SNP minister abandons entire devolved benefit to the DWP

Higher and further education minister Shirley-Anne Somerville
Higher and further education minister Shirley-Anne Somerville
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The Scottish Government has quietly abandoned attempts to devolve one of 11 welfare benefits that were due to be handed over by the UK Government, it has emerged.

Administration of Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA) will now continue to be handled by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) indefinitely.

It follows the Scottish Government’s announcement that the full package of devolved benefits will continue to be administered by the DWP for an additional three years, until 2024, because its own social security agency is not ready to manage them.

READ MORE: Amber Rudd: SNP ministers to blame for new benefits powers delay

In a letter to Scottish Conservative MPs seen by the Scotsman on Tuesday, the Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd was scathing about the Scottish Government’s preparations for devolution of benefits, saying SNP ministers underestimated the scale of the job.

Now it has emerged that one of the benefits will never be devolved because the Scottish Government sees “no advantage” in doing so.

In a letter to Ms Rudd sent last week alongside the announcement of the delay, the Scottish Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said SDA - a historic benefit that closed to new applicants in 2001 and is claimed by around 2,000 people - would remain with the DWP.

“In relation to one benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, I have concluded that there would be no advantage in transferring recipients to Social Security Scotland, and that their cases should continue to be administered by DWP,” Ms Somerville wrote.

“I am also concerned that transferring SDA may cause unnecessary disruption to some recipients. We will seek to conclude agency agreements with DWP to administer SDA.”

The decision on SDA was not widely publicised, with the only public reference in a document published on the Scottish Government's website.

READ MORE: SNP accused of betrayal over new delay to devolution of welfare benefits
Labour social security spokesman Mark Griffin MSP said: “While Ms Somerville was on her feet trying to spin the Scottish Parliament about the SNP’s benefits delay, she was writing to Amber Rudd telling the Tories to keep control of a key benefit for severely disabled people.

“Her decision to leave 2000 severely disabled pensioners at the hands of the Tories is outrageous. Carers, disabled people and pensioners are being forced to wait for change while the SNP leave new powers on the shelf gathering dust.

“That is a disgusting dereliction of duty. The SNP must apologise to every person in Scotland they are leaving in the hands of the Tories.”