A SURGE in applications at the Department for Work and Pensions could lead to a delay in the roll-out of some Scottish welfare benefits, ministers fear.

Yesterday members of Holyrood’s Social Security Committee heard how plans to bring in the Scottish Child Payment and Winter Heating Assistance by the end of 2020 have been affected by the pandemic.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Social Security Secretary, said the Scottish Government’s plan to push ahead with the payments is “subject to the DWP’s ability to work with us and provide the necessary data on time”.

READ MORE: DWP: Huge rise in number of people claiming unemployment benefit

Somerville said the Covid-19 crisis has brought “challenging circumstances” for the roll-out as resources were reduced, with some staff moved to other areas to support the fight against the coronavirus.

She said no arrangement had been put in place to transfer data from the DWP to Holyrood yet to allow the roll-out to progress – but that payments will be moved over to Social Security Scotland as “soon as we can safely and reliably do so”.

However Somerville stressed her officials are in “very close contact” with the DWP to ensure the changes can be made by the target date.

The DWP has been hit by a huge surge in people claiming job-related benefits as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. There has been a 125.9% increase in people claiming the payments since the beginning of the lockdown in March, with about 1.6 million people now receiving the benefit.