Delivery of disability assistance to start in 2020

Timetable for remaining devolved benefits outlined.

Responsibility for all devolved benefits, including their funding, will sit with the Scottish Government from 1 April next year, with delivery for disability benefits rolled out shortly after.

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville today told Parliament how:

  • New claims for disability assistance for children and young people will start in summer 2020
  • Claims for older people’s disability payments will open by the end of 2020
  • Disability benefits for Working Age People - the Scottish replacement of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) - will open early in 2021

The system will have a redesigned application process and significantly fewer face to face assessments, which will be carried out through the agency by qualified assessors and audio-recorded as standard. There will be rolling awards with no set end points and those with fluctuating health conditions will not face additional reviews due to regular changes in needs related to their condition. We will also move the burden of collecting information from the client to Social Security Scotland.

Ms Somerville said:

“Since the Social Security Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament in June last year, progress has been swift.

“Our first priority was to deliver for carers, and we have already – through the Carer's Allowance Supplement – paid out over £33 million to more than 77,000 carers.

“I have been delighted with the success of Best Start Grant which has put £2.7 million into the pockets of more than 7,000 families in Scotland – more in the first two months of operation than the DWP benefit it replaced paid out in a year.

“Our next priority is delivering payments for disabled people, as this is where we can make the most meaningful difference for the largest number of people. 

“We have a duty to quickly reform the parts of the current system which cause stress, anxiety and pain. And I have been moved by the personal stories I have heard, many of which criticise the penalising assessment process.”

Around half a million cases – the equivalent of around 10% of people in Scotland – will transfer from DWP to Social Security Scotland next year. Ms Somerville emphasised that the safe and secure transition is central to protecting people and their payments.

She said: “This is not simply a case of turning off one switch and turning on another.  For the first time in its history, our agency will be making regular payments, direct to people’s bank accounts and our systems need to work seamlessly with those of the DWP. 

“It is therefore essential we have a system that is fully operational for those making new claims and ensure we protect everyone and their payments as their cases are transferred - that is what those who rely on social security support have told us they want. We must work to a timetable that reflects the importance of moving quickly but not putting people’s payments at risk.”

Ms Somerville made clear that during the transfer no-one will have to reapply for benefits, no claims will be reassessed and payments will be protected.

She added: “The timetable I have set out is ambitious but realistic and at all points protects people and their payments. I have seen the mess the DWP has made when transferring people to PIP and introducing Universal Credit, and we will not make the same mistakes.    

“There is much hard work to be done but the prize is great – a social security system with dignity, fairness and respect at its heart and which works for the people of Scotland.”

Having last year successfully delivered the Carer's Allowance Supplement and the first Best Start Grant payments, Ms Somerville also confirmed the next two phases of Best Start Grant, a Young Carer Grant and Funeral Expense Assistance were all on track to being delivered this year.


A copy of the Cabinet Secretary’s full statement is available.

The timetable for the delivery of devolved benefits is:

  • In 2019, Best Start Grant, Funeral Expense Assistance, and the Young Carer Grant will be delivered
  • The brand new Job Grant, which we are currently consulting on, will help young people moving back into employment
  • In summer 2020, Social Security Scotland will open to new claims for Disability Assistance for Children and Young People, our replacement for Child Disability Living Allowance
  • By end 2020, children who receive the highest care component of Disability Assistance will also be entitled to Winter Heating Assistance
  • By end 2020, Social Security Scotland will open to new claims for Disability Assistance for Older People, our replacement for Attendance Allowance, for people over the state pension age who need someone to help look after them because of a disability or long-term illness
  • In early 2021, Social Security Scotland will open to new claims for the most complex form of Disability Assistance for Working Age People, our replacement for the UK Government’s Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • By the end of 2021 Social Security Scotland will also open to new claims for Carer’s Assistance, our replacement for Carer’s Allowance, folding together that benefit, Carer’s Allowance Supplement and additional money for carers of more than one disabled child in a way that meets carers’ needs
  • By end of 2021 - Winter Heating Assistance and Cold Spell Heating Assistance delivered to some eligible recipients in their current form and to those in receipt of assistance from Social Security Scotland. An agency agreement will mean the DWP processes payments for the remaining recipients, with Social Security Scotland growing the caseload year on year.

Key stages to date include:

April to June 2018

  • Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 passed by Scottish Parliament
  • First 80 operational jobs advertised and filled
  • Interim Dundee headquarters premises announced
  • Development of local delivery commences

July to September 2018

  • Dates of first payments announced
  • Freephone helpline goes live
  • Early delivery of Best Start Grant announced by the First Minister
  • First payments of Carer’s Allowance Supplement made

October to March 2019

  • Best Start Grant pregnancy and birth payment opens for applications – including option to submit application in hard copy, over the telephone or online
  • First payments of Best Start Grant made before Christmas
  • Publication of Annual Business Plan

A full suite of position papers that outlines the work undertaken to determine upon the delivery schedule is available.

A Q&A on devolved benefits is available.  


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