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Publication - Consultation Paper

Social Security in Scotland: consultation (easy read version)

Published: 11 Aug 2016
Part of:
Communities and third sector
ISBN:
9781786523938

Easy read version of the consultation on social security, including policy, delivery and operational issues.

146 page PDF

2.9MB

146 page PDF

2.9MB

Contents
Social Security in Scotland: consultation (easy read version)
Part 2: The Devolved Benefits

146 page PDF

2.9MB

Part 2: The Devolved Benefits

In Part 1 of this consultation document, we talked about the Scottish social security system overall. In Part 2, we would like to discuss powers over specific benefits which will transfer to Scotland. We will refer to these as the 'devolved benefits'. We understand that, when thinking about a new Scottish social security system, many people will think first and foremost about how this will affect the benefits that they currently receive. That is why we want to be clear, in relation to all of the devolved benefits, what we are considering and how we will take people's views into account.

It may be helpful to bear in mind that the devolved benefits only represent a part of the overall social security system in Scotland. DWP will continue to administer a number of benefits in Scotland on behalf of the UK Government. There are currently no plans for the following benefits to be devolved to Scotland:

  • Universal Credit (which replaces Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Related Employment Support Allowance, Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credits, and Housing Benefit)
  • State Pension and Pension Credit
  • Contributory Employment Support Allowance
  • Child benefit
  • Maternity and Paternity Pay

Powers are being devolved over the following benefits:

  • Ill Health and Disability Benefits which means - Disability Living Allowance ( DLA), Personal Independence Payment ( PIP), Attendance Allowance ( AA), Severe Disablement Allowance ( SDA) and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit ( IIDB)
  • Carer's Allowance
  • Sure Start Maternity Grants (which we propose should be replaced by the Best Start Grant)
  • Funeral Payments
  • Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Payments
  • Discretionary Housing Payments
  • Some powers in relation to Universal Credit (i.e.to split payments between household members)

The Scottish Government also proposes to introduce a new Job Grant for young people, who have been unemployed for more than 6 months, and who are entering the labour market.

The description for this graphic is stated below

Notes for the above graphic

The diagram shows that UK Government currently spends around £18 billion on social security benefits in Scotland every year. The chart shows that the majority of benefits (85%) will continue to be delivered by the UK government and 15% of benefits will be devolved to the Scottish Government.

The UK Government currently spends around £18 billion on social security benefits in Scotland every year. The diagrams below show that the devolved benefits only account for about £2.7 billion or 15% of this spending. The remainder (£17.9 billion or 85%), remains under the control of the UK Government.

The description for this graphic is stated below

Notes for the above graphic

A chart showing the government spending in 2014/15 on benefits that will be devolved to the Scottish Government. DLA (and its replacement PIP) are the biggest item of spend being devolved to Scotland, accounting for £1,629 million. Attendance Allowance costs £485 million. Carer's Allowance costs £203 million. Winter Fuel Payments cost £184 million. Industrial Injuries cost £92 million. Severe Disablement Allowance costs £77 million. Discretionary Housing Payment cost £50 million. Cold Weather Payments cost £7 million. Funeral Expenses Payments cost £4 million and Sure Start Maternity Grant costs £3 million.

As we have made clear in Part 1 of this document, a safe and secure transition of payments is our priority. Around 1.4 million people in Scotland will be entitled to claim one or more of the devolved benefits. These people must not be caught in the middle of a transition from DWP to the Scottish Government and they absolutely must be able to depend on us to get it right and get their benefits paid to them on time, every time.

Our first and guiding priority will be ensuring a smooth transition for people receiving benefits, particularly disabled people and carers. This will be reflected in the approach we take, the changes we make and the timescales we set. In the sections to follow, we will outline how each of the existing schemes currently operates and then we will ask you - as users, practitioners and community representatives - to tell us about the different ways in which we can develop the existing schemes further and make improvements.

We will continue to engage with users in various ways (for example, via user panels, face-to-face events, bi-lateral meetings with representative groups, round table discussions and digital engagement). This will enable us to consider fully the potential impact of policy decisions, in particular how the devolved benefits interact with reserved benefits and the wider Scottish social security landscape and related policies. It will also enable a mature discussion about priorities and what will produce the best outcomes given the tight fiscal environment in which we currently operate.

We hope that you will see the questions in Part 2 as an invitation - to actively take part in designing and shaping Scotland's new, devolved benefits. As well as publishing this document itself, we are running a series of events, to enable users to meet with us and tell us more about their experiences, their ideas and their ambitions for social security in Scotland. There is more information about these events in the section, " Responding to the consultation". We hope that as many of you as possible will be able to join us and we look forward to hearing your views.

Part 2 may be relevant to anyone with an interest in any of the devolved benefits and we are keen to hear your views on our proposals. Once you have considered this section you may also be interested in Part 3, where we look at the over-arching framework for the Scottish social security system. We would be grateful if you could also take the time to read through and answer the questions in that section as well.

Please note that discussion of the equality implications of these benefits is set out in the Partial Equality Impact Assessment ( EqIA) that is attached as a separate Annex to the consultation document.

6. Disability Benefits

Icon representing disability benefits

Summary

  • In this section, we will seek your views on the operation of the existing UK-wide disability benefits and ask you some questions which will help us plan the transfer of powers over these benefits to the Scottish Government.
  • The Scottish Government is committed to maintaining the current level of disability benefit payments once the powers have been transferred.
  • A secure and smooth transition is our priority, ensuring all recipients continue to receive their benefits. Over the longer term, we will reform aspects of the devolved disability benefits, working in partnership with disabled people and the organisations that support them.

Introduction

The Scottish Government will receive powers to provide cash benefits for people with a disability, impairment or health condition and their carers. These powers are currently delivered in the UK through: Disability Living Allowance ( DLA), Personal Independence Payment ( PIP), Attendance Allowance ( AA), Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit ( IIDB) and Carer's Allowance ( CA). We will also take responsibility for Severe Disablement Allowance for those people still receiving it. Although remaining reserved, benefits the Scottish Government will be given the power to top up employment-related benefits or tax credits such as Employment and Support Allowance and Working Tax Credits.

Operation of existing benefits

The diagram below illustrates some key facts about devolved disability benefits. You can find out more information about how these benefits currently operate and who receives them in Scotland at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Social-Welfare/SocialSecurityforScotland.

The description for this graphic is stated below

Notes for the above graphic

An infographic showing key facts on disability benefits. The infographic shows that 10% of people in Scotland receive disability benefits, including DLA, PIP or AA. Of these, 24% are pensioners, 4% are children and 7% are working age adults. One in eight of the working age adults receiving disability benefits are in work. SLA is received by 6% of people and PIP is received by 2% of people. The percentage receiving PIP will grow over time as more DLA recipients aged 16-64 are reassessed for PIP. Attendance allowance is received by 13% or people aged over 65 and 40% of people aged over 85.

Carer's allowance is received by 2% of working age adults. Severe disablement allowance and industrial injuries disablement allowance are both received by less than 1% of people.

DLA, PIP and AA are paid weekly to disabled people to help meet the additional costs of living with a disability, impairment or long-term health condition. DWP is gradually transferring people aged 16-64 from DLA to PIP. Once this transfer is complete: people aged under 16 will receive DLA, people aged 16-64 will receive PIP and people who become disabled at 65 or over will receive AA. Some people aged 16-64 are still being moved from DLA to PIP.

To be eligible for DLA or PIP, applicants must have personal care needs and/or difficulty with walking because of physical or mental health issues. AA is paid on the basis of personal care needs only.

IIDB differs from the other disability benefits because it provides financial support to people who have become ill or disabled due to their work. IIDB is paid on a weekly basis to workers who are injured or who develop certain "prescribed diseases" through work, such as certain asbestos-related cancers. The amount paid varies according to the degree of disablement but it must be above a certain threshold. IIDB can be claimed alongside other disability benefits. Questions on IIDB are at the end of this section.

Over the past 12 months, we have gathered a wealth of information, views and experiences on all aspects of ill health and disability benefits from people who receive the benefits, people who deliver them, and organisations that either represent recipients or have in interest in what the benefits look to achieve.

We have also gathered evidence and reports from other bodies such as the Scottish Parliament's Call for Evidence [26] on the new powers, and reports from organisations such as Citizens Advice Scotland [27] , Inclusion Scotland [28] and Engender [29] .

