Disability and Carer Benefits Expert Advisory Group - beyond a safe and secure transfer: advice

This proactive advice outlines a number of recommendations the Disability and Carer Benefits Expert Advisory Group made on the additional positive impact which disability and carer’s assistance could make, following the safe and secure transfer of all clients on to new forms of Scottish assistance.

Summary of recommendations

We are pleased to see a number of positive changes have already been implemented by the Scottish Government to disability and carer benefits with the majority of this Group's recommendations accepted by Scottish Ministers.

In this proactive advice we have set out our views on what disability and carer's benefits should look like following the safe and secure transfer of all clients on to new forms of Scottish assistance to full comply with the 2018 Act, advance equality and human rights, contribute to poverty reduction and effectively reconcile medical and social models of disability within the benefits system.

Our recommendations are summarised in the below.

Consistency and language used in the stated purpose of disability and carer benefits

  • Recommendation 1: Changes to the stated purpose of disability and carer benefits are needed to express the intent of improving support over time in order to advance equality and progressively realise rights for disabled people and carers of all ages.
  • Recommendation 2: There should not be any changes made to the definition or purpose of disability and carer benefits that result in a constraint on investment into these benefits.
  • Recommendation 3: There should be further clarity and consistency in the defined purpose of all disability benefits, particularly on the costs they will address, with any inconsistencies justified.
  • Recommendation 4: The language used in the Scottish Government's purpose of disability and carer benefits should be updated to reflect the social model of disability and a human rights-based approach to social security.

Poverty and the adequacy of disability and carer benefits

  • Recommendation 5: Existing and further research should be gathered to better understand the needs of carers and disabled people and the additional costs that they have.
  • Recommendation 6: Additional costs should be defined as the costs of overcoming barriers, enabling participation in family, community and economic life as human rights, meeting the commitment set out in the Social Security Charter and the rights enshrined in the UNCRPD.
  • Recommendation 7: The Scottish Government should continue to make clear that social security benefits will contribute to reducing poverty.
  • Recommendation 8: Disability and carer benefits should be increased to adequately meet their stated purpose.
  • Recommendation 9: The Scottish Government should commit to developing and implementing a Disability Poverty Action Plan and a Carer's Poverty Action Plan.

Review of disability benefits

  • Recommendation 10: The Scottish Government should agree a Memorandum of Understanding between Social Security Scotland, the DWP and HMRC so that, when considering changes to the eligibility criteria for disability and carers benefits, the impact on reserved benefits can be understood and detrimental consequences are prevented.
  • Recommendation 11: Social Security Scotland should have the necessary data sharing agreements in place to efficiently passport benefits. This should make the process as easy as possible for claimants.
  • Recommendation 12: The Scottish Government should commit to a further fundamental review of disability assistance covering Child Disability Payment, Adult Disability Payment and Pension Age Disability Payment.
  • Recommendation 13: The Scottish Government should make clear the purpose of the proposed review and outline how the results will be actioned.
  • Recommendation 14: Prior to the 2023 ADP review commencing, the Scottish Government should share what the scope of the review will be.
  • Recommendation 15: The following should be in the immediate scope of the 2023 review:
    • 15a: The review should identify advantages and challenges of Adult Disability Payment. This should be with insights from those with lived experience and cover the entire benefit process. Evidence should be provided from both successful and unsuccessful applicants.
    • 15b: The review should assess disability assistance through the lens of the social model of disability, equality and human rights law, principles and standards. It should include an analysis of how equality, human rights and the social model have been taken into account with the design of the system, and what needs to change so that it can best reflect these.
    • 15c: A full review of the eligibility criteria that includes an analysis of whether this new system is a world leading human rights-based system of disability social security. This should include an assessment of whether it enhances attainment of human rights, including those contained within the ICESCR, UNCRPD and UNCRC.
    • 15d: A full review of the activities and descriptors that determine entitlement. This should be towards ensuring that regardless of an individual's conditions, they can get the assistance they require.
    • 15e: A full review of the assessment process, guidance for assessors and the decision-making guidance to ensure a social and rights-based model of disability is applied.
    • 15f: A review of the funding of Social Security Scotland. This should include an analysis of the adequacy of benefits.
    • 15g: An analysis of whether improvements can and should be implemented more quickly, before the completion of case transfer.
  • Recommendation 16: On an ongoing basis and beyond the 2023 review the Scottish Government should:
    • 16a: Collect, analyse and report rights-based data used to make decisions.
    • 16b: As well as using data that exists, there should be a review to identify existing data gaps.
    • 16c: When making policy decisions, the financial analysis should extend beyond just the cost of implementing the benefit. This should assess the wider cost of not implementing it on other areas of the system. This should also go beyond the financial costs to include the wider benefits for the individual and society.
    • 16d: Review, analyse and report on how policy makers have taken the human rights focused Social Security Principles in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 into account in decision making. This should also detail to what extent this has, and continues to, inform the development of the system.
    • 16e: Carry out an independent evaluation of the Experience Panels, how they are made up in terms of the protected characteristics represented, and how 'well' they work. This should identify if there are any seldom heard voices still missing from the Experience Panels and what action will be taken to amend this.
  • Recommendation 17: The review should be co-produced with disabled people and human rights experts, and gather evidence from a wide range of people across the social security system.
  • Recommendation 18: The processes followed and methodologies employed for the review should be appropriately diverse. They should follow a human rights-based approach grounded in the PANEL principles.
  • Recommendation 19: The review should have an advisory group or panel of reviewers. It should be co-chaired, rather than led by a single independent professional.
  • Recommendation 20: All contributors to the review should have the option to remain anonymous and receive the assurance that participation will not result in any negative consequences.
  • Recommendation 21: The review should be fully resourced, both in terms of finances and staffing.

