5. Delivery of Social Security Benefits
The introduction, implementation and ongoing administration of Scottish social security is a priority of the Scottish Government. The following section will provide information about the introduction of new Scottish benefits within the reporting year as well as the ongoing delivery of existing Scottish benefits. Information about the decisions taken for the 2023/24 uprating of benefits is also included within this section.
5.1 Support for Carers
5.1.1 Carer's Allowance Supplement
Carers make an immense contribution to our society. That is why improving support for carers was one of our first priorities with our new social security powers. Carer's Allowance Supplement was the first payment made by Social Security Scotland and increases Carer's Allowance – the lowest value of all working-age benefits – by over 13% for carers in Scotland.
Eligible carers receive a payment every six months, and payments are £270.50 in 2023. Payments are made automatically to carers living in Scotland and receiving Carer's Allowance from the DWP on certain qualifying dates, with no need to apply. By the end of 2023, carers continuously in receipt of Carer's Allowance Supplement will have received over £3,300 above Carer's Allowance since its introduction. Since its launch in 2018, over 833,000 Carer's Allowance Supplement payments totalling over £231 million have been made to over 141,500 carers.
We invited views on the future of Carer's Allowance Supplement as part of our consultation on Carer Support Payment last year and have provided an update on this as part of our response published in March 2023 to the Scottish Carer's Assistance consultation (now named Carer Support Payment) referenced below. The additional support provided by Carer's Allowance Supplement will be given to individuals who are entitled to Carer's Allowance or Carer Support Payment once it is delivered, and we are considering how to integrate the Supplement with more regular payments of Carer Support Payment once the case transfer process, by which existing claims to the DWP's Carer's Allowance are transferred to Carer Support Payment, is complete.
5.1.2 Young Carer Grant
The first of its kind in the UK, Young Carer Grant supports young people with a payment of £359.65 which can be applied for annually, to access life opportunities which are the norm for many of their peers. Young Carer Grant is paid on a non-discretionary basis to 16, 17 and 18 year olds who meet the eligibility criteria. It is not means-tested and the young person does not need to be in education to qualify.
Young Carer Grant official statistics show that by the end of January 2023, Social Security Scotland had received 12,605 applications. 7,965 applications had been approved with around £2.5 million invested since the launch of Young Carer Grant in 2019. By the end of January 2023, 5,350 clients had received one or more Young Carer Grant payments.
Our Young Carer Grant Interim Evaluation, published in August 2021, showed that Young Carer Grant had made a positive impact on carers' mental wellbeing, mainly by reducing stress and increasing confidence. It was viewed broadly positively by applicants, recipients and stakeholders. The issues highlighted in the evaluation have been considered when reviewing benefit promotion activity and the application process. More broadly, the findings will be considered when developing future Young Carer Grant policy and the Carer Support Payment, which will complement existing and planned interventions to support carers both through social security and at a wider government level.
5.1.3 Carer Support Payment
Our public consultation on Scottish Carer's Assistance (the former working title for our new benefit) ran from February to May 2022 and we published an independent analysis of the responses in November 2022. In March 2023, we published our response to the public consultation for our new carer benefit, Carer Support Payment, which will replace and improve Carer's Allowance in Scotland.
We will introduce Carer Support Payment, from November 2023, with full national roll-out planned by Autumn 2024. Our new benefit has been designed with carers and support organisations.
Carer's Allowance is the most complex benefit we are replacing in terms of the links it has with other support, including benefits which are provided by the DWP. We are working closely with DWP to deliver our new benefit in a way which will protect other support that carers rely on. To avoid creating a two-tier system which would disadvantage carers already receiving Carer's Allowance, and to ensure their benefits can be transferred safely and securely, we do not plan to make any significant changes to eligibility when Carer Support Payment first launches.
