Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare minutes: September 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 19 September 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice (CSSJ), Scottish Government (SG)
  • John Lamont MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (PuSoSS), Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland (OSSS) (Chair)
  • Tom Pursglove MP, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (MfDPHW), Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

PuSOSS welcomed attendees to the 20th meeting of the Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare (JMWGW).  PuSoSS informed attendees that the Secretary of State for Scotland (SoSS) could not attend due to urgent ministerial business and extended his apologies.

PuSoSS highlighted the continued importance of the JMWGW and that both governments were working well together. CSSJ agreed the governments should continue their good work when delivering the remaining benefits. CSSJ and MfDPHW thanked officials in both governments for their work to date on the smooth implementation of the relevant provisions of the Scotland Act 2016.                                                                   

Minutes and actions from previous meeting                

Action 1: MfDPHW responded to the then Minister for Social Security and Local Government Ben Macpherson MSP,  on this interaction between devolved and reserved benefits on 6 June and this action is now closed.

Action 2: MfDPHW had commissioned advice from his department on the issue of compensation recovery and would respond to CSSJ in due course.

Action 3: CSSJ welcomed MfDPWH’s offer of a bilateral meeting with the DWP Minister responsible for policy on the Local Housing Allowance, and hoped that this would remove the need for an exchange of correspondence.

Social Security Scotland delivery of benefits - current priorities

Carer Support Payment (CSP)

CSSJ stated that work was progressing well and recognised that this was the most technically complex part of the Programme so far.

PuSOSS noted that the section 104 order, in consequence of regulations made by Scottish Ministers to introduce Carer Support Payment in Scotland, would be laid in the UK Parliament on 16 October. He asked that all partners continue to work together to deliver to the agreed timetable for the legislation.

Adult Disability Payment (ADP) and Child Disability Payment (CDP)

CSSJ noted the work was going well and that Social Security Scotland was processing significant volumes of new ADP claims. CSSJ and MfDPHW recognised that work on case transfers was progressing smoothly and wanted this to continue.

Future delivery, planning and legislation of remaining devolved benefits

Pension Age Disability Payment (PADP)

PuSOSS introduced the item by setting out that PADP would replace Attendance Allowance (AA) in Scotland. The SoSS had recently provided his in principle agreement for a section 104 order to allow for PADP to be treated as equivalent to AA for the purposes of the reserved benefit system, in accordance with agreements by DWP Ministers in this respect. PuSoSS noted that work on drafting that order was now underway and reiterated the importance of all parties working together. CSSJ confirmed that work was ongoing and agreed that SG and UKG should continue to work together on the range of work required to deliver the replacement benefit. 

MfDPHW noted that he was grateful to CSSJ and SG officials for sharing the policy background and legislation in good time.

Pension Age Winter Heating Payment (PAWHP)

CSSJ stated work was proceeding according to the expected timetable on the replacement of Winter Fuel Payments in Scotland and that the SG will shortly launch the consultation on the new benefit. MfDPHW noted that he was keen to understand more about the SG proposals and how it was progressing.

Scottish Adult Disability Living Allowance (SADLA)

Scottish Ministers are considering introducing Scottish Adult DLA (rather than ADP or PADP) to replace DLA for adults in Scotland that remain on this benefit. MfDPHW noted that, whilst accommodating this in the reserved benefit system would not be a complicated matter, his Department would be working on other priorities at the same time as its proposed introduction. It was therefore important to have timely information on SG’s plans and timescales. CSSJ acknowledged the importance of this.

Employment Injury Assistance

CSSJ outlined SG’s plans for consultation on the replacement for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) and noted that officials would be in touch to arrange further discussion. She reiterated the discussion in previous meetings about the challenges of developing a replacement for IIDB as a result of the existing infrastructure. MfDPHW noted that, for broader planning reasons, DWP needed to understand SG's plans and timescales for the replacement of IIDB by early 2024 given the long lead in times likely to be required because of the complexity of the benefit.

Upcoming legislation                                                   

CSSJ noted that the Social Security (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill would soon be introduced in the Scottish Parliament. The Bill would cover, amongst other things, powers for Scottish Ministers on compensation recovery for benefits delivered by Social Security Scotland.

Health and Disability White Paper/Independent review of ADP

CSSJ was keen that the UK Government commit to using ADP as the ‘gateway’ in Scotland to the forthcoming Universal Credit Health Element (UCHE). Its role in “passporting” into the reserved benefit system would be relevant in this context. MfDPHW noted that if UCHE were being introduced today then ADP would be the gateway, and in principle that would be his preference. But given the timescales involved before its introduction it would be necessary to keep developments under review before making that decision. He asked DWP officials to continue discussions with their SG counterparts on the issue (action).

CSSJ thanked MfDPHW for that assurance, noting that there would be scrutiny and calls for change from stakeholders when the ADP independent review is launched and it would be important to work together to understand the implications of potential future changes.

Any other business

CSSJ raised the issue of the Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy, referred to by SG Ministers as the Bedroom Tax, pointing out that at the previous meeting MfDPHW had suggested its removal at source in Universal Credit in Scotland could be picked up at this meeting. MfDPHW noted SG’s concern at its need to use Discretionary Housing Payments to mitigate the effects of the Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy pending its removal at source. He noted that he could not give a timescale for the removal due to other priorities for the Universal Credit Programme at Great Britain level. CSSJ would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further at a future meeting

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