Pension Age Disability Payment will be a disability benefit for people over State Pension age. It will be awarded to help with extra costs if a person has a disability severe enough that they need someone to help look after them.
As part of the commitment to a safe and secure transfer, Scottish Ministers do not propose to make significant changes to the existing Attendance Allowance eligibility criteria when introducing Pension Age Disability Payment. Examples of this include the replication of the current 6 month qualifying period for Attendance Allowance and continuing alignment by not introducing a mobility component. By maintaining the current eligibility criteria, individuals in Scotland who are eligible for passported benefits and premiums from the UK Government will have seamless access to this vital support. This will provide security to people in Scotland when Pension Age Disability Payment is rolled out.
However, there are some key changes along with a number of practical administrative differences between Pension Age Disability Payment and Attendance Allowance which Scottish Ministers expect to have a positive impact for disabled people in Scotland. These differences have been developed through the commitments under the Social Security Charter. The Scottish Government recognises social security as a human right and has designed Social Security Scotland’s services with the people who use them so that everyone is treated with dignity, fairness and respect. The Scottish Government is committed to continually improving Scottish disability benefits by continuing to engage with disabled people and stakeholders to identify areas for further improvement in future.
The Scottish Government has made changes to the application process for all forms of disability assistance, including Pension Age Disability Payment, which will help to reduce stress and anxiety for individuals. People interacting with Social Security Scotland will require options and choices that suit them best. Social Security Scotland offers a multi-channel approach including online, telephone, paper-based and face-to-face applications. As well as offering choices, this ensures that those who cannot or choose not to adopt digital methods will not become isolated.
People who require further assistance or would prefer face-to-face support will be able to access that through Social Security Scotland’s Local Delivery service. Local Delivery staff will provide one-to-one support and help disabled people to understand what Scottish Government benefits they may be entitled to. They can also provide assistance to complete application forms and take forward any follow-up actions relating to a person’s application. It is considered that this support will be of particular benefit to older people applying for Pension Age Disability Payment, as many older people may find completing application forms overwhelming and might not have access to a support network to assist them.
The Scottish Government also launched the Social Security Independent Advocacy Service in January 2022, and has committed to investing £20.4 million in the service over the following four years. The service is free and supports people who self-identify as a disabled person to access and apply for Social Security Scotland assistance.
As with the Scottish Government’s other disability benefits, a new approach to gathering supporting information is being utilised by Social Security Scotland which will help reduce stress and anxiety for individuals. A Case Manager will ordinarily only seek one piece of supporting information from a professional to support the decision-making process when making a determination on an individual’s entitlement to Pension Age Disability Payment.
Case Managers will use a collaborative approach to help people gather supporting information from a professional, where an individual does not already have this to hand. This includes Case Managers obtaining supporting information from professionals on the individual’s behalf. Case Managers can also assist in gathering supporting information from the individual’s wider support network, such as a family member or unpaid carer, which can help Social Security Scotland to understand the individual’s needs, conditions or disability.
Definition of terminal illness
In August 2022, 3,370 people receiving Attendance Allowance in Scotland had their main condition or disability listed as a terminal illness.
The Scottish Government’s definition of terminal illness will support recognition of a wider number of illnesses and conditions through Pension Age Disability Payment than can be accounted for under the current definition in the UK Government system.
This is because the UK Government’s time limited definition of terminal illness is able to recognise individuals with malignant illnesses at the end of life, but is less effective in recognising individuals with other degenerative life-limiting conditions, as it can be harder to determine length of life for these illnesses. In these circumstances, individuals with such conditions sometimes may not meet the definition of terminal illness in the UK Government system.
The Scottish Government included provision in the 2018 Act to introduce a new definition of terminal illness that differs from the current UK Government definition. It removes the arbitrary 12 month timescale currently used by the Department for Work and Pensions. Instead, the judgement as to whether a person should be considered terminally ill for the purposes of determining eligibility for Pension Age Disability Payment will be made by clinicians, based on guidance prepared by the Chief Medical Officer.
The Scottish Government’s new definition allows medical professionals, including registered nurses, to use their clinical judgement when determining whether an individual has a condition which can reasonably be expected to result in their death. This means that individuals who would otherwise not be entitled to Attendance Allowance through Special Rules will be able to do so under the Scottish Government definition as part of Pension Age Disability Payment, thereby having a positive impact on those with protected characteristics in Scotland.
Applications will be fast tracked from people with a terminal illness. Individuals who are terminally ill will automatically receive the highest rate of Pension Age Disability Payment and there will be no award reviews.
Ongoing awards and reviews
For many people in the current system, the award end date for disability benefits can be extremely stressful, particularly for individuals whose conditions are unlikely to change over time and who are consequently subject to unnecessary reviews of entitlement.
Providing ongoing awards that are subject to light-touch reviews will help to reduce the stress and anxiety associated with approaching an award review by removing a financial cliff edge for individuals. This is a change from the ‘renewal’ process for Attendance Allowance, whereby an individual has to complete a new application form and will see payments stop if they do not reapply in time. By continuing entitlement while a review is taking place, disabled people will continue to receive the assistance they are entitled to until a Case Manager has made a new determination.
Light-touch reviews will make the process easier and less stressful for individuals. This means that Case Managers are able to, if needed, gather supporting information for the person whose award is being reviewed and consider existing information and previous determinations to avoid asking unnecessary questions. Case Managers will be empowered to make a determination without supporting information if this information is unavailable during a review, and request case discussions with practitioners to further reduce the need for intrusive questions.
