Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Scotland Act 2016 (Social Security) (Adult Disability Payment and Child Disability Payment) (Amendment) Regulations 2022, laid before the House on 24 January 2022, be approved. I am pleased to introduce this instrument. Subject to approval, it will make some necessary legislative changes to prevent overlapping entitlements of the soon-to-be-introduced Scottish adult disability payment, with UK disability benefits.
In consequence of the Scottish Government’s child disability payment, very similar regulations were made in July 2021. As these regulations mirror, in relation to adult disability payment, much of the policy intent and technical application of the previous instrument, I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I repeat much of what was said during the debate on those previous regulations. My honourable colleague the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work brought this instrument before the other place on Monday, so there is little new to outline in my opening remarks. I am satisfied that the Scotland Act 2016 (Social Security) (Adult Disability Payment and Child Disability Payment) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The UK Government are committed to making devolution work and to ensuring the transition of powers to the Scottish Government under the Scotland Act 2016. This is a long-standing commitment. As a result of the devolution of social security powers to the Scottish Parliament under this Act, the Department for Work and Pensions will need to update its legislation from time to time to reflect the introduction of the Scottish Government’s replacement benefits. Section 71 of this Act allows for the necessary legislative amendments, in this case as a result of benefits introduced under the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018.
I am grateful for the opportunity to debate these regulations today. They will effect some purely technical, administrative changes. They will prevent overlapping payment of the Scottish adult disability payment and UK disability benefits such as the personal independence payment and Armed Forces independence payment. The instrument also includes some time-limited overlapping provisions for Northern Ireland.
Noble Lords will be aware that the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 established the legislative framework for the Scottish Government to introduce new forms of assistance using the social security powers devolved under Section 22 of the Scotland Act 2016. Specifically, Section 31 of the 2018 Act allows the Scottish Government to introduce legislation to provide financial support through its disability assistance for people in Scotland with long-term additional health needs.
The Scottish Government recently legislated to provide for its disability assistance for working-age people, which will be introduced from the 21st of this month. They are calling this “adult disability payment” and I will refer to this as ADP from now on. If the regulations are passed today, they will ensure that there are clear boundaries between entitlement to ADP and entitlement to a relevant UK Government benefit to ensure that there is no overlapping provision of payments. It will do that by making it clear that a Scottish resident cannot be entitled to a relevant UK Government benefit and that in the case of those who move cross-border, a DWP payment will not start until the day after payment of ADP has ended. This will not only protect the public purse by avoiding double payment to the same claimant for the same need but help prevent the need for complicated overpayment calculations and recovery. Furthermore, it is also in the best interests of the claimant, who will have clear expectations of which Government are responsible for paying their benefits at which point in their claim or award.
As just noted, as part of the offer, although ADP has residency-based conditions attached, the Scottish Government will continue to pay ADP for a period of 13 weeks after a claimant has left Scotland and moved to another part of the UK. This will allow claimants time to sort out new benefit arrangements, should they wish to, and the instrument sets out that a successful claim to a UK Government benefit will start the day after the end of that 13-week period.
Our intention is to offer later this year a similar facility for those moving to Scotland, and this is not the subject of these regulations brought before this Committee today. What are needed now are modest but necessary legislative amendments to avoid overlapping payments in order to both support the devolution agenda and strengthen a union that works together in the best interests of our shared citizens. The instrument also includes provisions on behalf of the Ministry of Defence to ensure that Armed Forces independence payments will similarly not overlap with ADP.
Finally, provisions have been included to prevent overlapping entitlement when a claimant moves to Northern Ireland and is in receipt of the 13-week run-on payment from the Scottish Government. I commend this instrument to the Committee.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing these regulations. As we have heard, following devolution of responsibility for certain social security benefits, the Scottish Government are introducing ADP for applicants ordinarily resident in Scotland. It will start to replace personal independence payment, PIP, in Scotland from this month.
The primary purpose of these regulations, as the Minister has explained, is to prevent overlapping payments of attendance allowance, DLA, PIP or Armed Forces independence payment when a claimant is getting ADP. We support the instrument and are pleased to see the Scottish Government using the powers transferred to them under the 2016 Act and subsequent legislation—although I express a bit of disappointment that it has taken such a long time for this to happen. It is critical that the rollout of ADP goes well, and that the transition from the current regime is smooth. Since these regulations are part of that process, we want to see them succeed and are pleased to support them.
