Social Security (Act) 2018: progress report 2019 to 2020

This report is published under Section 20 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 which requires Scottish Ministers to report annually on the performance of the Scottish social security system.

Section 3:  Performance of the System and Delivery of the Charter

This section provides an update on the Scottish Government’s activity to deliver the requirements of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 in the period from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020. As identified earlier, this information should be considered alongside Social Security Scotland’s annual report which sets out the parallel and complementary activity that the Agency has carried out to deliver the Scottish social security system.

Duty to promote take-up

Sections 8 and 9 of the Act require Scottish Ministers to prepare, publish and lay before Parliament a strategy to promote the take-up of Scottish social security assistance.  

The first Benefit Take-Up Strategy was published on 21 October 2019, one year from the commencement of the relevant sections of the Act. Since publication Scottish Government have undertaken a number of new activities which aim to progress the ultimate goal of increasing awareness of and supporting access to Scottish benefits. The Scottish Government has:

  • awarded £600,000 to 26 third sector organisations to support work to promote take-up. The successful projects will deliver against two funds – the first aims to prepare staff to support hard to reach groups who will be applying for Scottish benefits, and the second to ensure people are aware of the financial support available to them. Since the successful projects were announced on 27th February 2020, officials have worked with organisations to ensure the projects that secured the funding remain viable in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • established a stakeholder take-up reference group. This group provides advice and support in the implementation of the take-up strategy, as well as feeding into the development of the next strategy. Membership of the group includes representatives from third sector organisations, Local Authorities and NHS
  • established a Cross-Government Income Maximisation Working Group to ensure a coordinated approach to initiatives across the Scottish Government 
  • developed marketing campaigns and materials to support the promotion of benefits currently being delivered by Social Security Scotland including best practice guidance with examples of practice in promoting/supporting benefit take-up, to support third sector organisations and Local Authorities 
  • produced a suite of resources for stakeholders, which can be accessed digitally or ordered in print. The Scottish Government have also worked with stakeholders to create bespoke products for groups including the Gypsy Traveller community as well as producing promotional materials in nine languages. These languages were selected following stakeholder feedback.

The next Benefit Take-up Strategy will be published within 3 years of Section 9 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 coming into force (in force at 22 October 2018).

Inclusive communication and accessible information

As required by Section 4 of the Act, Social Security Scotland continues to give regard to the importance of communicating in an inclusive way. Social Security Scotland continue to develop an inclusive communication strategy to ensure that people are able to engage with the organisation in a manner that best suits them. We also have the requirement to communicate inclusively in our Corporate Plan and Our Charter. 

An Inclusive Communication Reference Group has been created and includes over 20 representatives from organisations across a wide range of client groups. This group provides expert advice to ensure that inclusive communication principles are embedded across the organisation. 

Communication support is in place for Carer's Allowance Supplement, Best Start Grant, Funeral Support Payment and Young Carer Grant. This communication support includes language interpretation, translation, and transcription of information in over 100 languages. 

Section 5 of the Act requires that Scottish Ministers must have regard to the importance of providing information in a way that is accessible for individuals who have a sensory, physical or mental disability. Information for benefits delivered by Social Security Scotland is available to clients in alternative formats, including braille, large print, audio channels and, where requested, Easy Read. British Sign Language (BSL) users can contact the Agency through the Contact Scotland provision for public sector bodies, ensuring they are able to access the social security system. Contact Scotland is a Scottish Government service that connects deaf BSL users across the country through an online BSL interpreting video relay service with all of Scotland's public authorities and voluntary organisations. 

However, it is recognised that there are limitations in the current Contact Scotland provision to support future benefit delivery. The Scottish Government are therefore expanding services to support deaf and hearing impaired Social Security Scotland clients. Work is also ongoing to develop a range of contact channels, offering greater choice of how clients can engage with the Agency, as well as introducing a standard for the physical accessibility of Social Security Scotland locations for face to face engagement.


The 2018 Act requires Scottish Ministers to make advocacy support available to disabled people who require it to help them claim Scottish social security entitlements. 

The Scottish Government consulted on a set of draft service standards for a Social Security Advocacy service between 11 July and 7 October 2019. Following that consultation, formal Service Standards were published on 31 January 2010. 

Regulations were then brought forward, coming into force on 27th March 2020, which committed the Scottish Government to providing this service from 30 June 2020.

Because advocacy support is aimed at people with disabilities, the introduction of a comprehensive advocacy service in Scotland was timed to coincide with the introduction of Scottish disability benefits, in particular the Child Disability Payment which was scheduled for introduction in the summer of 2020. The Scottish Government undertook a tendering exercise between December 2019 and February 2020 for an organisation to coordinate such a service across the country in time for the introduction of CDP. However, the Coronavirus crisis changed plans for the introduction of disability benefits and it was necessary to end the tendering exercise before it had been concluded. 

