Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare minutes: March 2024

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 20 March 2024.

Attendees and apologies

  • Chair: Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice (CSSJ), Shirley Anne- Somerville MSP (Scottish Government - SG)
  • Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland (PuSoSS), John Lamont MP (Scotland Office - SO)
  • Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (PuSOSWP), Viscount Younger of Leckie (Department for Work and Pensions - DWP)

Items and actions

Agenda item 1 - Welcome and introductions

CSSJ welcomed attendees to the 21st Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare.

CSSJ highlighted the positive working relationships on delivering the devolution of social security and the continued hard work from Ministers and officials in both Governments.

CCSJ spoke about her current priorities, including an upcoming visit to London, the Spring Budget and the Spare Room Subsidy, referred to by Scottish Government Ministers as the Bedroom Tax.

CCSJ expressed her disappointment at the absence of certain reserved benefit measures from the recent Spring Budget and would welcome a separate discussion on this with DWP Ministers.

PuSOSWP noted that this was his first attendance at JMWGW and agreed on the positive working relationships. He was keen that these should continue. He noted the points made by the CSSJ relating to the Spring Budget.

CSSJ asked that DWP provide the SG with an outline timetable for the suppression of the removal of the Spare Room Subsidy in Universal Credit at source in Scotland. She recognised that the Universal Credit programme had many other priorities, but noted that this issue had been raised several times at previous meetings, and she was keen to see the prospect of progress on it.

Agenda item 2 - Actions and minutes from 20th meeting

Action 1: CSSJ highlighted the action from the previous meeting where the then Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work had asked DWP officials to continue discussions on matters arising from the “Transforming Support” White Paper on Health and Work. CSSJ welcomed previous assurances from DWP Ministers about the way in which Adult Disability Payment, like Personal Independence Payment, would be regarded for the purposes of passporting to other benefits. She stated that she wished to ensure no detriment in the reserved benefit system for those in receipt of Scottish benefits. CSSJ also informed attendees that a chair had been announced for the independent review of Adult Disability Payment. This update was noted by other attendees.

Agenda item 3 - Social Security Scotland - Delivery of Benefits

Current Priorities: Carer Support Payment

CSSJ outlined the progress on introducing new claims to Carer Support Payments on a progressive basis ahead of a national roll out expected by the end of November 2024, at which point Carer’s Allowance will be closed to new claims in Scotland, and thanked officials for their work on this.

With respect to existing cases, CSSJ recognised that these two benefits (Carer’s Allowance and Carer Support Payment) are the most technically complex that will be subject to case transfer between DWP and Social Security Scotland. She thanked officials in both governments for their work on both introducing new claims and transferring existing ones.

PuSOSWP shared his thanks for the progress made and stated that it was a testament to the joint working between departments.

Winter Benefits

CSSJ noted the technical difficulties in the delivery of data required to deliver Cold Winter Heating Payments to households in receipt of qualifying DWP benefits. She was, however, pleased that officials had worked together to find solutions, and that DWP and Social Security Scotland were drawing together lessons learnt for future years, and when Pension Age Winter Heating Assistance is introduced in winter 2024/25 to replace Winter Fuel Payments.

PuSOSWP also shared his thanks for this work, and noted the importance of learning lessons when dealing with such complex issues.

Future delivery, planning and legislation for devolved benefits

Pension Age Disability Payments

CSSJ acknowledged that the year ahead would be particularly busy for the delivery of devolution of social security.

CSSJ explained that a pilot for delivering new claims to Pension Age Disability Payments, in replacement of Attendance Allowance, would begin later this year, via a phased introduction in additional Local Authorities and national roll-out in 2025, with work continuing as scheduled, including the related Section 104 Scotland Act Orders.

Scottish Adult Disability Living Allowance (SADLA)

CSSJ stated that the policy of transferring some adult cases of Disability Living Allowance to SADLA (rather than Adult Disability Payment) had been announced recently, with officials working on the timetable for the related Section 104 Scotland Act Order.

CSSJ appreciated the challenges surrounding the current legislation situation in the UK Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly and the effects of the forthcoming General Election, but reiterated her request that the legislation be in place in time to allow for the transfer of cases to be announced as per the agreed timetable.

PuSOSWP echoed CSSJs comments around the challenges of the legislative landscape. He noted the timetabling request and explained the importance for future benefits of allowing 18 months for the delivery of secondary legislation in the UK Parliament once the detail of any new devolved benefit has been finalised.

Employment Injury Assistance / Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB)

CSSJ noted that IIDB was unique among the devolved benefits, including in the way it is administered, and outlined SG’s plan to launch a consultation on its replacement. She committed to keeping DWP officials sighted on its progress. (ACTION)

PuSOSWP welcomed the consultation, and the commitment for sharing progress. He agreed that there were particular challenges arising from IIDB due to the paper- based administration of the payment.

Agenda item 4 - Other business

CSSJ noted that the Compensation Recovery Scheme was featured in the Bill due to go through the Scottish Parliament soon. CSSJ noted that colleagues were working on the Scottish Government’s preferred approach, which was for DWP to take forward compensation recovery on behalf of Scottish Ministers. It would be good to review the outcome of this work so that the next steps could quickly be identified.

CSSJ referred to an issue relating to the treatment of student loans in Universal Credit which stakeholders had asked to be raised with the UK Government, confirming that she would write shortly. CSSJ will write separately on this matter.

CSSJ noted the importance of continuing the joint working between departments once the Scottish Government and DWP Scottish Devolution Programmes had closed, as dependencies would remain beyond the current programme. CSSJ was keen for officials to start considering how cooperation may work beyond that point.

PuSOSWP agreed with the need to continue the positive working arrangements already formed, and to begin thinking about future arrangements without detriment to maintaining the existing ones for as long as the programmes continue. PuSoSS reinforced the need to continue working collaboratively and to explore potential options for the programme in the future.

PuSOSWP extended an invitation to meet CSSJ during her upcoming visit to London if diaries allowed.

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