Carer benefits

  • Recommendations 22: The following should be reviewed for Carer's Assistance:
    • 22a: The amount of money paid should be significantly increased to reflect it as an earnings-replacement benefit. This should be in line with the human rights principle of adequacy.
    • 22b: Equality data regarding Scottish carers should be improved, both in terms of what is recorded, how it is recorded and how it is used.
    • 22c: Possible additional passported benefits.
  • Recommendation 23: Clear and up to date guidance on the following should be available for both carers and advisors:
    • 1. the entire range of carer benefits available (e.g. working of premiums even when Carer's Assistance is deducted from Universal Credit);
    • 2. issues of overlapping benefits for both the cared for person and unpaid carer (e.g. state pension)
    • 3. other complexities of the eligibility criteria (e.g. full-time education; earnings threshold as a cliff edge)
    • 4. tax credits; and
    • 5. taxation.
  • Recommendation 24: Carers that are on Universal Credit should be proactively contacted by Social Security Scotland to apply for Scottish Carer's Assistance.
  • Recommendation 25: Additions should be made to the Social Security Scotland website targeted at carers currently not in receipt of carer benefits that they are entitled to.
  • Recommendation 26: A further Fairer Scotland Duty assessment should be conducted on Scottish Carer's Assistance.

Changes to Carers Assistance

  • Recommendation 27: Any communications to carers around Short-term Assistance should be clear, concise and in sufficient detail. This should include information on eligibility, how and when to apply.
  • Recommendation 28: Payment run-ons should be implemented in instances where Scottish Carer's Assistance awards are stopped due to the underlying entitlement stopping.
  • Recommendation 29: Scottish Carer's Assistance should not be stopped, suspended or lowered to a 'nil award' in instances where the cared-for person has been in hospital, residential care, or temporary care for any number of days.
  • Recommendation 30: We would recommend that the 'past presence test' be removed due to its discriminatory nature. Any intended rationale to retain the test should be provided beyond it being replicated from the UK system.
  • Recommendation 31: A carer's statement of hours should be sufficient evidence of eligibility for Carer's Assistance and Carer's Additional Person Payment.
  • Recommendation 32: The Scottish Government should share the evidence that concludes 20 hours of care a week for each additional person is required to be deemed 'significant'.
  • Recommendation 33: The amount of Carer's Additional Person Payment should be substantially increased in line with the human rights principle of adequacy.[26]

Full integration of services and advice

  • Recommendation 34: The Scottish Government should commit to working towards the full integration of services.
  • Recommendation 35: Social Security Scotland should be able to provide information on devolved and reserved benefits and all available entitlements.
  • Recommendation 36: Social Security Scotland should commit to cultivating a 'No Wrong Door' approach to remove existing barriers in accessing all available advice, support and services.
  • Recommendation 37: Social Security Scotland should have the necessary data sharing agreements in place to implement a fully integrated active referral service for Scottish citizens. This should cover all levels of entitlement.
  • Recommendation 38: Social Security Scotland should commit to introducing a service to identify individuals that are not in receipt of all of their entitlements.

Other models of social security

  • Recommendation 39: The Scottish Government should commit to an international comparison to identify best practice examples of social security for disabled people, carers and beyond. This should include a commitment to incorporate any lessons learned beyond a safe and secure transfer.
  • Recommendation 40: The social security system should not be simplified in any way that would widen existing inequalities or result in individuals 'losing out'. Simplification should mean reducing the challenges and barriers to access.
  • Recommendation 41: Housing support services should be central to any proposed Minimum Income Guarantee.
  • Recommendation 42: A Minimum Income Guarantee should not result in any reduction in services.

Further future changes

  • Recommendation 43: Feedback from individuals, their representatives and supporting organisations, along with statistical evidence from Social Security Scotland processes, should be central to any improvements made to Social Security Scotland.
  • Recommendation 44: The use of suspensions should be recorded, monitored and reported.
  • Recommendation 45: A roundtable discussion with Social Security Scotland, Scottish Government, DWP, UK Government and relevant advisory group representatives and stakeholders should be held towards future planning.
  • Recommendation 46: The Scottish Government should set out how it will fund the further investment in social security that is required.


Email: CEU@gov.scot

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