Best Start, Bright Futures: tackling child poverty delivery plan 2022 to 2026

The second tackling child poverty delivery plan due under the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017. Outlining action for the period 2022 to 2026.

Part B: Maximising the support available for families to live dignified lives and meet their basic needs

Part A of this plan has set out how we will support parents into more and better employment, with the connectivity and childcare, employability and skills support and transformation in our economy combining to offer a sustainable exit from poverty for many households.

We recognise that this, on its own, will not be enough. We know that many of the changes outlined in Part A will take time to bed in, some over many years, and we also know that for some parents paid employment is not currently, or may never be, a feasible option.

Crucially, we understand that a sustainable exit from poverty will never be just about securing and retaining a job. The section below outlines the steps we will take to ensure that families are able to access a holistic package of support and entitlements when they need it – from housing to social security and wider financial, emotional and practical support.

This section of the Plan focuses on how we deliver public services in a holistic way which enables choice and support for everyone to flourish through:

  • A transformational approach to people and place
  • Enhanced support through social security
  • Income maximisation
  • Access to warm and affordable homes

Part B - Summary of Action, Impact and Resources

Within this section we commit to the following key actions to strengthen Scotland's offer to families:

  • Investing £500 million of Whole Family Wellbeing Funding, helping transform services so that families can access preventative, holistic support which is wrapped around their needs, and provided when they need it and for as long as they need it
  • Doubling the value of the Scottish Child Payment from April 2022, delivering the benefit in full to all eligible children under the age of 16 and further increasing the value to £25 per child, per week, by the end of 2022
  • Increasing the value of 8 Scottish social security benefits by 6%, including Best Start Grants and Carer's Allowance Supplement, to keep pace with rising costs
  • Working with local government to mitigate the benefit cap as fully as we can within the scope of devolved powers
  • Expanding the Family Nurse Partnership to reach all first time mothers aged 21 and under by 2025 and continue to target 22-24 years olds where capacity allows
  • Delivering 110,000 more affordable homes by 2032 with 70% for social rent and strengthen housing planning processes to ensure that larger family homes are delivered where they are required

We anticipate that these actions will have the following impact:

  • Direct financial support provided to low income parents, including up to 300,000 through the Scottish Child Payment, estimated to reduce relative child poverty by 5 percentage points in 2023-24, lifting 50,000 children out of poverty. For more detail on impact, see Annexes 4 and 5

Anticipated financial resource for 2023-26 will be subject to conclusion of the resource spending review and confirmation in the relevant budget. The following will be allocated to support key measures in 2022-23:

  • £50 million of Whole Family Wellbeing Funding, with £500 million to be invested over the course of this Parliamentary term
  • £225 million for the Scottish Child Payment in 2022-23
  • £1.5 million for the expansion of welfare advice in accessible settings, with £10 million committed over this Parliamentary term
  • £830 million for the Affordable Housing Supply Programme, with £3.6 billion committed over this Parliamentary term

A transformational approach to people and place

Through our consultation there was widespread recognition of the role of holistic family support in addressing multiple needs. This was recognised as important for providing financial, practical and emotional support, helping to tackle and mitigate the impact of poverty as well as preventing it, and supporting families to navigate an increasingly complex set of support services. Many respondents pointed to the mental health impacts of the pandemic, compounding existing stresses around living in poverty, and emphasised the importance of integrating mental health and wellbeing support into family support services. Those we spoke to also highlighted the need to draw on community assets and to ensure communities are connected to the services and opportunities they need.

We recognise that people and families do not exist in policy siloes, and are often not aware of the kinds of support that are available given the multiple channels through which this support can be delivered. We will strive across government and with all of our partners to take a more holistic, person-centered approach. There is a critical role here for community planning, and Children's Services Planning Partnerships, in driving this change locally to improve outcomes through addressing the causes and impacts of child poverty in communities across Scotland.

