Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) welcomes this opportunity to provide our overview of the impact of the Scottish Social Security landscape to inform scrutiny of this Bill proposing to amend the law governing the administration of social security in Scotland. As the amendments largely reflect our views expressed in the consultation process, including our recommendations, we have limited our response to those aspects of the Bill that are of the most direct concern to the Citizens Advice network in Scotland. We have expressed views where we believe there is scope for further amendments, or significant wrap around work needed to achieve the policy intent.
CAS makes the following submissions restricted to aspects of:
› Part 1 providing the power to introduce Regulations to create Scottish Child Payment (SCP) as a standalone payment, not simply a top up provided to those in receipt of certain reserved benefits.
› Part 2 proposing to repeal certain emergency Coronavirus provision.
› Part 3 proposing new timescales for re-determination or appeal requests, the right to withdraw a re-determination request, clarification of duties where a re-determination has not been completed within the period allowed, powers to make a new determination which stops an appeal following an error whilst an appeal is ongoing, and new powers for the Tribunal in a process appeal.
› Part 4 proposing a right to review, followed by a right to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland, against a finding of liability for an overpayment.
Our key recommendations:
› Carefully drafted guidance on what constitutes “good reason”, and “exceptional circumstances” will require to include guidance on Covid-19.
› The provisions relating to re-determinations within one year and outwith one year should be mirrored in respect of initial applications for Adult Disability Payment (ADP).
› Return periods for review forms should mirror those for initial applications.
› Consideration should be given to eliminating the re-determination stage for claimants. Doing so would ensure that the process of challenging decisions best supports the dignity of individuals while improving efficiency.
› Clear guidance to claimants and stakeholders about the status of appeals raised when a re-determination has not been completed within the statutory timescales. Such guidance should clarify that these appeals concern the original decision not yet re-determined and that the Tribunal is empowered to substitute its own decision about entitlement. Such guidance would clarify the status of further evidence submitted with the out of time re-determination request.
› Exploring the options for using an income threshold below which lawfully recoverable overpayments will not be collected.