However, from launch Carer Support Payment will provide an improved service for carers, joining up with wider services to help carers access information on the wide range of support available to them. The past presence test will also be reduced, to align with that for our disability benefits, meaning those moving to Scotland from outwith the Common Travel Area of the UK and Ireland can access support more quickly. Carer Support Payment will also extend entitlement to many unpaid carers who wish to study full-time, reducing barriers to education and helping to provide more stable incomes.
The Carer Support Payment Draft Regulations were published on 10 March 2023 and were then referred to SCoSS for formal scrutiny, alongside a series of draft impact assessments.
Once the case transfer process is complete, we will make further improvements to Carer Support Payment, including an additional payment for those who care for more than one person and extending the run-on of the benefit to the carer if the person they care for passes away.
5.2 Funeral Support Payment
Social Security Scotland began taking applications for the Funeral Support Payment in September 2019. This is a one-off payment for eligible people on a low income, to help towards the costs of a funeral. The payment is made up of three parts including burial or cremation costs (including some document and medical costs); a flat rate payment for other expenses; and some transport costs.
The Scottish Government substantially widened eligibility for Funeral Support Payment, supporting 40% more people compared to the UK Government funeral payment which it replaced in Scotland. This year Social Security Scotland paid £9,193,913 under 5,020 payments to 4,965 individual clients. The average payment was £1,832, up from £1,811 in the previous financial year.
We published the Funeral Support Payment evaluation on 1 July 2022. This evaluation highlighted that Funeral Support Payment was having a positive impact with the payment reducing the need for borrowing. The evaluation also highlighted the need to further raise awareness of Funeral Support Payment and improve processing times. Work has been ongoing on both these issues.
Funeral Support Payment was the subject of a national marketing campaign at the beginning of 2023, raising awareness at specifically targeted sites across the country. Social Security Scotland are working hard to process applications as quickly as they can. The priority is giving people a timely decision while making sure Social Security Scotland have the correct information required to get a decision right first time. Once they have all the supporting information needed to make a decision, they aim to process Funeral Support Payment applications in 10 days.
5.3 Winter Heating Benefits
5.3.1 Winter Heating Payment
In February 2023 we introduced our new Winter Heating Payment delivering on the Programme for Government commitment (2021/22) to replace the UK Government's Cold Weather Payment in Scotland. Winter Heating Payment provides a stable, reliable payment to those in receipt of certain low income benefits each winter, and by removing the reliance on weather conditions we can ensure that every person identified as requiring additional support receives it. This compares with the DWP's benefit that provides £25 per cold spell when the average of the mean daily temperature recorded for 7 consecutive days was equal to or below zero degrees.
Our new benefit targets those households who also have additional need for heat, including those with young children, disabled people and older people, providing stable, reliable support every winter.
In winter 2022/23 Winter Heating Payment provided 394,135 low income households with a payment of £50 to support towards their heating bills, a total investment of £19.7 million. For winter 2023/24 the decision was taken to uprate Winter Heating Payment by 10.1%, to £55.05, recognising the difficulties people are facing and will be facing going forward. For the majority of people our payment provides more support than they have received on average previously through the DWP benefit.
DWP estimates reveal that Cold Weather Payments were only activated six times during the winter of 2021/22, at only four of the 27 Scottish weather stations. This resulted in compensation totalling just £325,000 to around 11,000 Scottish citizens.
5.3.2 Child Winter Heating Payment
Child Winter Heating Payment, formerly named Child Winter Heating Assistance, is paid automatically to families with children and young people up to the age of 19 in receipt of a relevant qualifying benefit to help mitigate the additional heating costs that the households of the most severely disabled children and young people face in the winter months.
The qualifying benefits are the highest rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance for children, the highest rate of the care component of Child Disability Payment, the enhanced daily living component of Adult Disability Payment or the enhanced daily living component of Personal Independence Payment. In winter 2022 Child Winter Heating Payment eligibility was extended to young people in receipt of the enhanced rate of daily living component of Adult Disability Payment. To be eligible, the young person or child must be entitled to a qualifying benefit on any single day during the qualifying week. The qualifying week in 2022 was Monday 19 September to Sunday 25 September.
