Local MP John Lamont has urged the Department for Work and Pensions to step in to ensure Borderers in receipt of welfare are not affected by the Scottish Government’s delay to take on key welfare powers.
He also urged the UK and Scottish Government to make sure that residents in the Borders with a TD12 and TD15 postcode continue to receive cold weather payments when this benefit is devolved.
The Backbench Business Committee debate, led by John Lamont MP comes after the Scottish Government quietly announced it had asked the DWP to keep administering benefits due to be devolved by 2021 for another three years.
During the debate, the Minister for Employment Alok Sharma MP revealed the DWP have more than 80 staff working exclusively on the devolution of welfare powers to try to get the timetable back on track.
Cold Weather Payments are due to be devolved to the Scottish Government, which could result in confusion about whether the DWP or Social Security Scotland is responsible for residents with cross border TD12 or TD15 postcodes.
Cold Weather Payments are paid out to residents based on the first part of their post code and are triggered when the average temperature recorded at the weather station has been recorded as, or is forecast to be zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days, during the cold weather season (November to March). In Berwickshire, Cold Weather Payments worth around £300,000 were paid to residents last year.
Speaking after the debate, John Lamont MP said: “This is an important issue because thousands of Borderers getting a devolved benefit have no idea if or when the Scottish Government will be ready to take them on.
“While they have spent the past decade criticising the UK Government’s welfare policy, the SNP are going to take nearly 9 years to take on these benefits. This is from a party who tried to con Borderers into thinking they could set up an entire independent nation in just 18 months.
“This is yet another example of the SNP demanding powers but failing to do anything with them.
“I’ve also called on the Scottish and UK Government to work together on the devolution of cold weather payments. It’s important that residents in the Borders with TD12 and TD15 postcodes continue to receive cold weather payments and do not fall through the net.
“I don’t really mind who takes on responsibility for these payments, just as long as residents in the Borders continue to receive this support.”