Scottish benefits and coronavirus
The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in several changes to Scottish social security benefits, some relating to the rules about the Scottish benefits which already exist and some relating to the planned timetable for introducing other new Scottish benefits. This briefing explains these changes.
CHANGES TO EXISTING BENEFITS
TIME LIMITS FOR CLAIMING BENEFITS
In recognition of the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak, some of the strict rules about time limits for claiming Scottish benefits have been relaxed.
BEST START GRANT
Each of the three best start grant payments – the pregnancy and baby payment, the early learning payment and the school age payment – usually have strict rules about when you have to claim them. The pregnancy and baby payment must normally be claimed by the time your baby is six months old, or by the time the baby is one year in certain circumstances such as adoption or kinship care. The early learning payment must normally be claimed within the 18-month period starting on the child’s second birthday. The school age payment for children born between 1 March 2015 and 29 February 2016 (inclusive) must usually be claimed between 1 June 2020 and 28 February 2021.
If your claim for any of these payments is late, it can be treated as if it was made in time if you missed the deadline due to the coronavirus outbreak.
FUNERAL SUPPORT PAYMENT
Usually, to be entitled to a funeral support payment, you must claim within six months of the date of the funeral. If your claim for a funeral support payment is late, it can be treated as if it was made in time if you missed the deadline due to the coronavirus outbreak.
YOUNG CARER GRANT
Usually a young carer can only be entitled to a young carer grant if they claim while they are aged 16, 17 or 18 – in other words, before their 19th birthday. At the moment, if you miss this deadline as result of the coronavirus outbreak your claim can be treated as if it was made before you turned 19.
TIME LIMITS FOR CHALLENGING DECISIONS
As well as relaxing some time limits for claiming benefits – providing the delay is caused in some way by the coronavirus outbreak – the Scottish Government has also made some changes to the timescales for challenging decisions made by Social Security Scotland. If you disagree with a decision made by Social Security Scotland about your entitlement to a Scottish benefit you can ask for the decision to be looked at again (a ‘redetermination’) and, if you are still unhappy with the decision you can appeal to an independent appeal tribunal. Usually, the time limit for both is within 31 days of the decision that you are unhappy with and this can be extended to up to one year if you have good reason for being late. Currently, the absolute time limit of one year can be extended if your redetermination request or appeal is late due to the coronavirus outbreak.
CARER’S ALLOWANCE SUPPLEMENT
Carer’s allowance supplement is a top-up to carer’s allowance which is paid if you get carer’s allowance and you live in Scotland. It is paid as a lump sum of £230.10 (2020 rate), twice a year. In line with changes to the carer’s allowance rules, the Scottish Government confirmed that a temporary break in your caring responsibilities as a result of the coronavirus will not undermine your entitlement, for example, if you are unable to provide the usual level of care because either you or the person for whom you care is self-isolating.
The Scottish Government has announed that, in light of the additional pressures faced by carers as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, it plans to make an additional payment of £230.10 with the June 2020 carer's allowance supplement payment.
DELAYS TO NEW BENEFITS
The Scottish Government has also announced that there will be delays to the introduction of some of the new Scottish benefits.
SCOTTISH CHILD PAYMENT
The Scottish child payment, a £10 top-up for some lower income families, was due to be introduced in December 2020 for children aged under six. As a result of the coronavirus outbreak this has now been delayed and the Scottish Government hopes to start taking applications for these payments at the end of 2020, with first payments being made from 2021, although it has stated that this timescale may change.
The three main disability benefits – disability living allowance, personal independence payment and attendance allowance – will all eventually be devolved to Scotland. The first of these to be devolved will be disability living allowance for children. The plan was for the replacement – called child disability payment – to be introduced in summer 2020. The Scottish Government has announced that the introduction of this new benefit will now be delayed. Similarly, the plan to introduce the replacement to personal independence from spring 2021 has been delayed.
JOB START PAYMENT
The job start payment – a payment aimed at supporting young certain young people when they are starting a job – was due to be introduced in March 2020. The introduction of this payment has also been delayed.