However, as it was anticipated that there may still be some demand for the service, from disabled people who are seeking to apply for the existing seven Scottish benefits, as well as for Scottish Child Payment once it is introduced, work commenced to implement an interim service.  This was implemented and commenced on 30 June. 

Scottish Commission on Social Security

The Scottish Commission on Social Security (SCoSS) is an independent advisory Non-Departmental Public Body (“NDPB”). Its primary purpose is to provide scrutiny of the Scottish social security system (including benefit regulations). SCoSS was established on 21 January 2019 as per section 21 of the Act.

The Act sets out a key role for SCoSS in providing independent scrutiny on legislative proposals and advice to Scottish Ministers to support them in achieving a social security service which is human rights based, respects the dignity of individuals and contributes to reducing poverty in Scotland.

Since its formation, SCoSS has successfully appointed a chair and board and begun scrutinising draft regulations. 

  • its first report was published in May 2019 on the Scottish Government’s proposals on a Young Carers Grant 
  • SCoSS published its second report in October 2019 on Uprating, and published its most recent report in January 2020, followed by a supplementary report in February 2020, on Scottish Child Payment
  • SCoSS then laid its scrutiny report for Disability Assistance for Children and Young People in March 2020, setting out their recommendations in relation to the regulations
  • SCoSS has also held their first ever stakeholder event on the Scottish Child Payment.  The event was attended by 25 stakeholders which allowed SCoSS to hear the informed views of parents and other key stakeholders

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant making substantial changes to the planned delivery of benefits and has therefore had a major impact on the planned work for SCoSS

SCoSS has set out some areas where the body  may be able to add value in light of the revised legislative scrutiny timetable, and officials will be mindful of this offer as we move forward. In the meantime, Scottish Government is  keeping SCoSS informed of any updates on the introduction of Wave 2 benefits and the timetable for scrutiny of draft regulations.

Our Charter and the Charter Measurement Framework

The Social Security Charter was passed unanimously by Parliament and launched at the start of 2019. It  received positive feedback from people in Scotland, stakeholders, and experts.

The Act makes it clear that the approval of the Charter is not an end, rather it is the initial blueprint for how the new social security system will function. The Framework is the next step;  it will ensure that we openly and transparently report on how well we are doing in delivering the commitments in the Charter. Further it will deliver robust evidence that allows Ministers to be held accountable by the Scottish Parliament.  

On 17 October 2019, we published a measurement framework that sets out a strong commitment from Scottish Government and Social Security Scotland to openly and honestly report on the extent to which we are delivering the commitments in the Charter. Like the new Social Security System in Scotland the framework is innovative and challenging. It will be populated with bespoke data and the results will be published annually. 

Like Our Charter itself the framework was co-designed with people with lived experience of the social security system. A diverse group of 20 took part in a series of workshops, they took advice from the Scottish Commission on Social Security and representatives from a range of stakeholder groups – professionals who represent the interests of, and work on behalf of, social security clients.

The measures look at how Social Security Scotland operates and delivers benefits, including how the agency treats clients, if staff are well supported and how systems are working. They also look at Scottish Government policy, what the new system is doing as a whole and what is being achieved over the longer term.

Support for carers

Carers make an immense contribution to our society and the Scottish Government believes it is unfair that Carer’s Allowance, currently paid at £67.25 a week, is the lowest of all working age reserved benefits. That is why in 2018 we introduced the Carer’s Allowance Supplement. 

In 2019-20, Carer’s Allowance Supplement provided a twice-yearly payment of £230.10 to carers in Scotland in receipt of Carer’s Allowance, benefiting some of Scotland’s carers on the lowest incomes and with the most intensive caring roles with an extra £460.20 a year. The Supplement increases Carer’s Allowance by 13%, thereby exceeding the level of Jobseekers Allowance in Scotland. Between 2019-20, 78, 125 carers benefited from Carer’s Allowance Supplement payments. 

As a part of our commitment to uprate our Scottish Social Security benefits in accordance with inflation, the Supplement was increased from £226.20 to £230.10 between 2019 and 2020 to reflect the current cost of living. Last year, we invested over £320 million in supporting Scotland’s carers through Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Allowance Supplement combined.

