Minister changes rules
Taxi drivers now eligible for grants after u-turn
Drivers said many were unable to claim
Taxi and private hire drivers who have claimed benefits will now be eligible for government support following a Scottish government u-turn.
Those who have received state benefits at any time since March last year will now qualify for a £1,500 business support grant as long as they meet the remaining criteria.
Business Minister Jamie Hepburn confirmed that the change would come into effect immediately to ensure that drivers on the lowest incomes can access support.
The government was criticised after launching the grant scheme this week but leaving thousands of drivers unable to access it because they had been forced to claim benefits to make ends meet.
Following today’s change of plan Mr Hepburn warned that UK Government Universal Credit rules mean that drivers could lose out overall if the grant is considered to be income by DWP. However, the change will allow people to make a decision based on their individual circumstances.
The Minister has written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions requesting a guarantee that taxi drivers in receipt of state benefits would not be penalised for receiving the grant, which is intended to cover fixed business costs.
Councils will start contacting eligible drivers this week to brief them on their potential entitlement and ask them to provide supporting information and bank account details. They do not need to apply, or contact the local authority.
Mr Hepburn said: “This week local authorities will directly approach an estimated 38,000 private hire and taxi drivers inviting them to claim this grant, which is intended to assist with fixed costs and expenses.
“We have responded to the concerns of drivers and we have removed grant conditions relating to state benefits.
“However, we remain justifiably concerned that any payment would simply be deducted from an applicant’s benefits. That is why I am urging the Secretary of State to do the right thing by drivers on the lowest incomes.
“Without a change by the UK Government, making these payments would benefit the Department for Work and Pensions budget, not the drivers, and risk using Scottish Government resources in a way that fails to provide additional support to many taxi drivers struggling to deal with the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We will keep drivers updated on the outcome of our engagement with the DWP.”
Unite Scottish Secretary, Pat Rafferty, said: “It’s welcomed that the Scottish Government has listened to Unite and removed the eligibility restriction. The announcement will provide reassurance and much needed financial assistance for many, in particular, those most in need.”