We will continue to engage, listen and develop policy and practice that places our principles, including the commitment to dignity and respect, at the heart of the process as well as addressing the issues that we've been told about. We welcome insights on any area of our work that relates to disability benefits but especially: benefit coverage and eligibility criteria, the assessment process, awards, benefit administration, advocacy and support, whether disability benefits could be paid 'in kind' as an alternative to cash, and alignment with other policy and delivery areas. We will continue to consult and engage as we develop and refine our policy proposals.

Options for devolved disability benefits - DLA, PIP and AA

The broad purpose of DLA, PIP and AA is to recognise the impact of living with a disability or health condition and the additional costs this can incur. Many people that receive benefits have told us that they want these benefits to continue to have this purpose.

The Scottish Government is committed to maintaining the level of the disability benefits paid to individuals, once the powers are transferred, and to raising them annually by at least the rate of inflation, using the Consumer Price Index [30] as a starting point.

We will not change current UK disability benefits policy without good reason and where there is a clear consensus and support for the existing arrangements. For example, we will replicate the special rules for people with terminal illnesses which establish an urgent approach to providing benefits without the need for the standard assessment process.

In the short term, a secure and smooth transition to devolved disability benefit payments, which ensures that transfer arrangements are well communicated and every recipient continues to receive their benefits, will be our priority. But we are committed to improvements as soon as practicable. For example, a consistent theme that has emerged from our engagement with people over the past year has been that there should be a transparent and easy-to-access process of application, assessment/consideration [31] , decision-making and award for people claiming the benefits.

We want to make sure that the process from start to finish is clear and accessible, and that people understand how and when their claim will be dealt with. We are also looking at ways in which we can help lower costs for disabled people and carers. One way of doing this could be by looking to learn from the success of the Motability scheme. We would like to offer recipients the option to spend some their award on other services. For example, we have heard how disabled people face higher energy costs and we would like to offer discounted energy tariffs.

Additionally, we would like to explore whether more could be done on adaptations to the home. These would be wholly voluntary offers and recipients of disability benefits would be free to continue to receive a cash award if they wished . We envisage these options providing disability benefits recipients with additional choices, rather than replacing access to existing schemes that exist around adaptations and energy measures.

We also have bold aspirations for the longer term. For example, we want to ensure that disability benefits work as effectively as possible with other devolved services such as health and social care and housing, and to explore the potential for a 'whole life' disability benefit that is responsive to people's needs at different stages of their lives.

Questions
Thinking of the current benefits, what are your views on what is right and what is wrong with them?

Disability Living Allowance

What is right with DLA?
What is wrong with DLA?

Personal Independence Payment

What is right with PIP?
What is wrong with PIP?

Attendance Allowance

What is right with AA?
What is wrong with AA?

Is there any particular change that could be made to these disability benefits that would significantly improve equality?

How should the new Scottish social security system operate in terms of:

  • A person applying for a disability related benefit
  • The eligibility criteria set for disability related benefits
  • The assessment/consideration of the application and the person's disability and/or health condition
  • The provision of entitlements and awards (at present cash payments and the option of the Motability Scheme)
  • The review and appeal process where a person isn't content with the outcome

We want to make sure that the process is clear and accessible from start to finish, and that people claiming devolved benefits understand how and when their claim will be dealt with.

With this in mind, do you think that timescales should be set for assessments and decision making?

Yes
No

Please explain your answers

Evidence

There will always be a need for medical and other evidence (such as evidence from social care or the education service) to support the application and assessment/consideration process for disability benefits. We recognise that medical evidence, including people's medical records must be protected. In Part 3 of this consultation, we talk more about " Protecting your personal information" and discuss sharing information, between public sector organisations, to support the delivery of social security services in Scotland.

We are also highlighting this, in this section, because, sharing information between public sector organisations could offer significant advantages to the application process for Scottish disability benefits. These advantages could include: reducing the burden on applicants, as information could be used from other public sources (such as NHS Scotland) to pre-populate application forms, and developing a more integrated and efficient approach to delivering services.

Questions
What evidence and information, if any, should be required to support an application for a Scottish benefit?

Who should be responsible for requesting this information?

Who should be responsible for providing it?

Please explain why

Should the individual be asked to give their consent (Note: consent must be freely given, specific and informed) to allow access to their personal information, including medical records, in the interests of simplifying and speeding up the application process and/or reducing the need for appeals due to lack of evidence?

Yes
No

If no, please explain why

If the individual has given their permission, should a Scottish social security agency be able to request information on their behalf?

Yes
No

If no, please explain why

Proposals for eligibility

Eligibility for disability benefits, as they are currently structured, is determined by taking the care (or daily living) and mobility needs of an individual as proxies for the impact of their condition and the additional costs they are likely to incur. For DLA and AA, the criteria are based on broad definitions of care, and for DLA mobility, whilst the criteria for PIP have specific descriptors relating to the impact of disability or ill health. Awards for AA are for care/daily living only and there is no mobility component. Awards for DLA and PIP can be made for care/daily living needs arising from the impact of the impairment and/or for mobility needs. IIDB on the other hand, is focused on where a person becomes injured or contracts a condition, in addition to the disability or condition itself.

Entitlement differs across the age range, and those under 16 ( DLA), of working age ( PIP), and over the state pension age ( AA), are entitled to different benefits. There are also other rules for care home stays and hospital stays, which determine how long people can stay in these places before their benefits are suspended. For people who have been certified by a medical professional as having less than six months to live, special rules mean they automatically qualify for some elements of PIP, AA or DLA.

Questions
Do you agree that the impact of a person's impairment or disability is the best way to determine entitlement to the benefits?

Yes
No

If yes, which aspects of an individual's life should the criteria cover and why?

If no, how do you suggest entitlement is determined?

Currently there are only special rules for the terminally ill but should there be others?

Please explain why

How could this be determined?

We are considering the feasibility of introducing 'automatic entitlement' for disability-related awards. This means that people with certain conditions, which meet the eligibility criteria because their condition is particularly severe or it will have a significant impact on the individual, would receive benefits without the standard application and assessment. This is a complex matter that would require consideration over the longer term, with specific input from medical professionals and from people with direct experience of conditions.

Questions
What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of automatic entitlement?

Would applicants be content for their medical or other publicly-held records, for example prescribing and medicines information or information held by HMRC, to be accessed to support automatic entitlement where a legal basis existed to do this?

Current DWP practice is to provide a separate and fast-tracked approach to providing benefits to people with terminal illnesses. The process focuses on speed and simplicity, with commitments within PIP and AA to process cases though a separate and concise application process, to provide benefits to people that are eligible within 14 days of application, and to remove the need for a face-to-face assessment by establishing the necessary information from GPs.

Questions
Do you agree that the current UK-wide PIP and AA process for supporting people with terminal illnesses is responsive and appropriate?
Yes
No
If yes, should this approach be applied to all disability-related benefits for people with a terminal illness?
If no, how could the approach could be improved?
Should there be additional flexibility, for example, an up-front lump sum?
Yes
No
Please explain your reasons.

'Whole of life' approach

In the longer term, we want to make sure that our devolved Scottish social security system is responsive to the different needs that people will have at different times in their lives. We have heard that transitions from one benefit to another (for example, the move from DLA to PIP at age 16) can be challenging, and we are looking at options to improve the process.

Before the introduction of PIP, DLA was available for children and working-age adults, with largely the same criteria in place for both age groups. Also, the eligibility criteria for the lower and higher rates of AA are largely the same as the eligibility criteria for the middle and higher rate care component of DLA.

A single benefit across the age range could remove age-related requirements for people to re-apply for a different benefit. For example, it might not be necessary for everyone to apply for a new or different benefit when they reach a specific age. A whole-of-life approach would allow a more person-centred approach to reassessments and potentially offer a secure and more flexible benefit for disabled people.

Questions
In the longer term, do you think that the Scottish Government should explore the potential for a consistent approach to eligibility across all ages, with interventions to meet specific needs at certain life stages or situations?

Yes
No

Please explain why

What would the advantages and disadvantages of a single, whole-of-life benefit be?

