Draft Winter Heating Assistance (Low Income) (Scotland) Regulations 2022: scrutiny report

The Scottish Commission on Social Security's scrutiny report on the draft Winter Heating Assistance (Low Income) (Scotland) Regulations 2022

Summary of recommendations and observations

Recommendation 1: Impact assessments should be produced while policy is under development and sent to SCoSS alongside draft Regulations.

Recommendation 2: The Scottish Government is asked to outline how someone who has become retrospectively eligible for LIWHA will be identified from DWP data.

Recommendation 3: Draft Regulation 6 should be expanded to include circumstances other than an appeal under which an individual may have received a backdated award for a qualifying benefit that confers entitlement to LIWHA.

Recommendation 4: The Scottish Government and Social Security Scotland should ensure that people who think they should have received an award, but did not, can easily find out how to apply for LIWHA.

Recommendation 5: The Scottish Government should give further consideration to the retention of temperature-contingent payments in addition to the envisaged one-off payment, at least when an area experiences a third or subsequent cold week. If this approach is considered to be undesirable, or infeasible in time for winter 2022-23, consideration should be given to increasing the Scottish Welfare Fund budget for local authorities where some residents have received three or more Cold Weather Payments in a recent winter.

Recommendation 6: The Scottish Government should outline the application route for paying to an alternative individual for cases which are not processed automatically.

Recommendation 7: The name of the assistance must reflect the commitments made in the Social Security Charter to use positive words to describe the service and accurately convey who the assistance is for.

Recommendation 8: The review of LIWHA should cover the ongoing need for a qualifying week, its impact on affected individuals and the feasibility of replacing this with an alternative.

Recommendation 9: The commitment to continue to review the eligibility criteria for LIWHA is welcome and this should prioritise consideration of in-work benefits.

Observation 1: It is important that LIWHA is widely understood as a contribution towards winter energy costs, alongside other forms of support, and not as a payment that is intended to meet them.

Observation 2: SCoSS notes that the use of data from the DWP to determine entitlement to LIWHA has potential to greatly reduce administrative complexity, but creates an inherent vulnerability in the event that there are problems with receiving the necessary data.

Observation 3: SCoSS recognises that, due to the tight legislative timetable, it may not be possible to implement all recommendations in this report in time for winter 2022-23. Those that are not feasible at present should receive due consideration in the future review of LIWHA or (following the introduction of the winter heating assistance for people of pensionable age) of the various forms of winter heating assistance.

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