Section 1 – Introduction
1.1 Policy Development
In July 2016 the Scottish Government launched a public consultation to inform the content of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018. The consultation set out a vision and key principles for social security in Scotland. The consultation was in three parts, covering:
- A Principled Approach;
- The Devolved Benefits; and
- Operational Policy.
Some of the themes highlighted by respondents on winter heating benefits included:
- In general respondents supported a broad continuation of the current eligibility criteria for both benefits.
- Whether the delivery of Winter Fuel Payment could be improved, particularly for households in remote rural and island communities that are not on the gas grid.
- Whether the way that cold weather events are identified could be improved, for example by considering whether the number of weather mapping points should be increased or if the effects of wind chill could be better recognised.
This consultation aims to build on the above views which respondents provided, focusing specifically on the introduction of our new Low Income Winter Heating Assistance (LIWHA), which will replace Cold Weather Payment (CWP) in Scotland in Winter 2022.
The Scottish Government believes that understanding and learning from the experiences of individuals and organisations that come into contact with the current benefits system is vital to help us develop LIWHA with dignity, respect and fairness.
The Scottish Government set up the innovative Social Security Experience Panels in 2016. The Experience Panels are made up of over 2,400 people across Scotland who have recent experience of receiving at least one of the benefits devolved to Scotland. Those people are instrumental in shaping the policy and design of winter heating benefits in Scotland, providing input to our research, providing views and opinions, which will inform our processes from end to end. The Experience Panel research on winter heating benefits was undertaken between February and March 2020 and covered the following areas:
- Experiences and understanding of the existing CWP and Winter Fuel Payment (WFP)
- Accessing support and information on heating your home
- How CWP and WFP could be improved
- The impact of individual circumstances such as energy/ connection type
- Communications about CWP and WFP
The full report can be found on the Scottish Government website at:
We have also set up and met with the Winter Heating Benefits Reference Group which was established in October 2020. The group has contributed ideas and views on our approach to devolving winter heating benefits to Scotland. They have helped gather evidence, bringing a variety of informed perspectives and providing feedback on proposals, including:
- Recipients will have a positive experience of Scotland’s social security system
- Clear eligibility rules that are easily understood
- Benefits are paid automatically to those who are eligible within agreed timescales
Building on our work with Experience Panels we are now keen to gather further views of people with a working knowledge of social security, including CWPs. The Scottish Commission on Social Security (SCoSS) has been established and will scrutinise the LIWHA regulations which will be drafted in accordance with feedback from this consultation.
1.2 Legislative Powers
The Scotland Act 2016 devolved certain powers over social security to Scottish Ministers, which included powers to create new benefits to assist with the expense for heating in cold weather, as well as other benefits to support people on low incomes.
Following the Scotland Act 2016, the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 created the legal framework under which social security assistance will be given to people by the Scottish Government, which includes new winter heating benefits. Section 30 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 authorises the Scottish Ministers to make provision by way of regulations for assistance to help an individual to meet, or help towards meeting, the individual’s heating costs during the winter months. This provides Scottish Ministers with the opportunity to offer a distinctly new benefit with dignity and respect being core to its approach.
As we have been developing the law that will underpin how Social Security will be delivered in Scotland, we provided a series of position papers to the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee setting out current policy thinking on key matters, including winter heating benefits. The Cold Spell and Winter Heating Assistance: policy position paper, published on 28th February 2019, outlined the commitment of the Scottish Government to replace CWP with Cold Spell Heating Assistance (CSHA). The commitment included that:
- no-one will lose out when the Scottish Government takes responsibility for CSHA
- there are no plans to change the current eligibility criteria
- there are no plans to change the amount paid
Therefore, our intention had previously been to introduce our replacement for CWP in winter 2021 and on a like-for-like basis. This work was paused due to COVID-19 and the priority of introducing the Scottish Child Payment (SCP). Following a period of review Scottish Ministers have now committed to replacing CWP with a Scottish alternative, to bring greater certainty to clients and better target households at risk of fuel poverty.
LIWHA will form part of a suite of winter heating benefits. A new benefit, Child Winter Heating Assistance (CWHA), has already been introduced and Pension Age Winter Heating Assistance (PAWHA), our replacement for the UK Government’s Winter Fuel Payment, will be introduced in 2024.
The Scottish Government is committed to delivering LIWHA safely and securely and will ensure that this assistance is provided efficiently and in good time.
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