Proposals for assessments

Different benefits have specific criteria in order to address different issues. This is why the current DWP system adopts different approaches, in order to determine whether a person is eligible or not and to make a decision on the level of their award. For example, for DLA and AA, decision makers in DWP make judgements based on the application form and other supporting evidence. For PIP a face-to-face assessment by an independent professional using detailed descriptions and 'points' is the norm.

We intend to design a Scottish assessment process which is robust and person-centred, which treats people with dignity and respect, and which embeds compassion and support into the system and the day to day culture. That is why the Scottish Government will look to reform assessment procedures, minimising the number of face-to-face assessments where possible and ensuring assessments work for service users. As we say elsewhere in this document (For example, in the section on The User Experience in Part 1) - modern IT systems can underpin a more sensitive approach to this, from the potential for existing data to be shared, to online interactions that are designed for ease of use and accessibility for applicants.

Questions
Could the current assessment processes for disability benefits be improved?

Yes
No

Please explain how

For those people that may require a face-to-face assessment, who do you think should deliver the assessments and how?
For example, private organisation, not-for-profit organisation, public sector body or professional from health or social care.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of different types of assessments?
e.g. paper based, face-to-face, telephone

How could the existing assessment process be improved?

Could technology support the assessment process to promote accessibility, communication and convenience?

Yes
No

Please explain why

If yes, please explain what technology would be helpful
e.g. Skype, video conferencing

Proposals for awards

Scottish Ministers are committed to introducing long-term awards for conditions that are unlikely to change, across all disability benefits. This would remove the need for unnecessary re-assessments, which are often distressing and frustrating for people whose circumstances are unlikely ever to change, and for their families. For such awards we could include the expectation that if there is a change, the claimant has a responsibility to inform the social security system. However, we need to strike the balance between lengthy awards and ensuring we have a flexible system that recognises the role of medical advances and that conditions can fluctuate.

Questions
If the individual's condition or circumstances are unlikely to change, should they have to be re-assessed?

Yes
No

Please explain why

What evidence do you think would be required to determine that a person should / or should not be reassessed?

Who should provide that evidence?

Alternatives to cash

We know that people receiving disability benefits face higher costs for many daily essentials as a direct result of the impact of their disability. We are considering ways of providing optional alternatives to cash payments which could help meet some of these higher costs. Areas we are exploring include discounted energy tariffs, which could also be appropriate for carers, and adaptations to the home.

Careful consideration would be required as to how any initiatives such as these complemented existing provision. However, we are keen to explore ways of helping people reduce their costs, or access services they may not be able to access at the moment. Key to this would be making use of the Scottish Government's collective purchasing power to create a range of good value options. This is the model used in the Motability Scheme to provide affordable leased cars, scooters and powered wheelchairs to disabled people in exchange for their mobility allowance. The individual's right to choose between cash and any alternatives would be protected at all times.

Questions
Do you think people should be offered the choice of some of their benefit being given to provide alternative support, such as reduced energy tariffs or adaptations to their homes?

Yes
No

Please explain why

What alternative support do you think we should be considering?

Would a one-off, lump sum payment be more appropriate than regular payments in some situations?

Yes
No

Please explain why

If yes, what are they?

What would be the advantages and disadvantages of such an approach?

Mobility component

Receipt of the mobility component of DLA and PIP can allow recipients to access other services, such as the Blue Badge parking scheme, concessionary travel schemes and Motability. Motability is a scheme, run by an independent charity [32] that enables disabled people to choose to use their higher rate mobility component to lease a car, powered wheelchair or scooter. Currently DWP diverts payments to Motability if requested to do so by a recipient. The scheme is highly regarded by those who use it and can often enable people to access employment and take part in other activities they might not otherwise be able to do.

Those already receiving DLA or PIP with the mobility component will continue to receive it beyond retirement age, but new claimants of retirement age need to apply for AA which does not contain a mobility component. This means that they cannot currently access the Motability scheme. The Scottish Government is currently considering how it might address this issue.

Questions
Should the new Scottish social security system continue to support the Motability scheme?

Yes
No

Please explain why

How could the new Scottish social security system support older people with mobility problems not eligible for a mobility allowance?

How could the new Scottish social security system better support people of all ages with mobility problems who are in receipt of a mobility allowance?

Additional support

Applying for and being assessed for disability benefits can often be a challenging process for people with particular health conditions and impairments. Even with an open and accessible social security system, featuring clear advice and application processes, some people will need additional support.

Questions
What kind of additional support should be available for people who need more help with their application and during assessment?

Please also refer to the section in Part 3 on Advice, Representation and Advocacy in relation to this issue.

Alignment with other devolved services

Representative groups and people who claim disability benefits have said we could get better at joining up with other devolved services to share information already held to support their claims. As we have made clear elsewhere in this document, this can only be done where there is legislation underlying the collection of information, which allows it to be used for the specific purposes it is being requested for - for example, to support a disability benefit application. In the longer term, we also wish to ensure that the social security system works more effectively with other devolved services with the person at the centre.

Questions
How could disability benefits work more effectively with other services at national and local level assuming that legislation allows for this e.g. with health and social care, professionals supporting families with a disabled child.

How do you think this might be achieved?

What are the risks?

Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit ( IIDB)

This section focuses on issues which apply specifically to IIDB and its supplementary allowances such as Constant Attendance Allowance and the Reduced Earnings Allowance.

Some of the key legislation underpinning support for people who have suffered ill health and disability as a result of their work - employment, and some areas of health and safety legislation - remains the responsibility of the UK Government. However, there are opportunities to use the powers we do have to make significant improvements.

In our discussions over recent months, recipients and stakeholders have told us about a range of issues and opportunities with the current scheme. This includes:

  • People with a range of diseases and disabilities receive IIDB. Some recipients contract life shortening diseases, such as asbestos related cancers. Some people have conditions which improve over time or which have a less severe impact
  • Some stakeholders expressed the view that the awards given through the IIDB scheme are inequitable. This is because the benefit is paid on a weekly basis like a pension. Recipients suffering from terminal diseases who only receive the award for a short time may receive less overall than recipients who have less severe injuries or illnesses
  • There is potential to better join up IIDB with wider disability benefits and services. Where appropriate, people in receipt of the benefit could be offered support to help them back to work, such as rehabilitation and training
  • Questions over the list of 'prescribed diseases' - some people feel it is too restricted and focused on male dominated heavy industries
  • Circumstances have changed significantly since the benefit was introduced in 1946 - workplace health and safety has improved, there is greater health and social care provision, and disability and income replacement social security benefits are available

Questions
If DLA and PIP help meet the additional costs of disability, what is the role of IIDB and its supplementary allowances (Constant Attendance Allowance, Reduced Earnings Allowance etc) in the benefits system?

Please explain your answers

In addition to the issues set out above, please tell us:

What is right with the IIDB scheme?

What is wrong with the IIDB scheme?

Please explain your answers

Should different approaches be taken for people with life limiting conditions compared to people with less severe conditions?

Yes
No

What would be the advantages or disadvantages of such an approach?

Are there situations where a one off lump sum payment would be more appropriate than a regular weekly IIDB benefit payment?

Yes
No

What are they, and why? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of such an approach?

People have also told us that the scheme should promote safer work places, by linking it to risk based employer contributions and by using data from the scheme to inform health and safety activity. As we said at the start of this section, employment legislation and key parts of health and safety legislation remain the responsibility of the UK Government, so we will need to consider how to best address concerns about the scheme affected by these areas. It is worth noting that the UK Government plan to review IIDB as part of their Green Paper on disability and employment.

Questions
Should the Scottish Government seek to work with the UK Government to reform the IIDB scheme?

Yes
No

If yes, what should be the priorities be? What barriers might there be to this approach?

Severe Disablement Allowance

Severe Disablement Allowance ( SDA) was available to people unable to work for at least 28 weeks in a row because of illness or disability. It was closed to new applicants in 2001. The equivalent benefit available now is Employment Support Allowance ( ESA) which is not being devolved, and working age recipients of SDA are being transferred onto ESA. It is our understanding that by the time this benefit is devolved there will only be a very small number of pension age recipients of SDA in Scotland. The Scottish Government intends to ensure that this group of people who are still receiving this benefit when the powers are transferred, continue to receive this level of award through Scotland's social security system.

Questions
Do you agree with the Scottish Governments approach to Severe Disablement Allowance?

