Welfare benefits in Scotland


Most of the benefits that families in Scotland can claim are UK-wide and claimed from either the Department for Works and Pensions or HMRC.

However some benefits are different in Scotland, and these are run by a new agency called Social Security Scotland. Here we explain what these Scottish benefits are and who can apply for them.

Over the next few years Social Security Scotland will take on responsibility for an increasing number of new Scottish benefits. And in late 2020 and early 2021 it will introduce two new benefits: Child Winter Heating Assistance and the Scottish Child Payment.

Best Start Grant

Best Start provides grants to low-income families with young children. You can only claim if you are on certain low-income benefits. Because it is a grant, it does not need to be repaid. There are three different types of grant:

A pregnancy and baby payment.

This is £600 if you have no other children living with you or £300 if you have other children aged under 16 living with you. If you have twins you'll get an additional £300. You can claim a grant from the 25th week of your pregnancy up until your baby is 6 months old. This can be extended if you miss the deadline due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

If you adopt a baby or start to care for a baby as a kinship carer, you can make a claim at any point before the baby's first birthday.  You can still get the grant for a baby who was stillborn or who died after they were born.

An early learning payment

This is a payment of £250. You can get it for a child you are responsible for who is aged two or three. You can claim at any point from their 2nd birthday up until they turn three and a half. If you are late in applying because of the coronavirus outbreak this should be extended. To claim, you must be treated as responsible for that child e.g. you get child benefit for them.

A school age payment

This is a payment of £250 if you are responsible for a child who was born between 1 March 2015 and 29 February 2016. You can apply at any point between 1 June 2020 up to 28 February 2021.

Do I need to be out of work to qualify for a Best Start Grant?

No, you can qualify for a Best Start Grant whether or not you are working. However, you normally need to be getting a 'qualifying benefit'. This means you must be getting one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support.
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
  • Pension Credit.
  • Housing Benefit.
  • Child Tax Credit.
  • Working Tax Credit.
  • Universal Credit (including where this stopped in the last month).

If you are aged under 18 you can get a Best Start Grant even if you are not on a qualifying benefit and no matter what income you have. If you are aged 18 or 19 and either pregnant or a parent, but someone else still gets benefits for looking after you as a dependent, you can get a grant so long as the person who cares for you gets Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Universal Credit or Pension Credit for you as part of their family.

How do I apply for a Best Start Grant?

To claim a Best Start Grant you can apply online or download an application form at mygov.scot or phone Social Security Scotland on 0800 182 2222 (8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. If you're a British Sign Language user, you can use the contactSCOTLAND app to contact Social Security Scotland by video relay.

Best Start Foods

Best Start Foods is a prepaid card that you can use to buy healthy foods for children under three. This includes milk, first infant formula, fresh fruit and vegetable, pulses and fresh eggs. You can use the card in shops and online. You can apply for Best Start Foods when you're pregnant, or at any time up to your child turning three years old.

How much are the payments of Best Start Foods?

This depends on your child's age. You will get:

  • £17 every four weeks during pregnancy.
  • £34 every four weeks from your child being born up until they're a one year old.
  • £17 every four weeks between the ages of one and three.

Do I need to be out of work to qualify for Best Start Foods?

No, you can qualify for Best Start Foods whether or not you are working. However, you or your partner normally need to be getting a 'qualifying benefit'. This means you must be getting one of the following benefits:

  • Income support.
  • Income-based Jobseeker's allowance.
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
  • Pension Credit.
  • Universal Credit and earn no more than £610 a month in either of the last two complete monthly assessment periods.
  • Child Tax Credit (but not Working Tax Credit) with annual income of £16,190 or less.
  • Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit with an annual income of £7,320 or less.
  • Housing Benefit with a weekly income of £311 or less.

If you are aged under 18 you can get a grant even if you are not on a qualifying benefit and no matter what income you have. If you are a parent aged 18 or 19 and someone else still gets benefits for looking after you as a dependent, you can get a grant so long as the person who cares for you is receiving Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Universal Credit or Pension Credit for you as part of their family.

How do I claim Best Start Foods?

To claim you can apply online, download a paper claim form from mygov.scot or phone Social Security Scotland on 0800 182 2222 (8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday). If you're a British Sign Language user, you can use the contactSCOTLAND app to contact Social Security Scotland by video relay.

If you are entitled to Best Start foods, you can also receive free healthy start vitamins, which are distributed by regional health boards in Scotland - ask your health visitor, midwife or GP for more information.

Carer's Allowance Supplement

The Carer's Allowance Supplement is a lump sum payment made twice a year to carers in Scotland who receive Carer's Allowance (Link to our webpage on Carer's Allowance). You need to be receiving actual payments of Carer's Allowance - it's not enough merely to have an underlying entitlement to the benefit.

If you live in Scotland and were getting Carer's Allowance on 13 April 2020, you should have received a lump sum payment at some point from late June 2020.

How much is the Carer's Allowance Supplement?

Normally each payment is £230.10. However, in late June an additional supplementary payment was made to recognise the extra pressures placed on carers as a result of the coronavirus. As a result the amount paid to carers in late June was £460.20.