The Minister mentioned that ADP will carry on being paid for a period of 13 weeks following a move from Scotland to England or Wales or Northern Ireland, to allow the claimant time to make a claim for the relevant benefit. When the Social Security (Scotland) Act (Disability Assistance and Information-Sharing) (Consequential Provision and Modifications) Order 2022 was discussed in the other place on 2 March, the Minister Iain Stewart said:
“At its introduction, adult disability payment will operate in broadly the same way and for broadly the same group of people as personal independence payment.”—[Official Report, Commons, Delegated Legislation Committee, 2/3/22; col. 3.]
So can the Minister tell the Committee whether the conditions for eligibility for ADP are the same as they are for PIP, or will someone moving from Scotland to another part of the UK have to undergo a fresh assessment to get PIP? If they do have to be assessed, is that classed as an assessment or a reassessment? There is a distinction in terms of time, as the Minister will know, and priority for processing a claim.
The Minister Iain Stewart also said:
“The 13 weeks is a safety net, and applications can be made in advance. It is there to ensure that payments can continue if there is some delay, so that no one is disadvantaged.”—[Official Report, Commons, Delegated Legislation Committee, 2/3/22; col. 8.]
The intention clearly is that there should not be a gap in payment between somebody moving from Scotland on ADP and coming to England, say, and claiming PIP. So can the Minister tell the Committee how long it takes to process a claim for PIP? Is she confident that 13 weeks will be long enough to ensure that there is no break in payment?
I dug out what I think are the latest official statistics, which were for last October, and which showed that clearance times for normal-rules new claims were 24 weeks from registration to a decision being made—and that is assuming the claimant was not one of the millions who end up having to go for mandatory reconsideration to get their benefit established in the first place. That adds another 11 weeks to the process. So can the Minister tell the Committee whether this means that, if someone moves from Scotland to England—just across the border, say, to Berwick—then makes a claim, and it takes either 24 or potentially 35 weeks, they will still get only 13 weeks’ run-on? What happens to them during those remaining weeks when they are still waiting for their claim to be processed? Also, does the comment by Iain Stewart about applications being made in advance mean that someone preparing to move from Scotland to England or Wales could make a claim for PIP while they were still living in Scotland in advance, as they prepared for their move to England—again, to avoid any gap in payments? That might deal with the problem that it takes longer than 13 weeks to process a claim.
I understand that applications for ADP will open at different times in different parts of Scotland. I think it will be piloted in some parts. Does the Minister know when it will be fully rolled out? If somebody were to move now from England and they happened to land in the bit of Scotland where it is being piloted, presumably they would have to make a fresh application for ADP. The Minister mentioned that the intention of the Government was to arrange this so that the run-on is a two-way street—so that, in due course, if you move from England to Scotland, you will get a 13-week run-on of PIP while you make an application for ADP. In fact, Iain Stewart said in the Commons that
“the situation does apply both ways. If a person in England claims PIP or one of the other benefits and moves to Scotland, the DWP would look to ensure they had an equivalent transition period.”—[Official Report, Commons, Delegated Legislation Committee, 2/3/22; cols. 7-8.]
But if somebody on 1 April were to move to Scotland and happened to be in an area where they had started doing ADP, would they get a run-on or no run-on? Would they suddenly find that their PIP stopped immediately and they had no benefits at all until their ADP was processed?
Finally, the Minister said something about the regulations also introducing some time-limited overlapping provisions for Northern Ireland. Can she tell us what they are, because I could not figure it out? I apologise for that and look forward to her reply.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, for the points she has made. I shall try to deal with them.
I turn first to what happens to a person if they move now. While DWP is administering the existing disability benefits on behalf of the Scottish Government under agency agreements, any customer moving to Scotland will be handled as a routine change of circumstances. This means that these cases will continue in payment on the same benefits as now and form part of the Scottish caseload administered on behalf of the Scottish Government. DWP will continue to manage their claim until they are transferred to Social Security Scotland. The case transfer process has been agreed with the Scottish Government and claimants will not see any disruption to their payments.
The noble Baroness asked why the regulations include provisions for Northern Ireland. Social security in Northern Ireland is a devolved matter. The inclusion of provisions for Northern Ireland has been agreed with the Department for Communities, as it does not have the powers to make these necessary amendments because matters relating to the Scotland Act are outside the legislative competence of the Assembly. However, what has come to be known as the parity principle contained in Sections 87 and 88 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 provides for a single system of social security in line with the DWP. As such, the UK Government can agree to legislate on behalf of Northern Ireland at the request of its Ministers.
