Wave 2 Benefits (Delivery Timetable)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 30th September 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

6. To ask the Scottish Government when it will provide an update on the social security delivery timetable for all wave 2 benefits. (S5O-04638)

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

T he Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the Scottish Government, Social Security Scotland and the Department for Work and Pensions, whose support we need to transfer social security powers. As I set out in April, we are having to rework our timetable to deliver the remaining devolved benefits and complete case transfer. That is an on-going and complex exercise.

We need to consider the impact of the pandemic not only on our services, but on the availability of health and social care professionals across health boards and local authorities to bring their expertise to the co-design and delivery of disability and carer benefits at a time when many of them are still needed on the front line to support communities during the pandemic. That includes the recruitment of practitioners to help us to make consistent, high-quality decisions about entitlements and the role that health professionals and local authorities will play in providing the agency with supporting information on clients’ applications.

We also have to take account of the extraordinary pressures that the DWP is still experiencing following the unprecedented demand for universal credit, which is impacting on the resources that it is able to devote to the devolution programme.

Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

I thank the cabinet secretary for that answer, but can she tell me, first, what the current staffing level is within Social Security Scotland and what it should be; and, secondly, when the body will be sufficiently equipped to deliver all the wave 2 benefits that could and should have been fully devolved and delivered by now? Lastly, does she welcome the UK Government’s work to continue to deliver the benefits successfully on her behalf?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

I will respond to the member in writing on the current staffing level in the agency, but I can confirm today—and I reassure him about this—that the agency has the number of staff that it requires to deal effectively not only with the live benefits, but with the Scottish child payment, applications for which will open soon.

Recruitment for dealing with the Scottish child payment has largely been done just before or during the pandemic. I assure Peter Chapman that we are ready to deliver the benefits that we have said that we will deliver this year.

The member attempts to deride the work of the Scottish Government and the agency but, as I said, the pandemic has affected all parts of the Scottish Government and of the UK Government, which includes the DWP. Elements of the devolution programme in the DWP are not staffed in the same way as they were pre-pandemic—as is right; I make no criticism. That is a responsible move by the DWP so that it concentrates its efforts where they are needed.

We will update Parliament as soon as we can. We depend partly on the DWP, because we have a joint programme with it. The DWP is under extreme pressures too, as I hope Peter Chapman appreciates. We will continue to work constructively with it during the devolution of benefits.

Recruitment for dealing with the Scottish child payment has largely been done just before or during the pandemic. I assure Peter Chapman that we are ready to deliver the benefits that we have said that we will deliver this year.

The member attempts to deride the work of the Scottish Government and the agency, but, as I said, the pandemic has affected all parts of the Scottish Government and the UK Government, including the DWP. Elements of the devolution programme in the DWP are not staffed in the same way as they were pre-pandemic—as is right; I make no criticism of that. That is a responsible move by the DWP to ensure that it concentrates its efforts where they are needed.

We will update Parliament as soon as we can. We depend partly on the DWP, because we have a joint programme with it. The DWP is under extreme pressures, too, as I hope Peter Chapman appreciates. We will continue to work constructively with it during the devolution of benefits.