A payment of £230.10 will then be made in late December to anyone who is getting Carer's Allowance on 12 October. These payments are ignored as income when calculating entitlement to other benefits or tax credits.

How do I access a Carer's Allowance Supplement?

You do not need to apply for a Carer's Allowance Supplement. Instead you should receive a payment automatically. If you think you should qualify but don't receive a grant, contact Social Security Scotland on 0800 182 2222 (8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday).

If you're a British Sign Language user, you can use the contactSCOTLAND app to contact Social Security Scotland by video relay. Alternatively, you can write to: Carer's Allowance Supplement, PO Box 10302, Dundee, DD1 9FX.

Young Carer Grant

The Young Carer Grant is a lump sum payment of £305.10, which can be made to 16, 17 and 18 year olds who are providing at least 16 hours a week care to a severely disabled person.

The severely disabled person must be getting a qualifying disability benefit, for example the care component of  Disability Living Allowance at the middle or highest rate, the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance. The young carer must not be getting Carer's Allowance. He or she can get a grant even if they work or study full-time and it is not means-tested.

What type of care counts?

To be eligible a young carer must be providing 16 hours or more care a week. This is averaged out. He or she must have provided at least 208 hours care over 10 of the 13 weeks before the date they claimed.

The care provided must promote the "physical, mental or emotional wellbeing of an individual," so supervision and emotional support should count as well as physical care. If the young carer looks after more than one severely disabled person, they can add together the care they provide to up to three different people. However, all of the disabled people who are counted must be on a qualifying disability benefits.

Can a young carer get a Young Carer Grant if someone else already claims Carer's Allowance?

Yes, if a young carer meets the qualifying rules they can get a grant, even if someone else is already claiming Carer's Allowance for the person that they are helping look after.

So for example, a young carer who helps their parent to look after a disabled brother or sister can get a Young Carer Grant, even though their parent is already getting Carer's Allowance as their sibling's main carer.

Only one person can receive a Young Carer Grant for the same disabled person. Making a claim for a Young Carer Grant will not affect any benefits the young carer gets or the benefits of the person they look after.

How does a young carer apply for a Young Carer Grant?

Apply online by downloading a paper form at mygov.scot or by phoning Social Security Scotland for free on 0800 182 2222 (8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday). British Sign Language users can use the contactSCOTLAND app to contact Social Security Scotland by video relay. Young carers can apply once a year while they are 16, 17 or 18.

Funeral Support Payment

A Funeral Support Payment is a one-off grant to help meet the costs of a funeral if you are on a low income. Because it is a grant, you do not have to repay it. The funeral can be for a partner, close friend or a family member, including a stillborn child.

Who can get a Funeral Support Payment?

You will only be considered for a payment if it is reasonable for you to have accepted responsibility for the costs of the funeral. You may be refused a grant if there are others who had a closer family relationship, unless there are other factors such as estrangement that mean it was reasonable for you to accept responsibility for funeral costs. Only one person can get Funeral Support Payment for the same funeral.

In addition, you can only apply for a Funeral Support Payment if you are on are getting a qualifying benefit. This means you or your partner must be getting one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support.
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
  • Housing Benefit.
  • Child Tax Credit.
  • Working Tax Credit that includes the disabled worker or severe disability element,
  • Pension Credit.
  • Universal Credit (including if you this has stopped within the last month).

You must also normally live in Scotland, and the deceased must have lived somewhere in the UK. You also cannot be a person who is subject to immigration control.

Normally the funeral must take place in the UK. Seek further advice if it is taking place elsewhere in the European Economic Area or in Switzerland.

You can apply at any point in the six months after your loved one has died. If you missed this six month deadline due to disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, your application should still be accepted.

Will a Funeral Support Payment cover the full costs of the funeral?

Usually a Funeral Support Payment won't cover the full costs of the funeral. However, it should be enough to cover the following:

  • The cost of a burial plot, burial fees and the cost of grave-digging.
  • Cremation fees including the cost of removing a pacemaker.
  • If required, the costs of any medical references and medical certificates.
  • The costs of documents required to release the assets of the person who died.
  • Transport costs for the amount of journeys in excess of 80 kilometres, that are to:
    • Transport the body within the UK to a funeral director's premises or to a place of rest.
    • Transport the coffin and bearers in a hearse and the mourners in another vehicle from the funeral director's premises or place of rest to the funeral.
  • Cost of one return journey undertaken to make arrangements for the funeral, but not exceeding the cost of a return journey from your home to the place of burial or cremation.
  • A payment of £1000 towards other funeral expenses, or £122.05 if the person who has died was aged 18 or over when s/he died and had a pre-paid funeral plan.

If the burial or cremation takes place in an area in which the person who has died wasn't living, and as the result the cost of the burial or cremation, including transport costs, are higher than they would otherwise have been, the extra cost won't be met.

Some assets belonging to the person who has died can be deducted from Funeral Support Payment. For example, any financial assets of the deceased that are available without confirmation having been granted, or without probate or letters of administration or certain insurance policy payments or funeral plan payments. 

How do I apply for a Funeral Support Payment?