Young Carer Grant

The Young Carer Grant, the first of its kind in the UK, is a payment of £305.10 available to 16, 17 and 18 year-olds who spend a weekly average of 16 hours caring for someone who receives a disability benefit. Over 1,000 young carers in Scotland have already qualified for this support since Social Security Scotland began accepting applications on 21 October 2019. The grant is designed to support young carers to look after their own health and wellbeing, while reducing any negative impact of caring and improving access to opportunities. Young Carer Grant statistics published in February 2020 show an investment of £287,100 in Scotland’s young carers. The interim evaluation report for Young Carer Grant will be published next spring, helping us understand if the benefit is, as part of the wider Scottish Government support package for young carers, delivering on its policy intent.

Carer benefits policy - Covid-19 response 

Towards the end of the 2019-20 reporting year, we started responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Our priority was to maintain access to existing benefits. So, we worked with DWP to relax some of the rules around Carer’s Allowance eligibility during the pandemic. For example, where people are not able to provide 35 hours of care because they, or the person they are caring for, are ill or self-isolating due to coronavirus, their Carer’s Allowance will continue to be paid.

Urgent changes were also made via the emergency Coronavirus (Scotland) Act to protect access to the Young Carer Grant by relaxing the rules around timings for applications. For example, if a young carer applies after their 19th birthday, their application will be treated as though it were on time, even if they were delayed in applying. 

Best Start Grant

Introduction of the Best Start Grant (BSG) is complete, with all three payments now being made by Social Security Scotland. The BSG has been welcomed across Scotland by families both in and out of work. The payments aim to give children the best start in life by providing financial support to eligible parents and carers during key transition points in children’s early years:

  • the Pregnancy and Baby Payment opened for applications on 10 December 2018 and helps with expenses associated with pregnancy or with having a new child
  • the Early Learning Payment opened for applications on 29 April 2019 and helps with the costs of early learning around the time a child might start nursery
  • the School Age Payment opened for applications on 3 June 2019 and provides financial support around the time a child is first old enough to start primary school

The BSG represents significant additional investment by the Scottish Government in comparison to the UK Government’s Sure Start Maternity Grant (SSMG) provision which it replaces. An eligible two child family will receive BSG payments totalling £1,900 in their children’s early years; £1,400 more than the SSMG.

Funeral Support Payment

Social Security Scotland began taking applications for the Funeral Support Payment in September 2019. This is a one-off payment to help eligible people who are on certain low income benefits or tax credits meet the costs of a funeral. The benefit is intended to help alleviate the burden of debt clients may face when paying for a funeral and so help to reduce funeral poverty.

The Scottish Government have substantially widened eligibility for Funeral Support Payment, supporting 40% more people compared to the UK Government funeral payment which it replaces in Scotland. 

The Funeral Support Payment’s standard flat rate for expenses such as funeral director fees, a coffin, and flowers was £700 at the point of introduction. However, we have since increased this amount to £1,000 for all applications received from 1 April 2020; and at the same time we uprated the lower flat rate in line with inflation from £120 to £122.05. We will continue to annually uprate these elements of the payment taking into account the impact of inflation. UK Government has given no commitment to do this.

Disability Assistance

Work to develop policy proposals for the delivery of Disability Assistance in Scotland continued throughout 2019 and 2020.  The consultation, ‘Improving Disability Assistance in Scotland’ concluded in Spring 2019 and the Scottish Government published the analysis report and a response to the feedback received in October 2019.

The feedback received through that consultative exercise supported the development of draft regulations, the Disability Assistance for Children and Young People, now known as Child Disability Payment (CDP).  The draft regulations were sent to the Scottish Commission for Social Security under the duty conferred on the Scottish Ministers by section 97 of the 2018 Act.  SCoSS laid its scrutiny report before Parliament on 6 March 2020 setting out their recommendations in relation to the regulations. 

The Scottish Government has progressed work to deliver the ‘Rising 16s’ manifesto commitment to ensure that clients receiving Disability Living Allowance for children (DLAC) who turn 16 from 1 September 2020 will not be required to apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP). As executive competence for disability benefits transferred to the Scottish Ministers on 1 April 2020, devolved powers will be used to extend the upper entitlement age of DLAC, for existing DLAC clients in Scotland, to age 18 in advance of the commencement of the Child Disability Payment.

Scottish Child Payment

The Scottish Child Payment (SCP) was announced in June 2019, utilising the powers set out in Section 79 of the Scotland Act 2018 - which enables the Scottish Government to top up reserved benefits. 

The Payment is being introduced as one of a range of measures committed to in the first Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, tackling child poverty for those families in receipt of low income reserved benefits. It aligns with the principles set out under Section 1 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018, in particular that the social security system should contribute to reducing poverty.  

The Payment will pay the equivalent of £10 a week every four weeks to eligible low income families with no cap on the number of children under 16 a family can claim for.

In recognition of the fact that of all children in poverty, almost 60% live in a family where a child is under six years old, we have committed to introducing the payment for this age group ahead of the full rollout of the benefit. 

