This policy will introduce new powers to allow large payments of arrears of devolved disability benefits to Scottish clients to be paid in instalments, with the consent of the client. The aim is to mitigate the risk of vulnerable clients using the lump sum in a way that may be harmful to them.
Executive competence for disability benefits transferred to Scottish Ministers on 1 April 2020, and they are currently being delivered by DWP under the terms of Agency Agreements. While payments are being made by DWP to Scottish clients, Scottish Ministers are legally responsible for the administration of devolved benefits, and any changes to the legislation supporting that administration. The benefits that have been devolved to Scotland and are being delivered under Agency Agreements are: Carers' Allowance, Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance, Severe Disablement Allowance and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
The change will apply across all devolved benefits delivered under the Agency Agreements. However, in practice, PIP clients will be the most likely to be affected. This is because there are a number of ongoing PIP Legal Entitlements and Administrative Practice (LEAP) exercises. LEAP exercises are administrative exercises that are undertaken to ensure clients have received the correct benefit entitlement. The need for a LEAP exercise can emerge when the Upper Tribunal or court interprets legislation in a way which widens access to benefits affecting other clients or, systematic error in guidance or procedures applying legislation has resulted in clients being underpaid. These exercises can result in clients receiving payments of arrears. If a long time has passed since the original decision, this can result in clients being due a large back payment. While a LEAP exercise may be required across any benefit, in practice most LEAP activity in the benefits now devolved to Scotland is concentrated around PIP.
Scottish Ministers have a responsibility to take positive steps to review and correct any determination that may have been made in error, to the client's detriment. This will likely result in Social Security Scotland making large back payments of benefits from time to time. We will give due consideration to vulnerability issues and safeguarding when developing policy and processes on making large back payments for benefits.