Coronavirus: Roll-out of devolved Scottish benefits halted

The handover of new disability powers to Holyrood have been halted as a result of Coronavirus, it has been announced.

Shirley-Anne Somerville told MSPs COVID-19 has changed everything

Social security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville told MSPs today that Child Disability Payment and Personal Independence Payment will not be devolved to the Scottish Parliament during the pandemic.

Claimants will still receive the disability benefit through the current UK Government schemes.

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Ms Somerville told MSPs today she had planned to set out her plans for the roll-out of Scottish disability benefits this week.

But the minister said: "COVID-19 has changed our plans completely."

She added: “I had anticipated laying out my plans for launching Scottish disability benefits this week.

“Work had been continuing at pace and I planned to lay out plans for rolling out Child Disability Payment and the Scottish replacement for Personal Independence Payment to the previously agreed timescale alongside, importantly, our plans for a new method of decision making which would in effect end face-to-face assessments.

“Those timescales are clearly no longer possible.”

The devolution of benefits was part of the post-independence referendum powers handed to Holyrood.

UK ministers have agreed they to continue delivering disability benefits for existing and new Scottish clients over "a longer transition period”, she added.

Shadow social security secretary Graham Simpson said the delays were understandable given the challenges presented by Covid-19, but noted that the SNP government had been struggling to meet these deadlines in any case.

“It’s disappointing the see the roll-out of future benefits delayed, but in the circumstances we understand the reasons," he added.

"The secure transfer of these powers has to be the absolute priority.

“Moving over powers that the Scottish Government isn’t ready for would only hurt the most vulnerable in society.

“Fortunately, the UK Government has been flexible on this, and that again underlines the importance of both of Scotland’s governments working together closely."