Including Northern Ireland amendments will ensure as consistent an approach as possible and minimise disruption for claimants in receipt of ADP moving to Northern Ireland from Scotland. The Northern Ireland provisions are narrower, in that they will prevent duplication of disability payments only during the period when the Scottish Government pay their 13-week run on following a move from Scotland to Northern Ireland.
The noble Baroness asked what will happen when a claimant moves from England and Wales to Scotland once the agency arrangements have ended. We intend to provide a similar payment run-on to that offered by the Scottish Government. We recognise that people need time to sort out their financial affairs when they move, including making new claims to benefits. This provision will not be needed until all cases for the relevant benefit have been transferred to the Scottish Government. We are currently completing policy and legislative work on this.
The noble Baroness also asked what safeguards are in place for the transfer process for those currently on PIP. The UK and Scottish Governments are committed to ensuring safe transfer of powers and claimants between their agencies. DWP will continue to administer individual cases through agency arrangements until the Scottish Government are ready to take over payment. Both Governments are working closely on the practical and technical issues associated with the transfer of cases and data, ensuring that processes and data are safe and secure.
The noble Baroness asked what the Government are doing to reduce the time it is taking to clear a new PIP claim. This is not what we are here to debate, but we are committed to ensuring that people can access financial support through PIP in a timely manner. However, I accept that the current average time that it is taking to clear new claims is far too long. That is why we are using a blend of phone, video and face-to-face assessments to support customers and deliver a more efficient and user-centred service; where it is safe to do so, we are making in-house decisions without referral to the assessment providers; we are increasing case manager and assessment provider health professional resource; and we are prioritising new claims while safeguarding the continuity of existing awards.
The noble Baroness asked what will happen when a claimant in receipt of Scottish disability benefit moves from Scotland to England or Wales. Once the claimant notifies Social Security Scotland of their move, the Scottish Government will write to them to advise that they will continue to be paid ADP for a period of 13 weeks following the move and that they will need to make a claim to the DWP for a UK disability payment such as PIP if they so wish. The DWP and the Scottish Government are working collaboratively to ensure communications to claimants will be clear.
If the claimant is late in making a claim following a move, there is a greater risk that there will be a break in payment. However, arrears will be paid back to either the date of claim or the date the run-on ceases, depending on circumstances. If a claimant delays making an application and their ADP stops before their claim has been made, any new claim can be paid only from the date of that claim. The payment of a 13-week run-on from the Scottish Government following a move will reduce the risk of claimants experiencing a break in payment. It is, however, the claimants’ responsibility to make a claim to DWP for PIP following a move to England or Wales and to do so as early as possible to reduce the risk of seeing their payments stop.
I believe that the noble Baroness was very keen for us to say that PIP is taking far too long, and with the 13 weeks there might be a break in payment. If she will allow me to, I shall go back to the officials to get more detailed information, in the hope that I can answer her question in full.
I am grateful for the considerable information that the Minister has given me. In fact, I was not asking or generally complaining about PIP being slow, which is what she said. I do think that it is too slow, but that was not my point; my point is that everything about the description of ADP suggests that the intention is that there will not be a break in payment. The Minister in reply to me has just said that the 13-week run-on will reduce the risk of a break in payment, but it is the claimants’ responsibility to apply quickly. As she seems to be suggesting that a claim cannot be made until the claimant has actually moved to England, and if there is only a 13-week run-on, and even if she applies on day one, it takes 24 weeks to process the claim, even if she discharges her responsibility with impressive speed, it seems impossible to avoid there being a break. That is what I am interested in. What are the Government going to do about that?
I think that I was trying to make the point, although I accept that I made it badly, that on the specific point that the noble Baroness has just raised I want to go back to the officials to get more detail, because this must have crossed their desks as a risk. If the noble Baroness will allow me, I shall write to confirm.
As I have said, the UK Government are working collaboratively with the Scottish Government to ensure that the two systems of social security will operate effectively alongside each other, and the required legislation that underpins them is delivered successfully for the people of Scotland and, where relevant, claimants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The order highlights the importance that the UK Government place on the effective functioning of devolution. I commend the order to the House.