5. Advance claims
The draft Regulations remove one of the situations which allows applications for Child Disability Payment up to 13 weeks before the child meets all the qualifying conditions. This rule means that instead of refusing an application and requiring a second claim, Social Security Scotland can make an award starting from the date all the conditions are met. This is most likely to happen when an application is made before a child has reached the qualifying age for the mobility component, or where care or mobility needs have not yet lasted the full 13 weeks required to meet the retrospective test. However, in theory, the advance claim rule could apply whichever of the qualifying conditions is not met at the time of claim. The situation being removed is where there is no entitlement at the time of claim because of an award of another disability benefit which is expected to end within 13 weeks (Regulation 2(4) draft Regulations).
The reason for the change is Scottish Government’s concern that this provision is likely to cause significant issues in its implementation which could undermine the processes specifically designed to transfer awards from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to CDP and could risk continuity of payment for people. The same change is being incorporated into the draft ADP Regulations. There is early evidence from the CDP pilot areas11 that a small number of people have applied for CDP even though their child already gets DLA.
Safe and secure transfer of awards12 and continuity of payment during the transition from delivery by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to delivery by Social Security Scotland is of paramount concern for Scottish Government and for people with lived experience consulted about disability assistance. Rules and processes for transferring around 52,000 DLA awards to CDP and over 300,000 Personal Independence Payment (PIP) awards to ADP are being carefully planned and implemented. For an award transferred under this case transfer process, DLA entitlement will end the day before CDP entitlement begins. People will get the same amount, paid to the same account, at the same time as their DLA was paid. In most cases, people will not need to do anything. Crucially, they will not need to apply for CDP. Technically, the transfer is accomplished by way of a ‘determination without application’. The same process will apply to transfers from PIP to ADP.
If someone bypasses this process by making an application for CDP (or in future ADP), before being selected for transfer, that leaves Social Security Scotland duty bound to determine entitlement. Normally, the outcome would simply be no entitlement to CDP on the grounds of existing DLA entitlement. The risk for individuals will be if they actively withdraw their DLA claim in order to apply for CDP, which at best would probably leave them with a gap in payments and at worst leave them with less money or no award at all and no access to Short-term Assistance should they challenge the decision. The risk for Social Security Scotland lies primarily in the staff time and resources required to deal with the case and communicate with the individual, which at scale could lead to delays in overall service delivery.
To what extent the advance claim provision which the draft Regulations propose to remove contributes to these risks is unclear to SCoSS. We think that few, if any, individuals would be aware of the advance claim provision and actively seek to invoke it. Although, it would potentially be in play for any application made before the managed case transfer process began if there was evidence of a DLA award about to end. Consequently, it is not clear to what extent removing the provision reduces the risk. It does not remove the choice an individual has to end their DLA in order to apply for CDP but simply puts it beyond doubt that an application made before the DLA ends is bound to fail.
That said, we do believe that it is right that Scottish Government is alert to potential risks to this critical transfer process and seeks to mitigate those risks. Clear, accessible communication with claimants and stakeholders will be essential. For stakeholders (advice agencies, frontline services working with families), Social Security Scotland offers online information in a range of community languages and in Easy Read, which services can use to inform their clients. There is scope for making this accessible information more directly available to individuals.
Recommendation 2: Scottish Government engages with stakeholders and people with lived experience to continuously improve information and ensure its accessibility, to people who will be affected by the transfer of awards to Child Disability Payment and Adult Disability Payment.