Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare minutes: November 2021
- Social Security Directorate
Minutes from the 17th meeting of the Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare.
Attendees and apologies
- Chair: Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government (CSfSJHLG)
- Minister for Social Security and Local Government (MfSSLG)
- Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (MfDP)
- Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland (PuSoSS)
- 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 and minutes and actions from 16th meeting
CSfSJHLG welcomed attendees to the meeting. She provided an update on the delivery of the devolved benefits and thanked officials for their hard work to deliver this. All present expressed the importance of ensuring this complex technical programme was delivered safely and securely.
All present noted the minutes of the previous meeting had been agreed and published. Actions were noted.
Social Security Scotland: delivery of benefits
Delivery of CDP and ADP
MfSSLG provided an update on progress for the implementation of Disability Assistance. The Child Disability Payment (CDP) pilot began on 26 July 2021, with positive feedback. Final preparations were now underway for full rollout on 22 November 2021 and the first clients would be receiving their letters of introduction later that week following their transfer from DWP a couple of weeks previously. MfSSLG recognised the significant work officials were doing to ensure delivery plans were in place. He requested assurances from DWP that the managed transfer for the remaining Disability Living Allowance for Children caseload could begin in March 2022. Officials discussed the complexities involved with the managed transfer process and the timetable for the work.
PuSoS confirmed that all Orders required for Child Disability Payment had now been laid in the UK Parliament, including one debated in the Commons that day.
MfSSLG provided an update on Adult Disability Payment (ADP) which was due to begin its pilot in March 2022. He asked if the OSSS would consider bringing the affirmative procedure Scotland Act Order forward to align with the pilot dates as any risk of delay could cause issues with vulnerable clients. PuSoS said that whilst the UK Government (UKG) are committed to working to SG delivery dates where feasible, there had been a significant delay in the SG’s drafting of the Scotland Act Order. He explained the importance of the UKG having time to complete due diligence checks. He confirmed the OSSS would work to expedite the timetables but asked that SG officials provide the risks and mitigations assessment which his officials had requested as soon as possible.
Scottish Child Payment
CSfSJHLG introduced this item. She explained that the SG were keen to move forward with phase two of Scottish Child Payment as part of a wider focus on tackling child poverty. The SG has committed to launch phase two before the end of 2022, however CSfSJHLG highlighted that there was an ongoing issue around the preferred technical solution and the timescales. She therefore suggested a follow up ministerial meeting to discuss the detail and next steps. Further she suggested that, if DWP’s preferred solution was taken forward, Scottish Ministers would be seeking a letter of comfort from DWP with assurances that it was deliverable to Scottish Ministers timescales. MfDP agreed to a separate discussion to assess the situation with the SG. She stated that there was a broader point here about the dangers of making public commitments before working through delivery timescales and feasibility with DWP.
Officials discussed the technical aspects for providing the Scottish Child Payment data.
Action one: DWP and SG to discuss detail and timescales for Scottish Child Payment.
Future delivery, planning and legislation for other devolved benefits
CSfSJHLG introduced the item and praised the close working relationship between the DWP and the SG to reprioritise the social security programme following the impact of COVID-19. She also welcomed the role of the OSSS in taking the necessary legislation through the UK Parliament. CSfSJHLG wanted to ensure the timetable for delivering the remaining benefits was as efficient as possible, whilst also remaining committed to a safe and secure delivery.
MfSSLG confirmed the SG would be issuing a commissioning letter to DWP to request an extension beyond 2022 for the Carer’s Allowance, Carers Allowance Supplement and Data Sharing Agreements.
MfSSLG thanked MfDP for her letter regarding DWP’s plans for passporting and stated it was helpful to be having early constructive dialogue on this, particularly in the context of the Health and Disability Green Paper. He also thanked DWP for their recent letter reaffirming their position of the extension to the Social Fund. The SG intended to consult on the proposed policy for Low Income Winter Heating Assistance (the replacement for Cold Winter Payment) in the second half of November 2021.
MfSSLG explained that there was also a growing expectation that the SG would make further changes to Adult Disability Payment once transfer had been concluded. This would follow an independent review of Adult Disability Payment which the SG have committed to in 2023. He suggested that there was likely to be a growing divergence on policy approaches in future. MfDP asked what the realistic timelines looked like here. Early sight of these which consider other interdependencies would ensure a higher chance of success.
Action two: Both governments to share potential policy changes which may lead to divergence of approaches on social security benefits.
PuSoS requested a shared understanding of the SG’s upcoming plans, particularly following their Programme for Government. He explained that the earlier the UKG can get sight of these plans, the sooner the OSSS can factor in legislative slots and ensure delivery. CSfSJHLG committed to keeping close to the OSSS in sharing this information once dates had been discussed with delivery partners.
Action three: The SG to continue to keep the UKG up to date with plans for other devolved benefits
CSfSJHLG noted that work on the offsetting of the bedroom tax (removal of the spare room subsidy) between Scottish Government and Department for Work and Pensions colleagues had not progressed. She asked DWP for an update on this. She welcomed the changes to Universal Credit work allowances, however remained concerned about the removal of the £20 uplift. The SG had recently announced a £41 million winter support package for families to cover essentials such as fuel and food, made up of Barnett consequentials.
CSfSJHLG ended the meeting by thanking all the officials involved in the work. All members agreed that these relationships were important to ensure any difficult issues could be resolved.
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