As part of this, we will aim to create a 'no wrong door' culture, where families are supported to access the right support at the right time, and to navigate the system of third sector, local and Scottish government supports by trusted professionals, without stigma or discrimination. By doing so we will not only tackle the depth of poverty and improve people's lives, we will strengthen the platform from which families engage with the drivers of poverty reduction. This approach underpins our wider action on employability and support for children themselves.

Our focus on delivering our regeneration vision for Scotland will give support to disadvantaged communities and families in order to enable people to live well locally – helping to create the conditions for increased access to work opportunities, affordable living, and targeted support.

The following actions focus on how, with partners, we will provide access to the holistic person-centred, trauma informed services families need to thrive:

  • Providing holistic and whole family support
  • Improving access to mental health services
  • Working in partnership with third sector and community organisations
  • Delivering our vision for place and regeneration

Providing holistic and whole family support

We are committed to delivering a 'no-wrong door' approach to public services across Scotland to ensure that all people – including those in poverty and at risk of falling into poverty - receive the right support at the right time.

This includes recognising that family wellbeing is fundamental to creating the conditions for families to be able to navigate their way out of poverty. Ensuring all families have the support that they need to address the challenges that comes their way – regardless of what those might be – is essential if we are to enable families to thrive in all aspects of their wellbeing. Taking a holistic, whole family approach to support is central to our ambitions for keeping the Promise; our National Covid Recovery Strategy; and supporting our approach to child poverty.

We are investing at least £500 million of Whole Family Wellbeing Funding over the course of this Parliamentary term. This will help transform services that support families to ensure that all families can access preventative, holistic support which is wrapped around their needs, provided when they need it and for as long as they need it. This preventative, universal approach will rely on a multi-disciplinary and multi-agency approach across adult and children's services, so that families experience support which is seamless, and flexes in response to their individual and holistic needs. Given the statutory responsibility to deliver family support through a multi-agency approach, it is currently proposed that the main co-ordinating mechanism for agreeing local priorities should be Children's Service Planning Partnerships.

This significant investment will build on the local good practice already in place and enable the transformational system change and service re-design necessary to shift the balance of family support investment from crisis intervention to prevention.

It will not impose a single model for delivering family support, nor will it support business as usual. Rather, it will support local services – including those providing more targeted support to those in greater need – to work collectively, and in line with our National Principles for Holistic Family Support, to ensure that a holistic approach is fundamental to their interactions with families, regardless of need.

We will invest the first £50 million of this transformational funding in 2022-23, setting out our plans to scale up investment following the conclusion of the Resource Spending Review and in light of ongoing learning in the first year of funding.

We understand that poverty is experienced differently in rural and urban areas, and the design and delivery of holistic services needs to be based in the needs of the community. To support appropriate place based approaches, we will collate evidence from Shetland Islands Council's highly successful multi-agency child poverty project, 'The Anchor Project' which wraps support from existing frontline services around the needs of families to directly tackle poverty and inequality, while avoiding the stigma associated with support provided through other services. This research will deepen our understanding of what elements of the model could and should be replicated in other rural and island communities.

Examples of how we are working with partners to transform public services are set out below in relation to the Justice Sector and work through health services.

The Justice Sector

There is a strong interaction between poverty and deprivation and engagement with the justice system, and we recognise that the justice system can play a stronger role in tackling child poverty. There are an estimated 20,000 children who are affected by parental imprisonment each year in Scotland. Parental imprisonment is an adverse childhood experience (ACE) and is known to significantly impact long-term health and wellbeing and negatively affect both attainment in school and later life experiences.

Our long term aim is for imprisonment to only be used for those who pose a risk of serious harm and for community-based interventions to be the default for those who do not. As we move towards this objective we continue to make strong investment in community justice services and are taking a number of short to medium-term actions to reduce the use of imprisonment and also to contribute to our national mission on tackling child poverty. Key actions are set out below.

We will introduce a Bill in this Parliamentary session to reform the law governing bail decisions and the mechanisms around prison release. This Bill is intended to start a wider debate on how custody should be used now and in the future in Scotland – with an immediate focus on reassessing how remand is used and on ensuring that people leaving prison have improved support for their reintegration to reduce the risk of future offending so they can move on towards more positive outcomes.

