The Scottish Government will become responsible for some of the benefits currently delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). As part of the work to prepare for this change, the Scottish Government have set up the Social Security Experience Panels. Experience Panels are made up of over 2,400 people who have recent experience of at least one of the benefits that will be devolved to Scotland. Universal Credit is not being devolved to Scotland. However, the Scotland Act 2016 allows Scottish Ministers to introduce flexibilities with regard to the person to whom, and the time when, Universal Credit is to be paid in Scotland. The Experience Panels includes people with experience of Universal Credit alongside their experience of one of the 11 benefits that are being devolved. The Scottish Government is working with Experience Panel members to design a new social security system that works for the people of Scotland.
We asked panel members who had experience of receiving Universal Credit to answer a short survey about their experience of the Universal Credit Scottish choices and possible split payments of the Universal Credit award between couples in the future.
Since 4 October 2017, the Scottish Government has given people in Scotland the choice to receive their Universal Credit award either monthly or twice monthly and have the housing costs in their Universal Credit award paid directly to their landlord in both the private and social rented sector. These are known as the Universal Credit Scottish choices and are available to everyone receiving Universal Credit in full service areas across Scotland. The DWP is delivering the Universal Credit Scottish choices on behalf of the Scottish Government.
The Universal Credit Scottish choices are available in "full service" areas. This is where people both make and maintain their Universal Credit claim online. It should be noted that responsibility for Universal Credit is not devolved to the Scottish Government. As such, there are limitations to the Scottish Government's ability to change Universal Credit. Some of the areas that Scottish Government cannot change include:
- that awards are based on an assessment periods of one month, and that this is based on the initial date of claim;
- awards are assessed at a household level (for example if a couple live together the award is based on their circumstances as a couple rather than as individuals; and
- how income is taken into account when calculating the payment.
The Scottish Government is currently developing the policy on split payments of the Universal Credit award between members of a household in Scotland. This research will be used to inform that policy.
Email: Catherine Henry