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Information regarding Social Security Scotland's Winter related benefits: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

FOI Reference: FOI/202400405325
Date received: 20 March 2024
Date responded: 17 April 2024


Information requested

Request for information 1: Could you supply a list of dates when the Cold Weather Payment was paid into accounts in Scotland in the last financial year, with how many people received it then included?

Request for information 2: How much money was handed out as part of the Cold Weather Payment in the last financial year (2023-24) and how many people received a payment? How much would have been handed out if the UK Government continued to hand it out, and how many people would have received it?

Request for information 3: For the Winter Fuel Payment, will those on Pension Credit still be able to receive it this year? If not, why?

Request for information 4: How many people eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment and Cold Weather Payment did not receive this in the last financial year, and could you list the reasons why?

Request for information 5: How much has the Social Security Scotland operation costs been in the last five years (2020-24) and how much is it estimated to be in the next three years? Could you supply a breakdown of these costs and breakdown by year?

Request for information 6: How much is the budget for Personal Independence Payments for the next five years, and all analysis and briefings held by Social Security Scotland surrounding this payment, including correspondence held, from between September 1 2023 to the date of this FOI?

Response

I have interpreted your requests which reference Cold Weather Payment, Winter Fuel Payment and Personal Independence Payment as Winter Heating Payment, Pension Age Winter Heating Payment and Adult Disability Payment respectively.

Request for information 1 and 2:

An exemption under section 27(1) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) applies to the information requested because we intend to publish that information on 23 April 2024, which is within 12 weeks of the date of your request. We consider that it is reasonable to withhold the information until that date, rather than release this information before the planned publication date.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of the open and transparent delivery of services and this will be met by our planned publication. In the meantime, there is a greater public interest in taking the time necessary to ensure that the information has been properly collated and checked before it is published as planned.

Our full Winter Heating Payments statistics publication for 2023-2024 will be published on our official statistics page on 23 April 2024.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance Social Security Scotland does not have some of the information you have requested.

Unlike the Cold Weather Payment, Winter Heating Payment does not depend on how cold the temperature gets. Social Security Scotland does not hold information on cold weather triggers in Scotland and as such we hold no comparison of how many people would have received more, less or the same money if the old benefit were still in place.

Request for information 3:

The Scottish Government intends to deliver a like-for-like benefit, which means continuing eligibility for all those who have previously been eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment.

With the introduction of Pension Age Winter Heating Payment in winter 2024, everyone in Scotland who would currently be eligible to receive Winter Fuel Payment will continue to receive the same level of support but will be transitioned to Pension Age Winter Heating Payment, paid by Social Security Scotland.

Request for information 4:

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance Social Security Scotland does not have some of the information you have requested.

Winter Fuel Payment for winter 2023 was paid by the Department for Work and Pensions. Social Security Scotland does not hold information for their clients.

A total of 418,876 people are known to Social Security Scotland to have been eligible for Winter Heating Payment during the qualifying week in November 2023.

This total consists of the people that were identified to be eligible as part of the data transfer from the Department for Work and Pensions completed on 20 November 2023 and 31 January 2024.

As of 2 April 2024, the closest date to the date of your request for which data is available, 754 people are still to be paid. All of these are cases in which additional manual intervention is required for the reasons detailed below,

230 – missing bank details

217 – identity verification required

150 – awaiting details of next of kin

157 – new applications awaiting evidence of eligibility

Request for information 5:

Some of the information you have requested is available from our Annual Report and Accounts on the Publications section of the Social Security Scotland website. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website, then please contact me again and I will send you paper copies.

Annual Report and Account 2019-2020

Annual Report and Account 2020-2021

Annual Report and Account 2021-2022

Annual Report and Account 2022-2023

As the current financial year (2023-2024) has recently ended, we cannot provide our actual operating expenditure for the year. The original budget for operating expenditure in 2023-2024 is available on the Publications section of the Social Security Scotland website.

An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some of the information requested in relation to future operational costs. Disclosing this information would substantially prejudice our ability to conduct financial management effectively which is based on our ability to analyse and discuss the cause of over or underspends and assess the risk around making different decisions to ensure financial balance. This would constitute substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs in terms of the exemption.

We have assessed this request against the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government. However there is a greater public interest in protecting the processes for financial management and ensuring that the Scottish Government is able to conduct this effectively. This means that we have not disclosed the operational expenditure forecasts which are formed using business judgement.

Request for information 6:

Social Security Scotland does not hold the requested information for Personal Independence Payment as the benefit is administered by the Department for Work and Pensions. However, in the interest of providing assistance to you, we have interpreted your request as Adult Disability Payment.

Some of the Information you have requested is available in reports published by the Scottish Fiscal Commission. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website, then please contact me again and I will send you paper copies.

Figure 5.2 in the Full Report, shows the forecasts for the next 5 financial years: Scotland’s Economic and Fiscal Forecasts – December 2023 – Scottish Fiscal Commission. The figures for 24-25 are the confirmed budget, the figures for the following four years are forecasts.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing some of the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit of £600.

This is because, to provide you with all analysis, briefings and correspondence relating to Adult Disability Payment held by Social Security Scotland, would require individual searches of a large number of email inboxes and, interrogation of a vast number of operational analysis reports within our Client Services Delivery Division who are responsible for the operational delivery of the benefit.

Under section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under section 12.

You may, however, wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order that the costs can be brought below £600. For example, by requesting information covering a narrower timeframe or by specifying the type of analysis you are looking for.

You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner's 'Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs' on his website at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights/Tipsforrequesters.aspx

However, in order to assist you I have provided links to published statistics within the timeframe of your request on the Social Security Scotland website.

Social Security Scotland - Adult Disability Payment: high level statistics to 31 July 2023

Social Security Scotland - Adult Disability Payment: high level statistics to 31 October 2023

Social Security Scotland - Cases selected for transfer to Child Disability Payment and Adult Disability Payment: management information to 31 January 2024

Social Security Scotland - Adult Disability Payment: high level statistics to 31 January 2024

About FOI

Social Security Scotland is committed to publishing its response to requests. The Scottish Government also publishes responses to requests. You can view the responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.


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