Requesting and making re-determinations
The Scottish Government has reviewed timescales for requesting and making re-determinations for clarity and consistency with existing Scottish benefits. Following the review, there is no change to the timescales proposed in DACYP regulations, set at 42 days for the individual to apply and 56 days for Social Security Scotland to make the re-determination. Both timescales are expressed in ‘days’ (which includes weekends) rather than ‘working days’. For all other Scottish benefits, individuals have 16 days to apply for a re-determination and Social Security Scotland has 16 working days to make the re-determination. The Scottish Government has explained that it intends to use ‘days’ for disability assistance for both individual and Social Security Scotland time limits, but ‘working days’ for Social Security Scotland time limits for other types of assistance, believing that divergence is appropriate due to the strong preference for this approach expressed in its public consultation on Disability Assistance in Scotland.
In considering the time limits for requesting and making re-determinations for CDP, SCoSS has been guided by the Charter which requires that processes should be simple and clear, and applications and enquiries should be dealt with by Social Security Scotland as quickly as they can.
Turning first to timescales for Social Security Scotland to make a re-determination, we consider that CDP does not need to be aligned with existing Scottish benefits as ‘working days’ as long as the divergence is completely clear to staff, particularly those working across benefits, and can be accurately represented in management information and reporting. Our original report considered some of the pros and cons of setting the time limit for CDP at 56 days.10 For existing Scottish benefits, 97 per cent of re-determinations are completed within the 16 working days allowed, suggesting that the timescale is reasonable for those benefits and holds Social Security Scotland to quick responses, which is in line with Charter expectations. However, CDP is a more complex benefit and it is important that Social Security Scotland has enough time to make fully informed re-determinations. 56 days may strike a reasonable balance between speed and accuracy, but the optimum time limit will need to be kept under review.
However, alignment is more important when it comes to timescales for individuals. We agree that timescales for individuals are best expressed in ‘days’ and consider that the number of days allowed is best aligned across Scottish benefits. Having different timescales for different benefits could be confusing for individuals and their advisers. Fair outcomes of re-determinations and appeals will be a measure of success of disability assistance and any potential barrier should be kept under review and removed where possible.
Recommendation 1: In evaluating the delivery of CDP, the Scottish Government should assess whether the timescales to apply for re-determinations meet applicants’ needs. Social Security Scotland should gather and publish information on reasons and outcomes where re-determination requests are received outside the time limit.