The SCP is being delivered through secondary legislation, and draft regulations have been scrutinised by the SCoSS, who published a scrutiny report in January 2020, followed by a supplementary report in February 2020. The Scottish Government will publish a response to this report and lay the regulations ahead of the Payment’s launch later this year. The regulations will be accompanied by the publication of a set of Impact Assessments. 

We have engaged extensively with a range of stakeholders throughout the Payment’s development. Policy engagement has included anti-poverty organisations, think tanks, academia and local authorities. The views of people with lived experience of applying for and receiving benefits have also been captured through a range of user research activities across Scotland. To date over 300 users have been engaged, including charity workers, welfare officers, kinship carers and groups across the protected characteristics. We have issued a survey to Experience Panel members seeking views on the design of the Scottish Child Payment and engaged with individual members to test the prototype and paper forms. 


Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Allowance Supplement were uprated by the September 2018 Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 2.4% from April 2019.  During discussions with the Social Security Committee regarding this uprate, Scottish Ministers gave a commitment that the Scottish Government would engage with the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Commission on Social Security in the consideration of the uprating measures that may be applied by Scottish Ministers in future years. 

A comprehensive report, including analytical evidence, was provided to the Social Security Committee and the Scottish Commission on Social Security on 2 September 2019.  The report recommended that the assistance payment would be uprated with the September CPI rate and rounded to the nearest five pence.

The Commission was supportive of the Scottish Government’s uprating policy at least in the short-term and made recommendations to which the Scottish Government responded.  The Social Security Committee also noted the Scottish Government’s position on uprating of devolved assistance and had no further views to report beyond the discussion at the Committee on 10 October 2019.

Section 77 and 78 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 (‘the Act’) were commenced on 30 October 2019.  This placed a duty on Scottish Ministers, under section 77 of the Act, to consider the effects of inflation on all devolved assistance that were being delivered at that time and to report to the Scottish Parliament on what the Scottish Ministers intended to do as a result of the changes to inflation.  Under section 78 of the Act there was also a duty to uprate by inflation Funeral Support Payment and Young Carer Grant for the 2020/21 financial year.

The section 77 report was published on 7 February 2020. Funeral Support Payment, Young Carer Grant, Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Allowance Supplement were to be uprated through September 2019 CPI of 1.7% from April 2020.  In addition to the uprate by price inflation to the standard rate of the other expenses element of the Funeral Support Payment, it was to be further increased to £1,000 from April 2020.

Offences and Investigations

Following extensive consultation with stakeholders[1] the Social Security Assistance (Investigation of Offences) (Scotland) Regulations 2020[2] came into force on 24 January 2020 creating specific powers for Social Security Scotland to undertake investigative activity where necessary into suspected fraud in claims for benefits paid under the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018. It also created a new offence of obstruction of an investigation. 

The regulations were accompanied by the statutory Code of Practice for Investigations[3] which sets out how officers from Social Security Scotland will investigate suspected fraud and what clients can expect in the course of an investigation. 

In preparation for recurring benefits, work has continued throughout the year with the Department and Work and Pensions to develop processes that are consistent with the principle of dignity and respect, and that can be applied in common interest investigations where there is fraud across multiple benefits or spanning periods during which both agencies have overpaid benefit. 

Coronavirus Emergency Legislation 

The Scottish Government introduced legislation to ensure that Social Security Scotland clients are not disadvantaged by the Coronavirus crisis and are able to claim assistance to which they are entitled and which they may otherwise have missed out on if late applications were not allowed. 

Section 8 and Schedule 7 of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 were commenced on 01 April 2020, and relax timescales set out in the Social Security (Scotland) Act in relation to applications, redeterminations and appeal requests. These are set out below: 

Redetermination and appeal requests

  • Clients are able to submit re-determination requests for up to one year from the date of receiving the original decision provided they have ‘good reason’ for doing so. Covid-19 disruption related reasons will fall within the ‘good reason’ description.
  • The maximum one year time period for making a re-determination and appeal request will be disapplied where clients can show that the delay is due to Covid-19 disruption. 
  • Social Security Scotland will make the redetermination as soon as reasonably practicable within a new extended timescale. The original timescale of 16 working days is extended by an additional 9 weeks. 

Application for assistance

  • The Act allows for late applications across all forms of assistance to be accepted and considered where the lateness is due to coronavirus. This will also include applications where someone loses their entitlement to assistance due to their age as a direct result of coronavirus, for example in relation to Young Carer’s Grant or Best Start Grant. 

The majority of measures in the Bill will automatically expire six months after coming into force.  They may be extended for two further periods of six months if necessary, giving a maximum duration of 18 months.  



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