Yes
No

Please explain why

7. Carer's Allowance

Icon representing carer’s allowance

Summary

  • There are around 759,000 [33] unpaid adult carers in Scotland who fulfil a vital role in our society by caring for family, friends and neighbours, including people with multiple and complex needs.
  • Caring can be a rewarding and positive experience for both carers and the cared for. However, it is also associated with poor psychological wellbeing and physical health, a higher risk of poverty, and often restricts opportunities to participate fully in society, including work and education.
  • The Scottish Government is committed to increasing Carer's Allowance so that it is paid at the same level as Jobseeker's Allowance. That is almost an 18% increase and eligible carers will each get around £600 more a year. We will also consider the introduction of a Young Carer's Allowance to provide extra support for young people with significant caring responsibilities.
  • We want to develop a Scottish Carer's Benefit which helps deliver positive experiences and outcomes for carers and is embedded in our wider carer's strategy. This has to be within the resources available and integrate with the wider social security system.
  • We will also consider the introduction of a Young Carer's Allowance to provide extra support for young people with significant caring responsibilities.

Introduction

Carers make an immense contribution to our society by caring for family, friends and neighbours who are disabled or are in poor health. There are around 759,000 unpaid adult carers in Scotland providing care to one or more people - 17% of the adult population - and an estimated 29,000 young carers in Scotland aged under 16 [34] .

Between them, carers save the Scottish economy over £10.8 billion per year [35] . However, only a small proportion of them - 67,050 - receive Carer's Allowance to help them look after someone with substantial caring needs. The Scottish Government is on record as having acknowledged the contribution that all of our carers make and we believe it is essential that they are supported in this role. The devolution of Carer's Allowance provides us with an opportunity to better recognise this through the benefits system and we are seeking your views on how we can ensure that this happens.

Operation of the existing benefit

The description for this graphic is stated below

Notes for the above graphic

An infographic showing key facts on Carer's Allowance. It shows that in 2014/15, £203 million was spent on CA in Scotland, 8.7% of the GB total which is slightly more than Scotland's population share (8.5%). Carer's Allowance caseload has been increasing steadily over the last decade, with 67,050 individuals receiving it in November 2015. The majority of recipients (68%) are women. The majority (64%) of claimants have been receiving it for over two years, with 36% receiving Carer's Allowance for over 5 years. Over half (56%) of all CA claimants are aged 40 to 59. Two-fifths claimants are entitled to CA but do not receive a CA payment. This is because they are also in receipt of another benefit, such as State Pension, JSA or ESA, which provide a higher level of income.

Sources: DWP benefit expenditure by local authority from 2000/01 to 2014/15 and DWP tabulation tool. Not Caseload data related to cases in payment

The current UK Government eligibility criteria requires a recipient to:

  • be aged 16 or over
  • spend at least 35 hours a week caring for a person who qualifies for specified disability benefits [36]
  • not earn more than £110 per week (after deductions)
  • not be in full-time education

40% of people who are eligible for Carer's Allowance do not receive it because they are also in receipt of another income replacement benefit (known as the 'overlapping benefit rule') such as State Pension, contribution based Jobseeker's Allowance or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance which is paid at an equivalent or higher rate. However, carers on lower incomes with an 'underlying entitlement' to Carer's Allowance may receive an additional amount in the form of a premium or addition. This is extra money included in the calculation of means tested benefits such as Income Support and Pension Credit. People receiving Universal Credit, who are also caring for 35 hours a week, may also qualify for extra money (carer element). These additional payments remain reserved to the UK Government.

Carer's Allowance sits outside Universal Credit which also remains reserved to the UK Government, although the Scottish Parliament will receive new flexibilities for the frequency of Universal Credit payments and over housing costs for people who rent their accommodation.

There are a number of rules relating to the stopping and starting of Carer's Allowance. These include taking a break from caring, travelling abroad, if the person being cared for goes into hospital or residential care, or if the person being cared for dies.

The UK Government has imposed a cap on the total amount of benefit that working-age households can get. However, following a ruling by the High Court in November 2015, all of Carer's Allowance will be exempted from the benefit cap. The UK Government will introduce the exemption by regulations.

Proposals for a future Scottish carer benefit

The UK Government pays Carer's Allowance at a rate of £62.10 per week. We believe that it is unfair that the support carers receive in the form of Carer's Allowance is the lowest of all working age benefits. We are committed to increasing Carer's Allowance for everyone aged 16 and over and in receipt of Carer's Allowance, so that it is paid at the same level as Jobseeker's Allowance (currently £73.10 per week for jobseekers aged 25 and over). That is almost an 18% increase, and eligible carers will each get around £600 more a year. The First Minister announced on 25 May 2016 that we will also consider the introduction of a Young Carers Allowance, to provide extra support for young people with significant caring responsibilities. The Scottish Government is committed to increasing Carer's Allowance to those looking after more than one disabled child.

Our ambition is to develop a Scottish Carer's Benefit which, through the new Scottish social security system, and although not a payment for care, provides some financial support and recognition for those who choose to, or who have had to give up or limit their employment or study because of caring responsibilities. It will be non-means tested. Although Carer's Benefit is, and will continue to be, a vital component of household income, we do not view it as a standalone policy. Our intention is to embed it in our wider strategy for supporting carers set out in the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016. This twin-track approach will maximise the opportunity to deliver positive experiences and outcomes for carers.

Questions
Do you agree with the Scottish Government's overall approach to developing a Scottish Carer's Benefit?

Yes
No

Please explain why

Proposals for the short to medium term

To deliver our carer ambitions we propose a comprehensive package of actions covering the short, medium and long term, which recognises that we cannot do everything at once and takes into account existing financial constraints. This has been informed by discussions with representative groups, in particular the Carer Benefit Advisory Group, which includes National Carer Organisations, frontline practitioners and COSLA.

Scottish Ministers have already announced that they will implement the increase in Carer's Allowance as soon as practicable, taking into account financial, legal and delivery issues. There are no exact timescales yet, but we will keep everyone updated. The increase will apply to everyone in receipt of Carer's Allowance. It will not include those who are receiving only a carer premium, addition or element, as this remains reserved to the UK Government.

We have already begun to explore a Young Carer's Allowance. We are mapping financial and non-financial provision for young carers, and considering our evidence on the particular issues for and needs of younger carers. Some young carers are very well supported by young carers' projects and other services. However, others continue to face challenges to their health and well-being. The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 will open up new possibilities for young carers. Young carers will, for the first time, have the opportunity to have their own Young Carer Statement to identify needs and support. We are determined that young carers can sustain their caring role, if they so wish, while having fulfilling life outside caring and access to opportunities that are the norm for other young people. Being a carer should not be a barrier to education and training, employment or personal development.

In the short to medium term , we will also focus on improving the carer's experience so that people are treated with dignity and respect, can easily access help and advice, and feel that the application process for Carer's Benefit is quick and user-friendly.

We will join up services more effectively so that carers can access a range of carer support and that Carer's Benefit works well with other devolved services such as health and social care, employment support and reserved benefits This will provide a foundation for our longer term aspiration that services should be person-centred.

The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 [37] already makes provision for each local authority to establish and maintain an information and advice service, including income maximisation and education and training. We want carers to have the same opportunities as everyone else and it is important we support them to remain in work or study, if they choose, or return to work when their caring requirements change or cease and they are ready. Equally, we recognise that some carers are unable to work due to the extreme intensity of their caring responsibilities. Employment can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing and reduce financial pressures. We are already committed to expanding the ' Carer Positive' [38] scheme for employers and employment will be a key issue for consideration in developing a new Scottish Carer's Benefit.

In the short to medium term, we will also look at the potential for alternatives to cash payments for carers to help reduce the costs of caring, for example reduced utility tariffs, complementing existing programmes and policies. These would be offered as a choice, rather than being the only option and would require exchange of some of the carer's allowance in return for an 'in kind' benefit.

Questions
Do you agree with our proposed short to medium term priorities for developing a Scottish carer's benefit?

Yes
No

Please explain why

How can we improve the user experience for the carer (e.g. the application and assessment process for carer's benefit)?

Should the Scottish Government offer the choice of exchanging some (or all) of a cash benefit for alternative support (e.g. reduced energy tariffs)?