Child Winter Heating Payment is uprated annually and in 2022/23 the benefit increased by 6% to £214.10. By March 2023, 26,555 children and young people received a payment for winter 2022/23, totalling £5.7 million. For the 2023/24 period this has been uprated by a further 10.1% to its current rate of £235.70. Further information on uprating and how we set rates is included within the uprating section of this report.
The Child Winter Heating Assistance: Evaluation Report was published in August 2022. The report will continue to inform future developments of the policy area.
5.4 Five Family Payments
Our five family payments are making a difference for families with children. The five family payments are Scottish Child Payment, Best Start Foods and Best Start Grant which provides financial support at three key stages of a child's life through the Pregnancy and Baby Payment, Early Learning Payment and School Age Payment. Evaluations of each of the payments have shown they are all having a positive impact on child poverty, preventing respondents from going into debt or having to cut down on other essential household spending, such as for food and bills. The evaluations report that Best Start Grant is easing financial strain on low-income families at key transitional stages for children and that Scottish Child Payment provides much needed money, including for essentials like food, family day trips, and medical items for families with disabled children. The evaluations further report that Best Start Foods is guaranteeing that people can afford essential foods even when money is tight and has freed up money for other costs such as household bills.
From spring 2021, promotion of the five family payments has focused on the package of support available to low income families. Raising awareness and encouraging eligible families to apply, this activity includes television, radio and digital advertising. The Best Start Grant payments have featured prominently in Social Security Scotland communications and marketing campaigns in 2022/23. These included a significant marketing campaign over the summer months in 2022 on major digital and broadcast platforms. The move to automated payment of the Early Learning and School Age payments was promoted extensively when Scottish Child Payment was increased and extended in November 2022. This featured in national and regional media.
5.4.1 Scottish Child Payment
Scottish Child Payment is central to the Scottish Government's mission to tackle child poverty as set out in our tackling child poverty delivery plans, and has been hailed as a "game-changer" by anti-poverty stakeholders. Introduced as part of the first child poverty delivery plan, the payment was the first form of assistance to be introduced as a top up to an existing reserved benefit.
Scottish Child Payment was launched in 1 February 2021 at a rate of £10 for those with eligible children under the age of six. In April 2022 the value of the payment was doubled to £20 per eligible child per week and then, on 14 November 2022, Scottish Child Payment was extended to children aged six to sixteen and increased to to £25, per week. This delivers on the commitment in the second Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, 'Best Start, Bright Futures'. This reflects the Bute House Agreement and goes beyond manifesto commitments, reflecting the high priority Scottish Minsters place on reducing child poverty at a time when family finances have come under significant pressure.
At the same time as the extension to older children in November 2022, further improvements were made including greater automated processing of Scottish Child Payment applications and the benefit was the subject of extensive national media promotion. The Scottish Government is committed to driving take-up and last year's activity has been followed by a major marketing campaign at the start of 2023 via national media and digital channels. This campaign has been developed in cooperation with stakeholders. This included Social Security Scotland promoting the payment and other benefits on a field marketing roadshow at shopping centres across Scotland.
The Scottish Government estimates that the extended and increased payment could lift 50,000 children out of relative poverty in 2023/24, reducing child poverty levels by five percentage points, according to the most recent modelling published in June 2023.
Around 2.5 million individual payments have been made since the launch of Scottish Child Payment with a total value of £248.6 million by 31 March 2023. Around 303,000 children were in receipt of Scottish Child Payment in March 2023 with £190 million issued to clients between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023. In 2023/24 the Scottish Fiscal Commission assumes a take-up rate of 92% for under 6s and 80% for children 6 and over.
