The Scottish Government does not consider that the SCP will negatively impact upon those in island and rural communities.
We have sought to understand the impact of the SCP through speaking to over 300 people with lived experience of the social security system across Scotland, including those living in rural and island locations. This has been carried out by phone interviews and face to face testing with parents from the islands, including in Orkney, Banff, Oban and Mull. As part of this process we have also spoken to welfare officers who have an acute understanding of the lived experience with which parents and others may present to them. The work has been undertaken to better understand the unique cultural and social issues which face these communities and help shape the design of the payment according to those needs.
There has also been policy engagement with stakeholders representing communities across Scotland including COSLA, the Scottish Campaign for Welfare Reform, the Social Security Consortium in Scotland and the Poverty Alliance, amongst others.
On average, rates of poverty tend to be lower in rural areas, however, in 2017 it was found that there are 40,000 children in rural areas in poverty. The barriers that those children and their families face to leaving poverty could relate to their island location and might include: poor public transport; lack of services; lack of opportunities; and increased isolation.
The flexibility of the SCP will help address some of the issues specific to island communities including:
- the additional expense of transport costs for children accessing hobbies and other activities;
- the higher cost of living in rural areas, the money can be spent on practical items such as climate appropriate clothing.
Social Security Scotland, the agency responsible for delivering the SCP is focussed on reducing stigma and increasing accessibility across Scotland, which will benefit island communities. Our Charter, a public document outlining what clients should expect from Social Security Scotland, sets out its responsibility to change the language around benefits and reduce stigma. Social Security Scotland will offer application and support services online, by phone, by paper and face to face to ensure the SCP is accessible to those in remote communities, regardless of circumstances.
The Scottish Government is committed to promoting benefit take-up in island communities. Our communication strategy is being designed with those in rural communities in mind, with targeted communications and roadshows promoting the SCP. Our first Benefit Take-up Strategy, was published in 2019 setting out the ongoing work of the Scottish Government and Social Security Scotland to address barriers to benefit uptake, including remote accessibility. Another important commitment in the Benefit Take-up Strategy is the development of two sources of funding to assist organisations supporting people to take-up the benefits they are entitled to, including those living in remote and island communities. Through aforementioned user research we have sought to involve those in rural communities in designing this.