Yes
No

Please explain why

What alternative support should be considered?

How can we achieve a better alignment between a future Scottish carer benefit and other devolved services?

How can we improve the support given to young people with significant caring responsibilities - beyond what is currently available?

Proposals for the longer term

The Scotland Act 2016 [39] provides flexibility to change the definition of a carer for the purposes of paying a benefit [40] . We propose that any such changes are taken forward over the longer term. We are committed to working collaboratively with carers in a measured and considered way, to develop the policy in a manner that ensures the safe and secure transition from the existing UK benefits to new Scottish arrangements. For the reasons set out above, we will also be consulting separately, and in detail, on changing the definition of a carer. This will include the rules relating to the starting and stopping of Carer's Allowance. We have already held a wide variety of conversations, meetings, events and focus groups with users who have told us that:

  • Carer's Allowance gives recognition to the important role that carers have in society
  • It should continue to be non-means tested and paid directly to the carer
  • The assessment process is reasonably clear
  • The way that a carer is currently defined, for the purpose of paying a benefit, limits capacity to study or work
  • It is unfair that Carer's Allowance is only received for one person even if you are caring for more people
  • Many older carers find the replacement of Carer's Allowance with the State Pension when they reach pension age unjust

Through our Carer Benefit Advisory Group, and its short-life working groups, we have already embarked on the process of seeking views on options for changing the definition of a carer and the accompanying rules relating to the stopping and starting of the benefit. We need to consider fully the potential impact of policy decisions and what will produce the best outcomes for carers given the tight fiscal environment in which we currently operate. This programme of work will continue into 2017 and beyond.

Questions
Do you agree with our proposed long term plans for developing a Scottish Carer's Benefit?

Yes
No

Please explain why

Do you have any other comments about the Scottish Governments proposals for a Scottish Carer's Benefit?

8. Winter Fuel and Cold Weather Payments

Icon representing winter fuel and cold weather payments

Summary

  • The Winter Fuel Payment is a universal, annual tax-free payment made to pensioners to help towards their winter heating costs. In 2014-15 (the most recent statistics), over 1 million individuals received a Winter Fuel Payment in Scotland, with a total expenditure of over £180m.
  • Cold Weather Payments are means-tested payments designed to help those on low incomes meet additional fuel costs during periods of cold weather. In 2015-16, there were an estimated 415,000 individuals eligible for Cold Weather Payments in Scotland with 119,000 actually receiving a payment and a total expenditure of £3.4m.

In this section, we will seek your views on what, if any, changes could be made to Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Payments in order to tackle fuel poverty in Scotland more effectively. The Scottish Government has always been committed to reducing fuel poverty, which why we have allocated over half a billion pounds since 2009, to make Scottish homes more energy efficient, and we have provided assistance to over 700,000 of the most vulnerable households in our society have, to help them heat their homes affordably.

Last year, we launched our new flagship national fuel poverty scheme - Warmer Homes Scotland. This new scheme, which is focussed on the installation of a wide range of energy efficiency and heating measures, is expected to help around 28,000 of the poorest and most vulnerable households, including pensioners and fuel poor families, across Scotland during its lifetime. Warmer Homes Scotland has been designed to ensure that customers are not disadvantaged because of where they live, so householders in Orkney and the Highlands and Islands will receive the same high quality service as those in the central belt.

Current arrangements

The description for this graphic is stated below

Notes for the above graphic

An infographic showing key facts on winter fuel payments in Scotland. Around 1.1 million claimants annually since 2009/10. In 2014-15, 1,076,870 received a winter fuel payment. In 2014-15, £184m was spent on WFPs in Scotland. This is 8.7% of total in Great Britain, which is slightly more than Scotland's population share of 8.5%. Just over half of claimants (55%) are women. One fifth of claimants are aged over 80 and 27% are aged between 65 and 69.

Source: DWP benefit expenditure by local authority from 2000/01 to 2014/15, DWP Winter Fuel Payment: caseload and household figures 2014 to 2015

[41]

Winter Fuel Payment

The Winter Fuel Payment is a universal, annual tax-free payment made to pensioners to help towards their winter heating costs (though it is not tied to bills; recipients can spend it as they choose). People in Scotland born on or before 5 May 1953 are currently eligible for a tax-free payment of between £100 and £300. Most payments are made automatically between November and December. The age at which an individual becomes eligible changes every year and is linked to on-going changes in the State Pension Age.

In 2014-15 (the most recent statistics), over 1 million individuals in Scotland received a Winter Fuel Payment, with a total expenditure of over £180 million. Although the benefit operates as a pensions top-up, rather than being targeted at those in fuel poverty, the estimated impact on the rate of fuel poverty for this amount of expenditure was about a one percentage point reduction.

Since winter 2012-13, people living in the European Economic Area ( EEA) or Switzerland with a link to the UK are potentially eligible to receive a payment. From 2015-16, this was restricted to countries where the average winter temperature is warmer than the warmest region of the UK (South West England, where the average temperature is 5.6 Celsius).

Cold Weather Payments

The description for this graphic is stated below

Notes for the above graphic

An infographic showing key facts on cold weather payments in Scotland. In 2014/15 the UK government spent £11 million on Cold Weather Payments, of this £7 million was in Scotland. A chart shows that annual expenditure is extremely volatile as it depends on weather conditions. There is a peak in the chart due to particularly cold weather in 2010/11.

Sources: DWP Outturn & Forecast: Summer Budget 2015.

[42]

Cold Weather Payments are means-tested payments designed to help those on low incomes meet additional fuel costs during periods of cold weather. Eligibility is based on receipt of certain benefits (primarily Pension Credit and income-related benefits where there is a disabled person or a child under five in the household).

Payments are made when local temperature is either recorded as, or forecast to be, an average of zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days. Recipients will get a payment of £25 for each seven day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March. Payments are issued within 14 working days of the temperature trigger.

In winter 2015-16, there were an estimated 415,000 individuals eligible for Cold Weather Payments in Scotland with 119,000 actually receiving a payment and a total expenditure of £3.4 million.

Options for Winter Fuel and Cold Weather Payments

The Scottish Government is committed to extending Winter Fuel Payments to families with disabled children on the higher rate of DLA and to making early payments to households who live off the gas grid. Also, because Winter Fuel and Cold Weather Payments are both nominally fuel poverty-related benefits, we want to understand how they can be used to tackle fuel poverty more effectively. Both the independent, short-term Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group and the Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force are considering, among other things, how these payments could be used to better tackle fuel poverty in Scotland.

Both of these expert groups are due to report later this year and their recommendations will inform a longer-term strategy for tackling fuel poverty. As well as their recommendations, we would welcome views on what, if any, changes should be made to either Winter Fuel or Cold Weather Payments.

In terms of Cold Weather Payments, we are aware that the current temperature threshold doesn't recognise weather conditions in certain parts of Scotland, for example wind chill factor. We would look to work with rural stakeholders and the Met Office to identify trigger points more suitable to Scottish conditions.

Questions
Do you have any comments about the Scottish Government's proposals for Winter Fuel and Cold Weather Payments?

Could changes be made to the eligibility criteria for Cold Weather Payments?
For example, what temperature and length should Cold Weather Payments be made on in Scotland?

9. Funeral Payments

Icon representing funeral payments

Summary

  • The DWP funeral payment is a grant for people on certain low income benefits who are responsible for paying for a funeral.
  • We see the funeral payment as one of the ways to help tackle funeral poverty.
  • We want to reach more people with the funeral payment to reduce the need for borrowing.
  • We want to create a more predictable benefit, so that people can make better informed decisions when they are committing to paying for a funeral.
  • We are seeking views on how you think this could be achieved.

Funeral payments are for individuals on low incomes who need help to pay for a funeral they are arranging.

There are well documented concerns about the existing funeral payment. More information can be found in our publication on Creating A Fairer Scotland. [43] We propose to set up a new benefit which is more streamlined, predictable and better integrated with Scottish policy and services. We want to make payments faster so that people don't have to delay organising a funeral. The Scottish Government recognises the impact of rising funeral costs on families on low incomes and the long term impact this can have on their finances and how they experience their grief. We want to reach more people with the new funeral payment to reduce this burden.