Having a light-touch review process is more appropriate, particularly where an individual’s needs are unlikely to have changed significantly. 66% of respondents to the Consultation on Disability Assistance agreed with this approach alongside general agreement from Experience Panels. ,
Additionally, when asked if review periods should be between 5-10 years for individuals with conditions unlikely to change, 58% of respondents to the consultation agreed. This will help to cut down on the number of unnecessary award reviews that disabled people will need to go through, and as a result, reduce stress and anxiety, thereby having a positive impact on individuals. Work is also underway to consider in more detail whether and in what circumstances indefinite awards should be made available to people whose needs are highly unlikely to change.
Re-determinations and appeals
The Scottish Government wants to ensure that no one is disadvantaged by time limits for challenging a determination. In response to feedback from the Disability Assistance consultation, Experience Panels and the Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group, Scottish Ministers have set the time limit for requesting a re-determination to 42 calendar days across the Scottish Government’s disability benefits. This is an increase on the month time limit that is set for requesting a mandatory reconsideration by the Department for Work and Pensions. This will provide individuals with additional time to seek advice or gather supporting information which might be required before requesting a re-determination.
If an individual is not able to request a re-determination within 42 calendar days, they can ask for this time limit to be extended. The 2018 Act provides for an extension of up to a year for late re-determination requests. Guidance will ensure that, where an individual requests a late re-determination, their request is considered in a holistic and person-centred manner, taking account of their circumstances.
In the Consultation on Disability Assistance, it was proposed that Social Security Scotland be allowed 40-60 days to carry out a re-determination. 60% of respondents to the Consultation on Disability Assistance agreed with this proposed approach. However, some stakeholders felt that this was an excessive period for someone to be left without clarity over their award level or eligibility.
Given the concerns raised in the consultation, and subsequent stakeholder engagement, the Scottish Government has settled on the timescale for Social Security Scotland to undertake a re-determination at a maximum of 56 calendar days. It may be necessary to gather supporting information on behalf of the individual, and this information may take some time to obtain.
This will be beneficial as it will ensure that disabled people and their families or carers will have certainty about how long Social Security Scotland has to complete a re-determination. Similarly, by enabling individuals to appeal directly to the First-tier Tribunal, should Social Security Scotland be unable to complete the re-determination process within the prescribed timescale, this will further reduce any uncertainty and make people feel more confident in challenging a determination they do not agree with.
During the Parliamentary passage of the 2018 Act, the inclusion of Short-term Assistance was welcomed by stakeholders and supported by Parliament.
The Scottish Government has committed to providing Short-term Assistance where Social Security Scotland has made a determination to reduce or stop an on-going Scottish Government benefit and that determination is subject to a request for re-determination or an appeal. As with the Scottish Government’s other disability benefits, Short-term Assistance will be available for those with an award of Pension Age Disability Payment.
The intention of Short-term Assistance is to ensure individuals are not discouraged from challenging a review of their award determination or from accessing administrative justice, by having to manage, for a period, with a reduced income. Short-term Assistance is not available in the UK Government system. Providing support in this way is another example of where Scottish Ministers are removing barriers in the Scottish social security system.
Short-term Assistance will be available until the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland has made a determination, and is non-recoverable except in cases of fraud or error. Where a person is eligible, the value of Short-term Assistance will be the difference between the level of award paid prior to the reduction and the new level of award. This includes when that amount is now £nil because entitlement to the individual’s award has stopped.
The proposal that Short-term Assistance should not be recoverable, except in cases of fraud or error, was also met with approval by 87% of respondents to the Disability Assistance consultation. This will ensure that, should a re-determination or appeal be unsuccessful, there will not be any overpayments that individuals will need to worry about repaying. This will help to prevent a further reduction in household income should the re-determination or appeal be unsuccessful, something which was stressed by respondents.
A number of key changes for Pension Age Disability Payment have been set out above, including the introduction of the Scottish Government’s definition of terminal illness and provision of Short-term Assistance. However, the Scottish Government does not propose to make significant changes to the existing Attendance Allowance eligibility criteria.
The Scottish Government will ensure that individuals with an award of Attendance Allowance will not need to reapply when transferred to Pension Age Disability Payment. Significant changes to the eligibility criteria from that of Attendance Allowance would risk creating a two-tier system of disability benefits for those over State Pension age. Changes to the eligibility criteria for Pension Age Disability Payment would cause unfairness, confusion and disruption for individuals by having two different sets of eligibility criteria and rules, whilst undertaking a significantly complicated case transfer process.
Eligibility to Attendance Allowance also provides individuals with entitlement to various UK Government benefits and premiums, usually referred to as ‘passporting’. Throughout the consultation on Disability Assistance, people consistently raised concerns about maintaining other support that they are entitled to as a result of their disability benefit award. An example of a passported entitlement through an award of Attendance Allowance is the Severe Disability premium of Pension Credit. Whilst the passporting of benefit entitlements is not the sole reason for Scottish Ministers’ approach to safe and secure transfer, the Scottish Government recognises that these entitlements are crucial to disabled people in Scotland.
However, what Social Security Scotland delivers on day one is not the limit of the Scottish Government’s aspirations. Scottish Ministers are committed to continually improving disability benefits by continuing engagement with disabled people and stakeholders to identify areas for further improvement in future.
There is a problem
Thanks for your feedback