An interim evaluation of Scottish Child Payment was published on 29 July 2022 highlighting the positive impact the payment is having for families with children. The evaluation indicated that payments are made to people with a wide range of demographic and equalities characteristics from all areas of Scotland. Scottish Child Payment has had a number of positive impacts for children and families - it has led to more money being spent on children, including spend which enables them to participate in social and educational opportunities. Clients also indicated that Scottish Child Payment has helped to reduce financial pressure on households. People who use payments for essential household items such as food or bills feel its impact keenly, and say they depend on the money to avoid getting into debt.
5.4.2 Best Start Grant
We continue to deliver Best Start Grant, providing financial support to eligible parents and carers at three key transition points in their children's early years:
- The Pregnancy and Baby Payment helps with expenses associated with pregnancy or with having a new child.
- The Early Learning Payment helps with the costs of early learning around the time a child might start nursery.
- The School Age Payment helps with the costs of preparing for school.
As reported in the Best Start Grant and Foods statistics for 2022/23 there were 62,000 BSG payments made in Scotland. This provided £20 million of support to Scottish families.
From 1 April 2022, in recognition of rising cost of living pressures, the three Best Start Grant payments rates were increased by 6%, which is above the 3.1% September 2021 rate of CPI. This took provision for a first child in Scotland up to a total of £1,177 through the three Best Start Grant payments, compared to £500 under the UK Sure Start Maternity Grant. We do not have a statutory duty to uprate Best Start Grant but despite this we increased payments in line with inflation, by 10.1%, on 1 April 2023. This increase is in recognition of the difficulties being faced by many due to the increased cost of living.
Applicants apply for Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods on the same application form – a Programme for Government commitment. Following the launch of Scottish Child Payment, a single application form can be used to apply for Best Start Grant, Best Start Foods and Scottish Child Payment, making it easy for eligible families to access the money they are entitled to.
We made a number of legislative changes to Best Start Grant in November 2022. To make it easier for people to access the support they are entitled from 28 November 2022 we now auto award Best Start Early Learning and School Age Payments to people receiving Scottish Child Payment when their child becomes eligible. We also enabled some families to access the higher pregnancy and baby payment even though they are not applying for their first child. The three groups of people this applies to are:
- People who took on responsibility for their other children when they were more than 12 months old.
- People granted refugee status, humanitarian protection, or leave under the Afghanistan or Ukraine resettlement schemes whose other children were born before they arrived in the UK. When coming to the UK, many refugees will not be able to bring, and therefore re-use, baby items that they already had for previous children.
- People who have been forced to leave their home with their other children due to domestic abuse by their partner or ex-partner. When leaving their home, many will be forced to abandon items they already had for previous children.
5.5 Disability Benefits
5.5.1 Child Disability Payment
Child Disability Payment, a payment made to help mitigate the additional costs of caring for a disabled child or with an ill-health condition was fully rolled out across Scotland in November 2021.
Child Disability Payment replaces Disability Living Allowance for children in Scotland which was previously delivered by the DWP . By the end of March 2023 significant progress has been made in the transfer from Disability Living Allowance for children to Child Disability Payment with over 45,000 children and young people having had their awards transferred.
From the date Child Disability Payment was launched until 31 March 2023, the total value of payments issued was £204.9 million. Of this, £66.2 million was to new clients and £138.6 million was to those who had their award transferred from the DWP. As of 31 March 2023, over 62,000 children and young people were receiving Child Disability Payment.
Child Disability Payment was the first disability payment in the United Kingdom where applicants could apply online, as well as by phone, by post, or face-to-face with the support of the Social Security Scotland Local Delivery service. By 31 March 2023, 77% of Child Disability Payment applications were made online.
5.5.2 Adult Disability Payment
Social Security Scotland began taking applications for Adult Disability Payment as part of a pilot on 21 March 2022 with full national roll-out following in August of that year. Adult Disability Payment is a payment made to those aged 16 to state pension age to help with the costs of being disabled or having a long-term health condition. Eligibility is based on the impact an individual's symptoms have on their daily life, rather than relating to any particular disability or health condition. We ensure that accessing Adult Disability Payment is as straightforward as possible and we always start from a position of trust. We have taken a compassionate and human rights based approach to all disability assistance including Adult Disability Payment. We are helping to provide long-term financial security through the introduction of indefinite awards for severely disabled clients. Our fast track process for people with a terminal illness relies on the judgement of clinicians rather than a fixed period of life expectancy.