In response to growing concern about rising funeral costs, the Scottish Government commissioned a review to identify opportunities for preventative work in relation to "funeral poverty" in Scotland and the roles that different organisations should take in this. The Funeral Poverty Report [44] , by John Birrell, chair of the Scottish Working Group on Funeral Poverty, and Citizens Advice Scotland, and the Scottish Government response [45] were published on 3 February 2016. The report found that the rise in funeral costs means that paying for a funeral can be a significant financial shock for some and there is a substantial shortfall between the cost of a funeral and what people can afford. The funeral payment cannot solve all of these problems. Building on the work in response to the review of funeral poverty, we will publish a funeral costs plan to tackle issues relating to the affordability of funerals. This will include considerations around introducing a funeral bond to help people save for their own funerals. A series of Ministerial round table events and a national conference on funeral poverty will inform the funeral costs plan. We have also set up a reference group to advise on the development of the funeral payment.

Operation of the existing benefit

The description for this graphic is stated below

Notes for the above graphic

An infographic showing key facts on funeral payments in Scotland. In 2014/15 the UK government spent £44 million on funeral payments, of this £4 million was in Scotland.

Sources: DWP Outturn & Forecast: Summer Budget 2015

The DWP funeral payment covers the costs for the purchase of graves and burial or cremation fees. The amount awarded to meet these fees is uncapped. The payment also covers up to £700 towards other costs associated with a funeral, such as a coffin, a hearse, funeral director fees, minister's fees and flowers.

In order to be eligible for a payment you must be in receipt of one of the low income qualifying benefits and be considered responsible for the funeral. In order to apply you must take responsibility for the funeral and meet the DWP rules on your relationship with the deceased. An application should be submitted within 3 months from the date the death was registered, this needs to include evidence of the costs associated with the funeral including receipts.

The amount awarded can be recovered from the estate of the deceased. Any money put aside by the deceased to cover funeral costs, eg life insurance, pre-paid funeral plans, is deducted from the award. Deductions are also made for contributions, for example from family members.

There is very little data available on the funeral payment and it is difficult to make estimates going forward because, while we have estimates for overall death rates, it is not possible to predict the circumstances of the families who will be bereaved.

In 2014/15 there were 6,300 Scottish applications to the DWP Social Fund for a funeral payment and 4,300 of those resulted in an award. The average DWP funeral payment for the UK was £1,375.

Proposals for Funeral Payment: What should the benefit cover?

Depending on what format the benefit takes, we may need to decide which elements of a funeral are covered by the funeral payment. We would also find it useful to have your views on what a standard low cost funeral should include, to inform discussions on funeral costs.

Questions
Which of these elements do you think should be paid for by the Funeral Payment?

YES NO
Professional funeral director fees - advice and administration etc.
Removal or collection of the deceased
Care and storage of the deceased before the funeral
Coffin
Hearse or transport of the deceased
Limousines or other car(s) for the family
Flowers
Death notice in a paper/local advertising to announce details of funeral (time and location)
Fees associated with the ceremony e.g. for the minister or other celebrant
Order of service sheets
Catering for wake/funeral reception
Venue hire for a wake/funeral reception
Memorial headstone or plaque
Travel expenses to arrange or attend the funeral

Are there other elements that you think should be included or explicitly excluded?

Yes
No

Please explain why

Proposals for Funeral Payment: Eligibility

The Scottish Funeral Payment will be for people on low incomes. The current benefit uses an award of certain benefits to determine that the claimant is on a low income. This means that the claimant does not have to fill in information about their income and administrative staff can easily make the necessary checks. At the moment qualifying benefits are:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • The disability or severe disability element of Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (at more than the family element)
  • Universal Credit

In some cases, deciding who is responsible for a funeral among family members is a matter of judgement. The DWP asks questions to find out whether the person who is applying for the funeral is the responsible person and whether there is someone else who could reasonably be expected to pay. We have heard that the questions asked to determine whether someone is estranged from the deceased are intrusive and distressing. The questions also make the application form very long and claimants may not have access to the information asked for, for example the financial status of other family members.

We are looking at ways to make this process less intrusive or to avoid having to make judgements about family relationships.

Questions
How can we improve the process for identifying whether someone is responsible for the funeral and should receive the funeral payment?

In terms of the Scottish Funeral Payment, are there any qualifying benefits (e.g. Pension Credit) that you would add to or take away from the current qualifying benefit list?

Yes
No

Please explain your answer

Proposals for Funeral Payment: Application window and process

Claimants must make an application for a funeral payment within 3 months of the date on which the death was registered.

Questions
Is the three month application window for a Funeral Payment sufficient time for claimants to apply?

Yes
No

If no, please explain your answer and suggest an alternative length of time in which a claim could be made

Proposals for Funeral Payment: Simplification

We have heard that the DWP funeral payment is complex and unpredictable. We are considering ways to simplify and speed up the payment. Recognising that one of the stresses caused in the process is delays in hearing about an award decision, we aim to process applications for the new benefit within ten working days of receipt of a completed application and make payments as soon as practicable thereafter. We believe that this will create more certainty for funeral directors, allowing them to give appropriate advice and potentially eliminating the need to take a deposit from those who make a successful application.

Some ways in which we might make the funeral payment more predictable are:

  • Paying a fixed amount to contribute to funeral expenses rather than checking actual expenses with an upper limit. This would not include the costs for disposal of the body by burial or cremation, which would be dealt with separately
  • A decision based on certain conditions being met, under which an claimant would be told that they would receive a grant at a later date, once they have submitted evidence e.g. a funeral director's bill
  • DWP form DS1500 is used to identify people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. It fast-tracks applications for benefit. The form is used where a person is not expected to live longer than six months. We could allow people who have been issued with this form to apply for the funeral payment and receive a decision in principle on their case before they die. This may help them and their families to make plans
  • An on-line eligibility checker for claimants, so that claimants can see whether they are likely to be eligible and what they are likely to receive if they get a payment. Eligibility checkers can be misleading if benefits are complicated

Questions
What are your views on the options for speeding up and simplifying the payment?

Proposals for Funeral Payment: Deductions

DWP makes deductions for contributions to funeral costs, eg. contributions from family members, funeral plans etc. We think that it is right that money that is available for a funeral contributes to the cost. However, we have heard that some claimants have been disadvantaged when contributions from friends and family have been deducted from the payment. We are therefore proposing that contributions from friends and families are not considered in Scotland.

Questions
The other funds which are deducted from the DWP funeral payment are listed below. What sorts of funds do you think it is appropriate to deduct from a Scottish FP?

Yes No
Funds in the deceased's bank account
Funeral plan/insurance policy
Contributions from charities or employers
Money from an occupational pension scheme
Money from a burial club

Are there any other funds that you think are appropriate to deduct?

Proposals for Improving take up

We know that there is a patchy awareness of the funeral payment and that take up is low. It is important that people are able to access and receive the support that they are entitled to and are aware of the payment before they make decisions. We think that we can improve take up of the funeral payment by ensuring that it is promoted by services that people commonly come in to contact with, for example, registrars and bereavement services.

Questions
Which services should promote awareness of the funeral payment to ensure that claimants know about it at the relevant time?

Are there any other points that you would like to raise in connection with the new Scottish Funeral Payment?

10. Best Start Grant

Icon representing Best Start Grant

Summary

  • This section will discuss the new Best Start Grant, which will replace the existing Sure Start Maternity Grant.
  • The support provided through the Best Start Grant will play an important part in reducing inequalities and will help close the gap in educational attainment.
  • Our aim is to design a benefit that is easy to access and that provides effective support to families at key transitions in the early years, as part of a wider package of early years support.
  • We will use this section to explore the important decisions to be made in designing the new benefit and consider the various options available.

We will replace the current Sure Start Maternity Grant ( SSMG) with a new, expanded Best Start Grant ( BSG [46] ). The new BSG will pay qualifying families £600 on the birth of their first child and £300 on the birth of any second or subsequent children. Qualifying families will also receive £250 when each child begins nursery, and a further £250 when they start school. The support provided is staggered and each payment has a different focus for giving children the best start in life. For a family with two children, the BSG means £1900 worth of support over the period of their early years, compared to £500 that is available to them now from the SSMG.

