was established between the UK and Scottish governments to take forward the transfer of powers.

The group is comprised of Ministers from both governments and is responsible for the process to transfer the relevant welfare powers under the Scotland Act 2016.

 

17. Will the Scottish Government have control over all disability benefits?

The Scottish Government will gain new powers over social security benefits for disabled people and people with long-term health conditions.

These are:

  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

  • Attendance Allowance (AA)

  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

  • Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA)

These are tax-free and non-means tested benefits, which are intended to help cover the additional costs of living with a disability. Responsibility for Employment Support Allowance will remain with the UK Government.

 

18. How will you ensure assessment for benefits is proportionate?

The application process for disability related benefits usually includes an assessment of the person’s needs. Our assessment process will be designed in a way which prioritises the needs of the disabled person – not the needs of those delivering the assessment.

The Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group chaired by Doctor Jim McCormick will be responsible for providing recommendations and guidance to Ministers on how often assessments should be, on eligibility criteria, and on the possibility of certain conditions being given automatic or lifetime awards.

Our Experience Panels will also look at assessment and offers views to the Expert Advisory Group and Ministers.

For those with long-term conditions, longer-term awards will be introduced and wherever possible, we will reduce the need for face-to-face assessments.

We do not currently assess people for disability related benefits (such as Personal Independence Payments) because they are reserved to the UK Government.

 

19. Why use the phrase “social security” rather than “welfare” or “benefits”?

The Scottish Government quite deliberately uses the phrase social security because we are clear that we all have a stake in social security, and that it should be there for all of us when we need it.

 

20. How will you ensure that people receive the benefits they are entitled to?

The Scottish Government has a clear commitment to do all we can to see incomes maximised, which is why we believe it is important that people receive all the benefits to which they are entitled. Unfortunately, at present, benefits are reserved to the UK Government and they have taken no recent action to improve take up and provide much needed support for many people. 

The Scottish Government has recently launched the first phase of our approach, working with Citizens Advice Scotland, to make sure that everyone receives the financial help they are entitled to.

 

View a pdf verison of all the frequently asked questions and answers