To apply for a Funeral Support Payment claim online, download a paper claim form from mygov.scot (there are different forms for funerals for adults and funerals for children under 18) or phone Social Security Scotland on 0800 182 2222 (8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday). If you're a British Sign Language user, you can use the contactSCOTLAND app to contact Social Security Scotland by video relay.

Financial help from your local council

Some benefits and financial supports in Scotland are administered by local councils, rather than Social Security Scotland. This includes help with council tax and the Scottish Welfare Fund. Find out more about financial support from councils in Scotland.

Changes to the way Universal Credit is paid

The Scottish government also have negotiated certain changes to the way Universal Credit is paid in Scotland. In particular:

  • Claimants in Scotland have the option of receiving their Universal credit payments twice a month rather than a single monthly payment; 
  • Claimants in Scotland who get Universal Credit payments towards rent have the option of getting those payments made directly to their landlord. This applies to both social and private landlords. 

Changes to the Scottish benefits system

Over the next few years Social Security Scotland will take on responsibility for an increasing number of new Scottish benefits. This includes a new benefit called the Child Disability Payment, which will replace Disability Living Allowance in Scotland. A new benefit called Disability Assistance for adults will replace Personal Independence Payment, while a new Carer's Assistance will replace Carer's Allowance in Scotland.

The introduction of these new Scottish disability and carers benefits has been delayed by the coronavirus outbreak. In the mean-time new rules from September 2020 will mean that 16 year olds on Disability Living Allowance in Scotland will no longer be asked to move onto Personal Independence Payment. Instead DLA will continue until age 18.

Social Security Scotland will also introduce two new benefits in late 2020 and early 2021. These are Child Winter Heating Assistance and the Scottish Child Payment.

Disability Living Allowance to continue until age 18 in Scotland

New rules are being introduced in September 2020 that will see young people in Scotland continue to receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA) until they turn 18. Currently DLA claimants are invited to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) shortly after they turn 16.

From 1 September 2020, children in Scotland will not be expected to move from Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) until age 18. Listen to our benefits expert Derek Sinclair explain what these new rules mean for families.

If a young person living in Scotland turns 16 on or after the 1st September 2020 and they are getting DLA immediately before their 16th birthday, they will not be expected to claim PIP. Instead their DLA award should be extended until they are 18 at which point they will be asked to claim PIP.

A young person who turns 16 after the 1st September can still opt to move onto PIP before age 18 if they want. However, to do this they will have to make an application for PIP. Any 16 year old who considering this should first seek detailed advice from a benefits adviser as many disabled people are worse off under PIP. Claiming PIP will end the DLA award - even if you later try and withdraw the PIP claim. 

My daughter turns 16 before September. Can she stay on DLA until she is 18?

No. These new rules extending DLA only apply to young people in Scotland who turn 16 on or after 1 September 2020. Unless your daughter is terminally ill or a hospital in-patient she (or you acting as her appointee) will be invited to claim PIP shortly after her 16th birthday. She will need to do this if she wants to continue receiving a disability benefit. Once a decision has been made on her PIP claim it replaces her DLA award.

What about 16 or 17 year olds who aren't already getting DLA?

These rules extending DLA to the age of 18 only apply to young people who were getting DLA immediately before their 16th birthday. If someone isn't already getting DLA by their 16th birthday they can't make a new claim after that date and will need to claim PIP instead. This is the case even if they turn 16 after the 1st September 2020.

Child Winter Heating Assistance

In November 2020 the Scottish government plans to introduce a new payment to help families with severely disabled children pay their winter heating costs.

This will be an annual payment of £200 made to each family in Scotland who has a child who qualifies for the care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) at the highest rate. You will get this new winter payment for each child in your family on the highest rate of the DLA care component, regardless of what other income you have.

To qualify your child must live in Scotland and be receiving the highest rate care component for at least one day between 21 September 2020 and 27 September 2020. The new payment will be made automatically, so you do not need to apply.  

Scottish Child Payment

In February 2021, the Scottish government will start to pay low-income families a payment of £10 per week for each eligible child. Initially payments will only be made for children aged under six, but by late 2022 this will be extended to children aged under 16. There is no limit to the number of children that you can be paid for, so a Scottish child payment will still be made for children who are affected by the two child limit in Universal Credit or tax credits. 

To qualify for a Scottish child payment a family must be receiving 'a qualifying benefit'. This means you must be getting one of the following:

  • Child Tax Credit.
  • Universal Credit.
  • Income Support.
  • Pension Credit.
  • Working Tax Credit.
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

The Scottish child payment scheme will open for applications in November 2020, with the first payments starting in February 2021. Payments are likely to be made every four weeks.

Challenging decisions made by Social Security Scotland 

If you are unhappy with a decision that has been made by Social Security Scotland, you can ask for it to be looked at again. This is called a redetermination. If you are still unhappy with the outcome of that you can appeal to an Independent Tribunal.  

The time limit for asking for a redetermination or appeal is normally 31 days from the date of the decision you are challenging. This timelimit can be extended to 1 year but only if you have good reason for a late request. Currently this absolute time limit of 1 year can be extended if the reason your redermination or appeal is late is beacuse of the Coronavirus outbreak.