Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare minutes: January 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 25 January 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Chair: Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government (CSfSJHLG), Shona Robison MSP (Scottish Government - SG)
  • Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Scotland (PuSoSS), John Lamont MP (Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland - OSSS)
  • Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (MfDP), Tom Pursglove MP (Department for Work and Pensions - DWP)
  • Minister for Social Security and Local Government (MfSSLG), Ben Macpherson MSP (SG)
  • Officials from Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland (OSSS) and Scottish Government (SG)

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions, actions and minutes from 18th meeting

CSfSJHLG welcomed attendees to the 19th meeting of the Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare, noting the continuing positive working relationships between the governments on social security matters.  She highlighted the importance of both governments delivering for the most vulnerable members of society, amidst the current cost of living challenges, noting SG support including the Scottish Child Payment (SCP) and non-social security measures like the moratorium on evictions and rent freezes in Scotland. 

MfDPHW agreed, noting the support from both Governments and the importance of joint working on such measures. MfDPHW highlighted support through cost of living payments and help with heating bills set out in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. 

In discussion, ministers agreed the Governments should continue to work together to consider what further action could be taken, noting the importance of identifying those in need and signposting available support packages.  

Action 1: CSfSJHLG wrote to the DWP Ministers last year. Action was closed. 

Action 2: SG wrote to DWP Ministers in 2022. The MfDPHW noted that he had now received assurance from the DWP Permanent Secretary on the future delivery timetable and would write shortly confirming extension of the Social Fund, with Winter Fuel Payment being delivered by DWP for winter 2023/24.  That letter would also confirm that agency agreements for Carer’s Allowance and Personal Independence Payment would be extended to March 2025, with all other agency agreements extended to 2026. Action was closed. 

Action 3: PuSoS noted that UKG has introduced a wide range of support packages to support the cost of living since the previous meeting of the working group. Action was closed. 

Social Security Scotland: delivery of benefits - current priorities

Adult Disability Payment 

MfSSLG provided an update on Adult Disability Payment (ADP), noting the significant volume of applications now received and processed and progress on case transfer. JMWGW noted the update and the effective joint working of officials, agreeing that remained important to deal with operational issues as they arise in case transfer. 

MfSSLG reminded the group that SG will launch an independent review of ADP in the autumn. An initial consultation on mobility indicators to inform that review would commence at the end of January.  MfDPHW agreed that the Governments should work together and learn from each other on the development of policy on disability benefits. 

Scottish Child Payment 

MfSSLG noted that with effect from 14 November Scottish Child Payment had been extended to under 16s and payments increased to £25 per week. The benefit was very popular, with around 123,000 applications taken by Social Security Scotland up to 11 December 2022. He thanked DWP for their assistance in providing the data required for the extension.

Winter Heating Payment 

MfSSLG confirmed Winter Heating Payment was on track for payments to begin to be made in February, subject to receipt of the required data scan from DWP by the end of the month.  MfDPHW confirmed that DWP was on track to deliver the data by 31 January.  

Future delivery of devolved benefits

SG officials set out the proposed high level timetable for future delivery of SG benefits, which would shortly be published in a revised Programme Business Case. The timetable was prepared in consultation with DWP and the Governments had confirmed that the resources required to enable delivery would be in place. 

The following matters were highlighted and discussed: 

Carer Support Payment

The pilot for Carer Support Payment (CSP), the replacement for Carer’s Allowance in Scotland, is scheduled to launch in November 2023 followed by national roll-out in Spring 2024. SG will set out its approach to the new benefit shortly, including improvements to be made now, at the completion of case transfer and areas to be considered further in the future. These changes were being discussed by officials. MfSSLG noted that technical issues relating to case transfer required to be resolved. He would write to MfDPHW on the matter.  

ACTION: MfSSLG to write to MfDPHW on matters relating to case transfer for CSP.

Pension Age Disability Payment and Pension Age Winter Heating Allowance

Pension Age Disability Payment (PADP), the SG benefit replacing Attendance Allowance, will be delivered following CSP case transfer.  A pilot for PADP will launch in Autumn 2024, progressing to full roll out in 2025. Pension Age Winter Heating Assistance will proceed to similar timescales, with payments to be made in Winter 2024-25. 

Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

Discussion continues on Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB). MfSSLG noted the complex challenges of delivering a replacement scheme and case transfer. The next step, in line with a long-standing SG commitment, will be a public consultation to launch in spring 2023. He welcomed the extension of the current agency agreement to enable this work to proceed, noting the importance of the Governments’ working together to ensure delivery in the interests of people receiving these benefits. MfDPHW agreed, noting the importance of keeping on track with the agreed delivery timetable, due to the knock-on implications for other DWP project work. A formal request would be required if the agency agreement for IIDB were to be extended further. 

Compensation Recovery

MfSSLG noted that he had written to DWP ministers about arrangements for compensation recovery for relevant SG benefits in line with arrangements for related reserved benefits. MfDPHW confirmed that he would respond in due course. 

Action: MfDPHW to respond to MfSSLG letter regarding compensation recovery. 

In conclusion, JMWGW agreed the timeline is appropriate and achievable and that the Governments are committed to providing the resources required to ensure delivery. Underpinning arrangements, notably agency agreements, would be updated as set out in the letter to be issued by MfDPHW.

Any other business

CSfSJHLG noted the absence of a plan for  the abolition of the Spare Room Subsidy at source and asked that DWP set out proposed action. MfDPHW suggested this should be discussed at the next meeting of the JMWGW.

CSfSHLG raised the impact of the freeze on Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate on Scottish renters. Noted that the SG has committed £7.9 million so councils can provide support to mitigate the freeze. Requested that it could be increased in light of the rise in the cost of living. MfDPHW noted that UKG is forecast to pay £30 billion in support for housing in Great Britain through the benefit system. UKG was also increasing the personal allowances and other rates of reserved benefits in line with inflation. There were also discretionary measures such as the Household Support Fund in England which gave rise to Barnett consequentials. MfDPHW agreed to raise the issue of the LHA with relevant UKG Ministers.

Action: MfDWP to raise the issue of LHA with relevant UK Ministers. 

CSfSJHLG also asked for an update on DWP’s Health and Disability White Paper. MfDPHW noted that 4,500 responses had been received and were being analysed and next steps being considered. He suggested further discussion at the next meeting of the JMWGW.

Summary of action points

  • Action 1: MfSSLG to write to MfDPHW on matters relating to case transfer for CSP.
  • Action 2: MfDPHW to respond to MfSSLG letter regarding compensation recovery. 
  • Action 3: MfDWP to raise the issue of LHA with relevant DWP Ministers. 
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