Annex II: Stakeholder Workshops
In February 2019, the Scottish Government held two workshops with stakeholder organisations to consider the draft objectives and options for the income supplement. Attendees included:
• Roundtable 1: 17 representatives from 13 local authorities and local authority representative organisations.
• Roundtable 2: 16 representatives from 14 third sector and anti-poverty organisations, think tanks and universities.
Participants noted that while the objectives were helpful, it was important they align with wider aims in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill and the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan. There was a discussion about the rationale for a three percentage point reduction in relative child poverty and whether that this should be set as the minimum reduction. There was broad support of the objective to reduce the depth (severity) of poverty for those families whose incomes are furthest below the poverty line, although some participants considered that objective may be challenging to achieve given the specific target to reduce relative child poverty. In relation to the third objective, it was noted that the provision of a "sustainable and long lasting" route out of poverty would not merely involve income solutions but non-monetary solutions too. Whilst there was support for this objective, some participants queried whether this was more pertinent to the implementation of the benefit and how it interacts with the wider system, rather than to the design of the supplement itself.
The benefits and limitations to targeting different groups was discussed, with some participants favouring a carefully targeted approach for low-income families and other participants who were generally more supportive of a universal approach. Lone parent families (particularly mothers) and families with a disabled adult or child were mentioned as potential target groups, However, others argued that targeting support so narrowly might be problematic as there is a risk of excluding people who do not fit into such tight criteria and who may be at risk of poverty. Participants at both roundtables emphasised the importance of ensuring the benefit is accessible to marginalised groups, or those not receiving benefits who may be entitled to them.
There was debate in both roundtables around the benefits and limitations of implementing a top-up of a UK administered benefit (such as Universal Credit) balancing the simplicity of such an approach against the risks of mitigating UK welfare reforms. There was a suggestion that means-testing may be too resource intensive and there is a need for benefit to be as streamlined and financially efficient as possible so that more money is spent on the benefit itself.
There was support in both roundtables for an interim solution to be implemented as soon as possible, potentially through local authorities, though it was noted this should be balanced against the need to avoid undermining the advancement of a more permanent solution.