The Scottish Government recognises that the earliest years of life are crucial to a child's development and affect inequalities in health, education and employment opportunities later in life. We are committed to reducing these inequalities and aim to give every child in Scotland the best start in life by identifying and reducing the factors that cause inequality at an early stage. Our approach will involve a combination of universal support, such as the new baby box, and elements of targeted support for low income families, such as the BSG. The BSG will give families on low incomes some additional money when their children make transitions in the early years, adding to the family budget and avoiding the need for borrowing.

We have heard from families living on low incomes about the frustration and hardship they experience because the current grant no longer provides support for second or subsequent children. The reality for low income families is that many ofthe costs associated with having a child are not 'one-off' expenses, but rather recur when they have second or subsequent children. This change to entitlement has particularly affected vulnerable people, who are less likely to be able to plan ahead, and larger families.

We recognise that the disadvantages of poverty affect children, not just at birth, but also at other key stages of their young lives. So we will support them and their parents through early transitions, reducing the need for debt and money related stress, and the consequences these can have for families. By supporting families through the important transitions as children enter the education system, we can help reduce disadvantages facing children from the poorest households and contribute towards closing the attainment gap.

In this consultation, we are considering how the new BSG will work in practice, and how it will fit with other support provided during early years.

Operation of Existing Sure Start Maternity Grant

The description for this graphic is stated below

Notes for the above graphic

An infographic showing key facts on the Sure Start Maternity Grant in Scotland. In 2014/15 the UK government spent £34 million on funeral payments, of this £3 million was in Scotland.

Sources:DWP Outturn & Forecast: Summer Budget 2015

The existing SSMG provides £500 to qualifying low income families on the birth of their first child. The SSMG uses an award of certain DWP benefits to determine that someone is on a low income. These are:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Job Seekers Allowance
  • Income-related ESA
  • Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit, at a rate higher than the family element
  • Working Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element
  • Universal Credit

There were an estimated 10,500 applications in Scotland in 2014/15, resulting in 6,000 awards, with an estimated expenditure of £3 million for the year.

We have been told by service users and their representatives that the existing benefit is viewed positively in so far as it is relatively straightforward and meets an identified need. However, we have also heard that information about the grant is poor, that narrowing of the entitlement to the first child was unfair, and that the application window is too short. More information can be found in our publication on Creating A Fairer Scotland. [47]

Proposals for identifying eligible families

We are considering whether there are particular groups that the BSG can support and how those groups can best be reached through eligibility criteria. For example, looked after children and young parents. We are also considering the roll out of Universal Credit and the effect that will have on eligibility. Some families who do not work enough hours to qualify for Working Tax Credits will be eligible for Universal Credit, and therefore for the BSG once they transition. However, some families who would currently qualify for the BSG under Tax Credits will not qualify under Universal Credit, because the upper threshold for Universal Credit is lower.

We recognise that social security in Scotland must be delivered in a difficult financial context. This means that we have to allocate our financial resources where the need is greatest, and where they can have greatest impact. That is why we are thinking about which low income families the BSG should be paid to and how best to identify these families. For example, it could be paid to:

  • Families on very low incomes - e.g. those entitled to free early learning and childcare at two years of age. This criteria includes approximately 27% of two year olds and would produce a broadly similar result when applied across the three BSG payments. An alternative but similar approach would be to use the free school meals criteria
  • Families who are on slightly higher incomes, eg who are at or below the living wage of £8.25 an hour, which equates to an income of approximately £16000 per year for one adult working full time. This would be around 37% of all children but would be more complicated to administrate, as incomes fluctuate
  • Anyone in receipt of any Tax Credit or Universal Credit, which can include families with incomes of over £30,000 in some circumstances. This is closest to the current eligibility for the SSMG, although there are currently limitations on the Tax Credit criteria that this would remove, simplifying eligibility. It would cover around 45% of all children

Questions
What are your views on who should receive the Best Start Grant?

Proposals on identifying who is responsible for a child

Currently a claimant is considered to be responsible for a child if they receive Child Benefit for that child or, where there is no Child Benefit, if they live with the child.

The SSMG can currently be awarded more than once for the same child in some limited circumstances. The BSG will be a longer term benefit than the current SSMG, and will follow the child as they progress through early years. Children may move nursery and school reasonably often. Because of this difference, we are considering making each of the three payments payable only once per child, although it may be necessary to make exceptions in certain circumstances.

Questions
Should we continue to use the same system to determine who is responsible for a child for the purposes of the BSG application?

Yes
No

Please explain why

Do you agree that each of the three BSG payments should only be made once for each child?

Yes
No

If no, what exceptions would you make to this rule?

Proposals on the maternity payment

The BSG will re-introduce payments for second and subsequent children, but at a lower rate, so we will need to identify whether a child is the first in the household. The SSMG does this by identifying whether there is a child in the household already under the age of 16 rather than looking at family relationships.

Currently, in order to receive the SSMG, a certified health professional must confirm that the mother has received medical advice. There is a clear correlation between poorer pregnancy outcomes, including higher rates of maternal and infant deaths in women who book later for antenatal care, attended infrequently or never attend for care. At present in Scotland, women and babies who are at the greatest risk of poor health outcomes are the least likely to access it. We are keen to reinforce the importance of attending for antenatal care and therefore plan to retain the requirement for mothers to have received medical advice in order to qualify for the BSG maternity payment.

Questions
Should we continue to use the same method as the SSMG to determine whether a child is the first child in a household?

Yes
No

Please explain why

If no, what alternative method should we use?

Do you agree that we should retain the requirement to obtain advice from a medical professional before making a maternity payment?

Yes
No

Please explain your answer

Proposals on the nursery payment

The BSG will pay low income families £250 to support them as their children begin early learning and childcare. We want to provide support when people need it, but the practicalities may be difficult as everyone's situation is different and plans for nursery and childcare can change right up until the last minute. We would like to understand the pressures that families face, when they face them and how the payment can add most value, without becoming too complicated.

There are a range of early learning and childcare options available to parents in Scotland, funded both publicly and privately. There are also a range of childcare settings, such as child minders and informal childcare.

We need to work out what conditions a family would need to meet to qualify for the nursery payment. Every child in Scotland is entitled to Free Early Learning and Childcare from age three onwards, with some children qualifying at age two. One option is to use entitlement for a funded early learning and childcare place as the trigger for entitlement to the nursery element of the BSG.

Questions
Are there other points during the first five years of a child's life when families face greater pressure than at the start of nursery (other than birth and the start of school)?

What are your views on defining 'the start of nursery' as the point of entitlement to a funded early learning and childcare place, for the purposes of making the second payment?

Are there any particular issues related to the nursery payment that you think we should consider?

Proposals on the school payment

The BSG includes a third payment when children begin school for the first time. For some children this will be at the age of four, while for others it will be at the age of five, depending on the month of their birth. Children will not always follow the same pathway into school, and will not always begin their education at the same age. We want to make sure that the benefit design acknowledges and accommodates these differences.

Questions
Are there any particular issues related to the school payment that you think we should consider?

Should the school payment be payable to all eligible children who begin primary school for the first time in Scotland, or should an upper age limit be included?

Proposals for the application process

The current SSMG has a single application for a single payment. The BSG will be made up of three payments over a five year period. Some families will not receive the initial maternity payment, but will then meet criteria for later payments, either because of a change of circumstances or because they were eligible but did not apply for the initial payment. We think that the three payments should be treated separately because of the time lapse between them and the likelihood that people's circumstances will change.

For the existing SSMG, the claim must be made within the prescribed timeframe. The grant can be claimed from 29 weeks into the pregnancy until three months after birth. We have heard concerns that the relatively short application window following birth contributes to difficulty in accessing the grant, particularly for those who qualify through Child Tax Credit which can only be applied for after birth. We propose to extend the application window for the first payment to six months after birth.

There will be some overlap in eligibility between the BSG and Healthy Start vouchers, powers over which are also devolved to Scottish Ministers by the Scotland Act 2016. Healthy Start vouchers are intended to improve nutrition for mothers and children. There is an opportunity to streamline the provision of information about and application processes for the two benefits.

Questions
What are your views on our proposals in relation to the BSG application process?

What are your views on establishing an integrated application process for the BSG and Healthy Start?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this approach?

