Scotland Acts 2012 and 2016 implementation: annual reports

Report to inform Parliament of the implementation work that has been carried out on fiscal powers in the Scotland Acts 2012 and 2016 as required by Section 33 of the Scotland Act 2012 and paragraph 107 of the Fiscal Framework.

6. Social Security

Part 3 of the Scotland Act 2016 contains 14 Sections relating to social security and employment support. The provisions in these Sections of the Act give the Scottish Parliament greater powers to ensure that social security in Scotland is tailored to the needs of Scottish citizens. Once transferred, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government will be responsible for social security benefits ultimately worth over £4 billion of spending each year in Scotland.

Key Developments

  • Social Security Scotland is now established and directly employs 560 people across its Dundee Headquarters, Glasgow site and communities across Scotland. It is forecast to deliver £343 million of payments across Scotland by end of 2019-20.
  • The Best Start Grant Early Learning Payment and Best Start Grant School Age Payment were launched on April 2019 and June 2019, respectively.
  • The Best Start Foods payment card was launched in August 2019 and replaced the UK Government's Healthy Start Vouchers.
  • The first payments for Funeral Support Payment were made in September 2019.
  • Social Security Scotland's new benefit to help support young carers, Young Carer Grant, was launched in October 2019.





2019-2020 (forecast)









6.1.1 The costs above have been updated following last year's report and the forecast for 2019-2020 also included. As forecast by the Scottish Fiscal Commission, total benefit expenditure for 2020-21 is £3.4 billion.

6.1.2 By the end of 2019-20, the Scottish Government will have spent an estimated £82 million on implementing the social security programme. The Programme Business Case was published in February 2020 to provide the whole-life costs and benefits of the Programme over a 30-year timeframe to 2050.[18] The business case clearly explains the strategic context, rationale for change, socio-economic considerations, commercial considerations, and financial information and management structures necessary to deliver social security benefits for the people of Scotland. It covers short-term implementation and transition work as well as longer-term activity and measurable improvements resulting from the programme. The business case ensures decision making is robust and value for money assured.

Social Security (Scotland) Act

6.1.3 The Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 sets out the over-arching legislative framework for the Scottish Government's social security powers. The Act sets out eight principles on which the Scottish social security system is based. The Act required the Scottish Government to develop a Social Security Charter, published in January 2019, which sets out how the Scottish Government and Social Security Scotland will deliver on the principles set out in the Act. The Charter also sets out what is required from individuals who apply for and receive assistance.

6.1.4 The Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 established the Scottish Commission on Social Security (SCoSS), an independent advisory Non-Departmental Public Body. In its first year, SCoSS has provided scrutiny of a number of legislative proposals, including Funeral Expense Assistance, Young Carers' Grant, Uprating and Scottish Child Payment, to support Scottish Ministers in achieving a social security service that is human rights based, respects the dignity of individuals and contributes to reducing poverty in Scotland.

Social Security Scotland

6.1.5 Social Security Scotland delivers its services in accordance with the eight principles set out in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 and the Social Security Charter. Once fully operational, Social Security Scotland will employ in excess of 1900 people across central and local functions. Foremost amongst these principles is the requirement that people be treated with dignity, fairness and respect.

6.1.6 Social Security Scotland provided £190 million in payments in the 2018-2019 financial year to more than 91,000 people across Scotland. In the financial year 2019-20 it expects to spend over £340 million. Once fully operational, Social Security Scotland will administer around £4.2 billion in payments per annum.

6.1.7 In the next 12 months Social Security Scotland's service will expand beyond the seven payments that it currently has on offer. The Agency will continue to build capacity this year in preparation for the launch of a range of disability benefits, which will become the major part of the Agency's operation in the future.


6.1.8 The Best Start Grant Early Learning Payment and School Age Payment were introduced by the Scottish Government following the new powers introduced in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018. The Early Learning Payment commenced in April 2019 and provides £250 to low income families around the time a child can start nursery. The School Age Payment, which followed in June 2019, provides £250 to eligible families around the time a child can start school.

6.1.9 Funeral Support Payment, which replaces the UK Government's Funeral Expenses Payment, was launched in September 2019. This provides support to lower-income families struggling with funeral costs. In 2019-20 the flat rate payment was £700, which has been increased to £1000 in the 2020-21 Scottish Budget. Social Security Scotland had received 950 applications for this payment as of October 2019.

6.1.10 The Young Carers' Grant gives £300 to carers who are aged 16-18 and provide an average of 16 hours of care per week. This was launched in October 2019 and is expected to have supported almost 2000 young carers by end 2019-20.

Scottish Welfare Fund and Discretionary Housing Payments

6.1.11 The Scottish Welfare Fund was established in April 2013 to provide a safety net to people on low incomes and in need. An estimated £220 million has been paid out to more than 357,000 households in need. In 2020-21, funding for the Scottish Welfare Fund is to be increased by almost 8%, from £38 million for 2019-20, to £41 million in 2020-21.

6.1.12 Responsibilty for Discretionary Housing Payments was devolved to the Scottish Government on 1 April 2017. The Scottish Government committed over £63 million to Discretionary Housing Payments in 2019-20, and this is to be increased to £73 million for 2020-21.

Scottish Child Payment

6.1.13 Work to implement the new Scottish Child Payment began in 2019-20. The Scottish Child Payment, a new benefit for low-income families with children aged under 16, will be a preventative measure to reduce levels of child poverty in Scotland.

6.1.14 The Scottish Government are using the powers to top up a reserved benefit contained in Section 79 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 to introduce Scottish Child Payment. Using secondary legislation allows the Scottish Government to make these payments quicker to families in need.

Welfare Foods

6.1.15 Section 27 of the Scotland Act 2016 came into force on 8 February 2019, devolving all functions relating to the subject matter of Section 13 of the Social Security Act 1988 (benefits under schemes for improving nutrition: pregnant women, mothers and children). These schemes are referred to as Welfare Foods (Best Start Foods) and replace the Healthy Start Voucher Scheme previously operated by UK Government.

6.1.16 Following Section 27 coming in to force, Scottish Ministers laid regulations using the power in Section 13 of the 1988 Act to make amendments to the Welfare Foods. The Best Start Foods payment card was launched in August 2019 and replaced the UK Government's Healthy Start Vouchers. The Scottish Government made changes to the scheme and implemented payment cards rather than vouchers, increased payments from £3.10 to £4.25 and expanded the range of foods available through the scheme.



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