People are able to apply for Adult Disability Payment in the way that best suits them: either online, by post, over the phone or face-to-face. Of applications received by 30 April 2023, 69% were made online, 25% were started over the phone and 6% were made through a paper form. Although these were published outwith the reporting period, these are the most relevant statistics to the reporting year.
People who live in Scotland with a Personal Independence Payment award started the transfer process to Adult Disability Payment from 13 June 2022, while those with a Disability Living Allowance award started to get their award transferred from 29 August 2022. Social Security Scotland are aiming to complete the transfer process for everyone in Scotland by the end of 2025. Of the total number of Adult Disability Payment awards, 44% were new applications while 56% were people who had their award transferred.
From the date Adult Disability Payment was launched as part of the phased rollout until 30 April 2023, the total value of payments issued was £109.7 million. Of this, £82.5 million was to new clients and £27.1 million was to clients who had their awards transferred from the DWP.
5.6 Uprating of social security benefits
Scottish Ministers are required by law, under the terms of sections 86A and 86B of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018, to consider inflation when deciding the level at which specified forms of Scottish assistance are to be uprated at the start of each financial year. After detailed analysis of various approaches to measure inflation the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was deemed to provide the most accurate measure of average change in price across all consumed goods and services purchased by households.
The Scottish Government adopted the September CPI figure as the most appropriate measurement for the determination of uprating assistance for the following financial year while retaining the flexibility to use a different rate when necessary. This flexibility was demonstrated when Scottish Ministers decided to uprate specific Scottish assistance by 6% for the 2022/23 financial year, as it was considered that the September 2021 CPI figure of 3.1% failed to represent the increasing cost of living expected in Spring 2022.
Following the publication of the September 2022 CPI figure recorded at 10.1%, a report in fulfilment of section 86A was published in February 2023, outlining the Scottish Government's approach to uprating for the following financial year (2023/24). In recognition of the difficulties faced by clients due to the cost of living crisis, Scottish Ministers agreed to uprate all devolved assistance by at least 10.1%, including those additional forms of assistance not specified under section 86B.
Twelve devolved benefits were increased by 10.1% in April 2023, in line with inflation. Scottish Child Payment was increased by 25% in November 2022 – bringing forward its uprating by four months and increasing its rate above inflation. Scottish Child Payment is now £25 per week – a rise of 150% in eight months.
The Social Security Administration and Tribunal Membership (Scotland) Act 2020 made amendments to the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018, setting out circumstances in which Scottish Ministers may appoint a person to act on behalf of children; adults regarded as lacking capacity to manage their own benefits; and the deceased. These appointments apply to all forms of assistance and top-ups paid under the 2018 Act.
Statutory guidelines were prepared, consulted on, and published on the Social Security Scotland website. These set out the policy principles and detail of procedures to be followed in making and terminating an appointment. Since early 2022, Social Security Scotland's Local Delivery service has been applying the new guidelines when carrying out face-to face appointee visits for clients.
Work has continued throughout the year to ensure these complex processes are successfully embedded into Local Delivery, ensuring appointee decisions are accurate, consistent and for the benefit of the client. Social Security Scotland have continued to review all inherited DWP appointments for clients who transferred from Disability Living Allowance for Children onto Child Disability Payment, and from Personal Independence Payment onto Adult Disability Payment.
Procedures have been developed to allow individuals to ask Social Security Scotland to review an appointment at any time should they wish to, as can any other interested party. Work is underway to strengthen these challenge rights by providing for a formal process through the First-tier Tribunal service. Work continues towards the commencement of the remaining appointee provisions in the 2020 Act, which are being implemented as a prioritised programme of change.
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