Question reference: S6W-17480
- Asked by: Fulton MacGregor, MSP for Coatbridge and Chryston, Scottish National Party
- Date lodged: 27 April 2023
Current status: Answered by Michael Matheson on 4 May 2023
To ask the Scottish Government what action NHS Scotland can take to ensure that any one-off payments made to its staff, in recognition of their work, do not have a negative impact on any housing benefit entitlement that results in them receiving no net increase in their income.
Housing Benefit has been replaced by Universal Credit in all but a small number of specific circumstances. Recipients of Universal Credit need to notify their Work Coach of any additional income in a given monthly assessment period. A person’s income could increase, for instance, if they did additional hours or overtime in that period. Most recently, NHS Scotland staff received a one-off additional payment in their April salaries as part of the 2023-24 Agenda for Change pay settlement.
Additional income reduces or stops Universal Credit but it is important to stress that everyone should be better off overall as the taper rate is 55%, so for every pound in extra payments, the person keeps 45 pence. Universal Credit will then increase or begin again if someone’s income reduces in the next assessment period unless, for instance, the higher income represented by the substantive part of the NHS Scotland pay settlement places them above the qualifying criteria for Universal Credit.
Spreading the one-off payment over multiple months was considered at the time the 2023-24 Agenda for Change pay settlement was negotiated. However, it was not clear this would provide any advantage to the lower paid and indeed it may be more helpful to get the payment within one assessment period and return to a steady state following that.