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Coronavirus: Scottish disability benefit rollout delayed as UK ministers agree to maintain delivery

Social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville
Social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville

The rollout of two key Scottish benefit payments has been delayed indefinitely in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Child Disability Payment and the replacement for Personal Independence Payments were due this year to join a number social security benefits devolved to Holyrood.

However, ministers have admitted the current timescale is “clearly no longer possible” amid the growing outbreak of Covid-19.

Social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville confirmed UK Ministers have agreed to continue delivering disability payments to Scottish clients over a longer transition period while efforts are focused on tackling the virus.

Scottish Child Payment, which was due to be introduced from this autumn, will also be delayed but the Scottish Government said it will focus resources to deliver it “as soon as practicably possible”.

Ms Somerville said: “Our priority is maintaining our front-line services and delivering the seven benefits we have in place to support low income families, carers and people facing a bereavement.

“The Scottish Government, DWP, local authorities and – importantly – our health and social care services are focused on responding to the ongoing pandemic. When we get through this, these organisations will then take time to recover.

“We have had to take this into consideration in our plans for future benefits. Our approach to disability assistance was grounded in the professional judgement of health and social care practitioners and they are rightly needed elsewhere at this time.

“We also need to factor in that there will likely be further impact on Scottish Government and partner organisations staffing levels due to illness or caring responsibilities.”

Ms Somerville said the decision was the “only way to ensure people continue to get the financial support they need”.

“It provides certainty and security of payment at a time of great anxiety,” she said.

“While I cannot make guarantees around a revised timeline for the introduction of these benefits, I can guarantee that the work will not stop. And I will provide an update to timelines as soon as I am able to do so.”

The Scottish Government has vowed to take a markedly different approach in its delivery of disability benefits, including having no face-to-face assessments and decisions being informed by the judgement of health and social care practitioners.

Meanwhile, other major legislative reforms such as controversial proposals to allow Scots to self-declare their own gender have also been shelved.

Parliamentary business minister Graeme Dey said the Scottish Government will instead prioritise legislation designed to help public services cope with additional pressures created by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Scottish Conservative social security spokesman Graham Simpson said: “It’s disappointing the see the roll-out of future benefits delayed but in the circumstances we understand the reasons.”

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