Proposals for alternative support

Currently the DWP makes payments to the claimant, via bank details specified in the application form. While we know that providing items rather than money without a choice would be inconsistent with some views on dignity and respect, a choice of alternative provision could add value in some cases. For example, a catalogue of items for people who can't travel to shops, adapted items for disabled people or help in the house rather than a cash payment.

For some families, managing a large lump sum could present a challenge. A catalogue of items could also be useful for a support worker who is helping someone to make choices. The collective purchasing power involved in this approach could also offer value for money if take up were sufficient.

However, we understand the importance of flexible support to service users and that any alternative forms of support should remain optional.

Questions
Would the option to receive items rather than a cash payment as part of the BSG have benefits?

Yes
No

Please explain why

Proposals for Improving take up

We know that there is a patchy awareness of the SSMG and that take up is low. It is important that people are able to access and receive the support that they are entitled to. We think that we can improve take up of the BSG by ensuring that it is promoted by services commonly used by people who will need support, for example the family nurse partnership and health visitors. We also think that the new baby box which will be available for all new mothers will be a good opportunity to raise awareness of the BSG.

Questions

Which services should promote awareness of the BSG to ensure that claimants know about it at the relevant time?

11. Discretionary Housing Payment

Icon representing discretionary housing payment

Summary

  • Discretionary Housing Payments ( DHPs) are currently made by local authorities, with guidance from DWP, and are aimed at helping people who need further financial assistance to meet their housing costs.
  • Individuals whose Housing Benefit or Universal Credit has been reduced as a result of welfare reforms such as the 'bedroom tax', the benefit cap or Local Housing Allowance can be awarded a DHP.
  • We are proposing that DHPs continue to operate in the same way once the Scottish Parliament has full control over all DHP funding.
The description for this graphic is stated below

Notes for the above graphic

An infographic showing key facts on discretionary housing payments in Scotland. In 2014/14, £50.5 million was spent on DHPs and 118,000 DHPs were awarded. A portion of this was spent to counter the 'bedroom tax'. The average award was £429, up from £335 in 2013/14. The Scottish Government provided the majority of the funding (74%) in 2014/15). Local authorities received 132,000 DHP applications in 2014/15, of which 130,000 were decided.

Sources: DWP benefit expenditure by Local Authority from 2000/01 to 2014/15; Scottish Government Discretionary Housing Payments in Scotland: 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015

Operation of the existing benefit

The Scotland Act 2016 gives the Scottish Parliament legislative competence for DHPs. DHPs are currently made by local authorities, under guidance from DWP, and are aimed at helping people who need further financial assistance to meet their housing costs. Local authorities can award DHPs to individuals who are entitled to Housing Benefit or Universal Credit where it includes a housing element for rent.

DHPs can be awarded to tenants in the private and social rented sectors, or those who have yet to take up a tenancy. In addition to rental costs DHPs can be awarded to cover other housing related costs including rent in advance, deposits and removal costs. Individuals whose Housing Benefit or Universal Credit has been reduced as a result of welfare reforms such as the 'bedroom tax', the benefit cap or Local Housing Allowance can be awarded a DHP. Local authorities have discretion over how they assess claims for DHPs and how much is awarded. Guidance for local authorities is provided by DWP DHP Guidance 2016. [48]

As part of the our Fairer Scotland consultation, the Scottish Government asked about people's experience of DHPs and whether they worked well as a form of financial assistance. In general the feedback was positive and we are therefore proposing that DHPs continue to operate in the same way once the Scottish Parliament has full control over DHPs.

Questions
Could the way that DHPs are currently used be improved?

Yes
No

Please explain why

Could the administration of DHP applications be improved?

Yes
No

Please explain why

Does the guidance for local authorities on DHPs need amending?

Yes
No

Please explain why

12. Job Grant

Icon representing job grant

Summary

  • The Scottish Government proposes to introduce a new Job Grant to help young people aged 16-24 who are returning to work after a period of six months unemployment.
  • This would be a payment of £100, or £250 for those who have children.
  • We plan to supplement this cash payment with free bus travel for a three month period.

The Scottish Government recognises that young people are the future for our economy, and that future economic growth will be dependent on our being able to support as many young people as possible into rewarding, sustainable, long-term careers. That is why we are keen to extend further support to young people returning to work after a period of unemployment, beyond the support that will be offered through new devolved employment services. The Job Grant will supplement new and existing support for young people to enter the workplace.

A number of academic studies suggest that unemployment can have a damaging effect on young people's earnings potential for many years afterwards. The longer the period of unemployment, the greater the future wage penalty tends to be.

Proposals for the Job Grant

The Job Grant is intended to help smooth the young person's transition back into work. It would help cover some initial basic costs, particularly with bus travel. We estimate that this will help around 6,500-8,500 young people aged 16-24 to return to work and will have a positive effect on work incentives. It would be a payment of £100, or £250 for those with children, and would be supplemented with free bus travel for a three month period.

Questions
What should the Scottish Government consider in developing the Job Grant?

13. Universal Credit flexibilities

Icon representing universal credit flexibilities

Summary

  • The Scotland Act 2016 provides Scottish Ministers with some flexibilities over the way Universal Credit ( UC) is calculated and paid. These include changing the frequency of payments, splitting payments between members of a household instead of a single payment, and paying landlords direct for housing costs in Scotland. This will enable us to ensure that the implementation of UC will be better suited to our needs.
  • We have already committed to enabling people to have the option of the rent element being paid direct to social landlords and the option of the frequency of their UC payments being twice monthly instead of calendar monthly.
  • We are now consulting on two other potential options:
    i. extending payment of the rent element direct to landlords for tenants in the private rented sector and
    ii. providing the option to split the household payment between members of a household.

Introduction

UC is a new single payment for working age people introduced by the UK Government. UC is intended to improve work incentives, simplify the benefit system and reduce fraud and error. UC remains reserved to the UK Government, however the Scottish Government have some administrative powers to change payment arrangements for UC.

Operation of existing benefits

The main differences between UC and other current welfare benefits are: UC will be available to people who are in work and on a low income, as well as to those who are out of work; most people will apply online and manage their claim through an online account; claimants will usually receive one single monthly payment per household, paid into a bank account; and support with housing costs (rent) will go directly to the claimant as part of their monthly payment.

Proposals for Universal Credit flexibilities

The Scottish flexibilities are being introduced to make it easier for claimants to manage their UC payments. These changes are intended to give the claimant more choice and control over their UC payments. Draft regulations for the first two flexibilities are being written and a further technical consultation is planned for these.
These are:

  • Having the option of being paid UC twice a month rather than monthly
  • Having the option of the rent element being paid direct to social landlords

We also have the potential to introduce other flexibilities including the opportunity to offer tenants in the private rented sector the same choice of having their rent paid directly to their landlord and the power to vary the existing plans for single household payments of UC. This means that payments could be split between members of a household rather than a single household payment. These are the proposals we want to ask about in this consultation.

DWP are currently able to split payments in certain exceptional cases. This is technically challenging however and requires detailed knowledge about the family situation and who has lead responsibility for family costs and other bills and payments. We do not yet know if DWP would be able to introduce changes of this scale to their current systems. We will use the findings from this consultation to inform our discussions with them.

Questions
Should the choice of managed payments of rent be extended to private sector landlords in the future?

Yes
No

Please explain why

Should payments of Universal Credit be split between members of a household?

Yes

No

Please explain why

If Yes, please indicate if you think the default position should be:

a) automatic payments to individuals, with the option to choose a joint payment

Yes
No

b) automatic household payments, with the option to choose individual payments?

Yes
No

If Yes, how do you think payments should be split? For example 50/50 between members of a couple or weighted towards the person who is the main carer if the claim includes dependent children?

Do you have any other comments about how the Scottish Government's powers over Universal Credit administrative flexibilities will be delivered?

14. Universal Credit housing element

Icon representing universal credit flexibilities

Summary

  • The Scotland Act 2016 also provides Scottish Ministers with some flexibility to vary the calculation of the housing element of UC for people in rented accommodation.
  • We have already committed to using this power to abolish the bedroom tax for those on UC and will consult separately on the technical aspects of the legislation for this.
  • We welcome views on how the Scottish Government could use this power in future to help those who need assistance to meet their housing costs.

Questions
Do you have any comments about the Scottish Government's powers over the housing element of Universal Credit?


Contact

Email: Edward Orr, consult.socialsecurityscotland@gov.scot