We are committed to making the Barnahaus model of holistic, wrap-around, trauma informed services available to all child victims and witnesses as well as children under the age of criminal responsibility whose behaviour has caused significant harm or abuse, by the end of this parliament. This will provide children with therapeutic support, including helping services to identify broader welfare issues such as addiction and poverty, and will play an important part in a 'no wrong door' approach and aid joining up of services to focus on children and their family's needs. We will convene an independently chaired National Bairns' Hoose Governance Group in spring 2022 bringing together cross-sector expertise to develop the model for Scotland.

We will further support a 'no wrong door' approach through efforts to divert children and young people from formal measures, with early and effective measures to support children and families at an early stage through addressing wellbeing and opportunities for education, gaining employment and stable housing options.

As we develop the next phase of our unique CashBack for Communities programme we will explore all options to enhance its contribution to tackling child poverty, particularly for young parents. The programme, which reinvests money recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act into community projects, currently funds 24 third sector organisations to support children and young people, families and communities. It has already helped thousands of young people into training, learning and employment since 2017 and will continue to provide the support needed to transform people's lives.

Through implementation of The Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Act 2021 we will strengthen immediate protections for the victims of abuse and any children, to remain in the family home or social housing. We know that there is a strong relationship between domestic abuse and poverty, with women in poverty particularly likely to experience the most extensive violence and abuse in their lives. By taking these steps, we will better protect many parents, particularly women, reducing the risk that they will experience homelessness as a result of domestic abuse.

Where there is no alternative to custody, we will provide support for families impacted by imprisonment, providing £800,000 to Prison Visitor Centres in 2022-23. This support is aimed at meeting the specific needs of families impacted by imprisonment including the alleviation of poverty and mitigating loss of income, including practical and emotional help and referrals for income maximisation and housing support.

A new approach to health services

Addressing health and social care support needs will be critical to the package of integrated support needed to improve family outcomes and enable parents to move into employment or to increase earnings. Through the trusted relationships with medical professionals and third sector partners we will ensure families get access to the right support at the right time.

Delivering person-centred care is a strategic priority for NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government. Jointly we are committed to ensuring that development of health and social care services, post-pandemic, involve, as far as possible, designing new services with those who access them as well as with the staff who deliver these vital services, to ensure they best meet people's needs.

Through our preventative work we are developing Getting it Right Together (GIRT) across health and social care and working with partners across the public sector. A critical aspect of the new approach is a single adult's plan and a single planning process. A single adult's plan will cover all aspects of care planning from the point that it is identified that care and support may be needed, through to agreement of the care and support to be provided and its delivery. The adults plan will be designed and co-created with adults with a lived experience and carers. The plan will contain the key elements of information they consider important to share and will contain key health and social care support needs to enable them to be supported on an individual basis to meet their personal needs.

We will commence delivery through pathfinders by June 2022, focusing on a range of settings including targeted support for Deep End GP practices[6]. Through this new approach we will support the most deprived communities and develop a 'no wrong door' approach to support, linking into wider elements of action across this plan.

We will implement the Primary Care Health Inequalities Short Life Working Group recommendation for enhanced general practice services in areas of deprivation, following conclusion of the Resource Spending Review. This will aim to significantly enhance GP practices' capacity and capability by bolstering multi-disciplinary teams in areas of poverty. It will offer a more targeted approach that will aim to unlock general practice's unique contribution to proactive and preventative continuity of care, improving our citizens' health, wellbeing and ability to enter employment.

Working across health and education, we will also develop a model of family support clustering services around families, aligning this with the change being driven by the Whole Family Wellbeing Funding. Based on integrated multi-disciplinary teams this approach will seek to provide accessible drug and alcohol services, community mental health services and family support wrapped around GP practices and linked to employability support.

We will also develop family focused services for people with alcohol and drug problems. We have published a Framework for Holistic Family Support to support the development of family inclusive practice within alcohol and drug treatment services, and to ensure that family members, both adults and children, receive support in their own right.

