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Benefits for disabled people 'likely to be delayed'

Social security bosses say the likely delays is due to new child benefits payments.

Delayed: Benefits for disabled people.
Delayed: Benefits for disabled people.

Benefits for disabled people and carers are likely to be delayed due to the new Scottish Child Benefit payments, social security bosses have confirmed.

The new payment aimed at tackling child poverty is expected to push back several other planned benefits, including Disability Assistance for Older People and the Scottish Carers' Allowance.

These are now expected a year later than the Government announced.

Social Security Scotland bosses were questioned by Holyrood's Audit Committee about the effect on other planned devolved welfare benefits that the Scottish Child Benefit payment of £10 a week will have.

Asked by Labour MSP Jenny Marra about possible delays, deputy programme director Alison Byrne said: "The impact on the rest of the Social Security programme , as Ms Campbell outlined in her statement , it is likely that Attendance Allowance, Carers' Allowance and the date for finalising case transfer are likely to change."

Explaining what benefits are expected to be pushed back, Social Security Director Stephen Kerr said: "The initial analysis the Cabinet Secretary shared in June was that Disability Assistance for Older People would move back into 2021 rather than the winter of 2020 and that Scottish Carers' Allowance would be introduced in 2022 rather than late 2021."

Attendance Allowance, a benefit aimed at helping pensioners with the extra costs of long-term illness or disability, is also expected to be delayed in Scotland until the summer of 2021, while the completion of case transfers has been moved back from 2024 to 2025.

The "bold and ambitious" Scottish Child Benefit set out by Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell will be rolled out for eligible under-sixes in 2021 and to under-16s by the end of 2022, the First Minister announced as part of the Programme for Government.

In light of a critical report by Audit Scotland in May, which said the Scottish Government "does not yet have a clear understanding of the key things needed to deliver all the benefits in the way it intends", the Government's interim director general for operations Lesley Fraser claimed there had been "significant progress".

She added there had been "significant investment in workforce planning, in planning and governance and in financial reviews" to manage the benefits.

Asked about whether the Scottish social services system had the capacity to take on additional responsibilities and benefits, chief digital officer Andy McClintock said they were developing IT systems that may be able to deal with a possible increase in devolved benefits.

Saying that working with the UK-wide Department for Work and Pensions was "essential", he added: "We have set out on a journey to build technology that is set for now and has got the capacity to expand in the future.

"Obviously there are time and resource constraints that go with that but it's important to note that we can't do this on our own."

Ms Fraser added: "Under the current planned devolution of powers we will run around 14 or 15% of the totality of benefits within Scotland so we will be reaching and touching many, many Scottish people through the devolved benefits under this programme of work.

"But those same people will still rely on the UK Government for other benefits and pensions and so on."

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