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Child Winter Heating Assistance: evaluation report

The evaluation describes a number of positive findings for the CWHA payment, but also highlighted some potential areas for improvement.

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Introduction

Since its inception, the Scottish Government has made a clear commitment to eradicating child poverty. A renewed commitment to tackling child poverty was made in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017.

This renewed commitment aims to utilise, where possible, the wider powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament following the 2014 independence referendum, the Smith Commission and, in particular, the range of social security powers devolved via the Scotland Act 2016.

The Social Security powers that have been devolved through the Scotland Act 2016 give the Scottish Parliament responsibility for £2.8 billion of social security expenditure (around 15% of total benefit expenditure in Scotland) which are enacted by the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018.

Families with a disabled child are one of the six priority families in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.[2] The 2016 SNP Manifesto set out a commitment to pay Winter Heating Assistance to families with a severely disabled child.

Child Winter Heating Assistance (CWHA) is a new benefit from the Scottish Government. It is a benefit that is only available in Scotland. CWHA was first paid by Social Security Scotland for winter 2020-2021.

The CWHA payment is intended to help the most severely disabled children and young people and their families with increased heating costs over winter. Paid once a year, from November onwards direct to families’ bank accounts, the payment for winter 2022-2023 will be £214.10. For winter 2021-2022 the payment was £202, and for winter 2020-2021 it was £200. Parents/Guardians of these children do not usually have to apply for the benefit for entitled children and young people as it is paid automatically.[3]

CWHA is not means tested and is therefore paid to anyone who is in receipt of the qualifying benefit during the qualifying week. The payment also can be used for any means that meet, or help towards meeting, their winter heating costs.

The initial policy intent of the benefit was to meet the extra financial demands faced by families of disabled children and young people as a result of[4]:

  • heating their homes to a higher temperature in winter, in line with World Health Organization (WHO) Guidance on room temperatures for vulnerable people;
  • the need to heat their homes through the night, or for periods of the night, because another person is required to provide care and support to the child or young person during the night in respect of needs arising from the individual’s disability or condition; and
  • the need to heat their homes for longer periods through the winter because of the likelihood of most children or young people receiving the highest rate care component of DLA (Disability Living Allowance) being present in the family home for longer periods of time.

How is someone entitled to CWHA?

Children and young people in Scotland are entitled if they are under 19 years old and receive one of the following 'qualifying benefits':

  • the highest rate of the care component of Child Disability Payment
  • the highest rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance for children
  • the enhanced rate of the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment
  • the enhanced rate of the daily living component of Adult Disability Payment

These latter two criteria have been subsequently added. Inclusion of those on the enhanced rate of the daily living component of PIP was introduced in November 2021, and inclusion of those on the enhanced rate of ADP was introduced in March 2022. This has resulted in a significant proportion of payments being backdated. Indeed, for winter 2020-21, 23% of payments were made after October 2021. For winter 2021-22, the proportion of those backdated has not been officially recorded yet.

Furthermore, to be entitled to the payment, children and young people must be receiving one of the ‘qualifying benefits’ listed above on at least one day in the third full week of September (the ‘qualifying week’).

These eligibility criteria were based on the understanding that children and young people who qualify will[5]:

  • be most likely to have conditions that require a consistently warm temperature;
  • be generally at risk more if they were to spend time in a cold environment; and,
  • generally live in families that are more likely to be on a low income or in poverty.

Contact

Email: Socialresearch@gov.scot

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