Disability benefits: overview

Our approach to delivering Disability Assistance in Scotland, including the impact of coronavirus

This document is part of a collection

Disability Benefits Policy Position Papers : Paper 1: Disability Benefits Overview

Disability Benefits Policy Position Papers – October 2020

This is Paper 1 of 5 position papers published in October 2020, which provide an overview of the new Scottish approach to disability benefits. These papers were correct as at the date of publication: please check the Scottish Government's Social security: policy position papers webpage for any further updates.

Paper 1: Disability Benefits Overview – October 2020


The next phase in delivering Scotland's new social security system will be the large-scale disability benefits: Child Disability Payment (replacing Child DLA), Adult Disability Payment (replacing Personal Independence Payment) and Pension Age Disability Payment (replacing Attendance Allowance). These benefits will be centred on the principles of dignity, fairness and respect.

We will ensure that "a person-centred approach", which treats clients as individuals, taking into account their personal circumstances and needs, will be at the heart of Scotland's three forms of Disability Assistance.

As we move into delivery of the larger and more complex disability benefits, we remain committed to developing our policies, systems and processes closely with the people who will use them, while recognising the challenge of doing so in the context of Covid-19.

We also want to ensure we build on the extensive work and knowledge we have gathered in delivering the first set of Scottish benefits to support low income families and make a difference to people's lives. Social Security Scotland is now delivering eight benefits, five of which are brand new, while the others are more generous than the UK benefits they have replaced.

Social Security Scotland has had strong feedback from clients about the benefits we are delivering so far – as one client put it, "I am blown away by the fact this was the most straightforward benefits application I have ever done. If this is the future of devolved benefits in Scotland then I feel a great sense of hope."[1] We will build on this positive foundation as we begin delivery of the disability benefits.

While we are delivering and improving social security in Scotland, we want to be open and transparent and let people know about our work and our decisions as we progress. Therefore we have set out how we will deliver these new services through a series of policy position papers about our disability benefits and how we are putting the needs and experiences of the people of Scotland at the heart of what we are doing.

Delivery in a time of Covid-19

The transfer of these benefits comes at a time when, across Scotland, people are doing their part to protect their communities in the face of Covid-19, and are working to ensure a solid footing for the future. One of the consequences of the pandemic has been that the Scottish Government has had to adjust timings for delivery of these benefits in order to ensure that we can deliver them both safely and securely. We are currently re-planning the timescales for launching the remaining devolved benefits, and will update Parliament and stakeholders on this work later in the year.

We are continuing to work and plan in a context of ongoing uncertainty, and this affects not just Scottish Government and Social Security Scotland staff but also, crucially, our delivery partners. Our new approach to disability benefits relies on the support of our health and social care sector, whose input will be integral to the new service, ensuring quality decision making that is both consistent and centred on the needs of the individual. These are the same people who have been and continue to be on the front line of the Covid-19 response and recovery.

Just as importantly, we cannot develop and launch the disability benefits without support from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP): devolution of social security is a joint endeavour that requires extensive work from both our governments. Like the Scottish Government, DWP staff are facing new challenges as a result of the pandemic, and they are also under additional pressures to manage record volumes of new Universal Credit applications, diverting resource from their work on devolution.


We are committed to creating a social security system that meets the needs of the people of Scotland. We see social security as a human right and, as laid out in Our Charter[2], we will continue to ensure that the values of dignity, fairness and respect are embedded throughout our new service.

The decisions set out in these position papers therefore draw extensively on user research, and feedback from our Social Security Experience Panels, whose members have lived experience of the current benefits system.[3] Work with the Social Security Experience Panels was paused in light of the impact of Covid-19; when consulted on re-starting this work, members were overwhelmingly in favour. While some forms of engagement are not currently possible, and some members are temporarily out of contact, modified methods of user engagement including web conferencing, online and phone surveys, and planned telephone interviews are allowing the Programme to continue to benefit from lived experience in shaping the design of our services. User research allows us to understand the full range of needs that people with disabilities have, including people who may not have been able or willing to engage with the UK benefits system, to ensure that our system does not create barriers to anyone who is entitled to assistance.

We have also drawn upon the expertise of other key stakeholders, notably the independent Disability and Carer Benefits Expert Advisory Group (DACBEAG)[4], whose members provide advice and recommendations to Ministers on policy and delivery of these benefits. We are also working closely with the wider public sector, including local authorities and health boards, who will be key to the successful delivery of Scotland's new service.

Next steps

The unforeseeable events we have experienced this year, and the challenges we continue to meet, have shown more than ever that we need to be flexible, and to learn and improve as we deliver this new service: we will continue to explore and respond to the views of those with lived experience and expertise. As we move through delivery of the disability benefits, this includes adapting to address emerging experiences of our new social security system – and as we put in place a system based on the needs of our clients, we will continue to test and learn in partnership with the people of Scotland.

Contact: Ellen Ferrington Michaelis (ellen.ferringtonmichaelis@gov.scot)


Email: socialsecurityprogramme_PMO@Gov.Scot

Back to top