Improving access to mental health services

We know that supporting good mental health and wellbeing is important to helping parents to access and sustain employment, but also to engage with the wider drivers of poverty reduction. Early intervention and prevention are the cornerstone of our approach, and we aim to support people to positively engage with their mental health at an early stage, promoting and supporting the conditions for good mental health and wellbeing for all families.

In recognition of the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact on disadvantaged communities in particular, we will continue to drive forward priorities within the Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan – strengthening alignment of this work with our national mission on Child Poverty. We will build on the Transition & Recovery plan with a refresh of our Mental Health Strategy during 2022, this will include a consolidated set of mental health commitments to reflect the current mental health and wellbeing needs of the people of Scotland.

To support better access to the support families need, we are investing £36 million over two years through our Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund. The fund, which is being distributed through 32 local partnership groups, aims to tackle the social determinants of mental health by targeting resources and collaborating with other initiatives to tackle poverty and inequality. The Fund will support the development of an integrated culture of mental wellbeing and prevention within local communities and across Scotland.

Reflecting that GPs are usually the first port of call for people seeking professional support and treatment, we have committed to ensuring every GP Practice will have access to a mental health and wellbeing service. Between 2021 and 2026 we will fund 1,000 additional dedicated staff who can help grow community mental health resilience and direct social prescribing. This approach has the potential to be truly transformative – fundamentally changing the way services are delivered. It provides the opportunity for truly person-centred services with more help for people when, and where, they need it.

Working in partnership with the third sector and community organisations

Government cannot tackle poverty alone, and neither would we want to. In order to provide the support that families need we must draw on the experience and knowledge of our third sector partners and community organisations across the length and breadth of the country – empowering them to take action and support those in need.

The Scottish Government provides a range of funding to organisations, however we want to ensure that this investment provides not only sustainable action but complements the action taken across Community Planning Partnerships and responds to community needs.

We recognise the capacity and resource constraints faced by many of our partners, including frontline workers and third sector organisations, and commit to doing all that we can to remove policy and funding siloes created by the Scottish Government.

Whilst we are constrained by UK budgeting arrangements, we will use the ongoing Resource Spending Review to provide multi-year funding for the third sector where possible to do so, enabling more sustainable, joined up, strategic planning for the sector. We will pilot and test new ways of working, seeking to fund outcomes rather than inputs, enabling partners to work together, play to their strengths, and deliver the services that they know their communities need.

Our partnership with COSLA, SCVO and Third Sector Interfaces through the Strengthening Collaboration Programme will explore ways to overcome barriers to engagement, including through building trust, reducing bureaucracy and supporting effective partnership working to enable the third sector to engage more fully in tackling child poverty.

We will develop a new Third Sector Fund aimed at providing support to families and children and young people, to replace the CYPFEI & ALEC Third Sector Fund. Due to commence in April 2023 and backed by up to £16 million each year over the following two years this fund will help to support action at a national or community level to support children and families, including the six priority families who are most at risk of poverty.

Building on our work with the STV Children's Appeal since 2011, we will make a further £1 million available in 2022-23 to allow the Appeal to continue its work to tackle both the causes and consequences of poverty. This investment will continue to enable it to reach thousands of children, young people and families across the country and to leverage millions in additional funding.

We will continue to invest in the Family Fund in 2022-23, providing almost £2.97 million of funding to enable the provision of support, advice and direct grants to families on a low income across Scotland who are raising seriously ill or disabled children and young people. This funding will continue to reach over 6,000 families, enabling them to access the support they need to improve their quality of life.

We are committed to working with partners to tackle inequality and discrimination, further equality and advance the realisation of human rights in Scotland. Through the Equality and Human Rights Fund we are providing more than £21 million over three years (2021-2024), supporting 48 organisations, delivering work in this area. Amongst other things, the Fund supports the Poverty Alliance to deliver the Rights in Action project, which aims to support organisations and individuals to better understand and use their economic, social and cultural rights to address poverty.

Delivering our vision for place and regeneration

The places we live have a direct impact on our health and wellbeing, and on the environment. Through partnership and collaboration, place based planning and regeneration aims to improve the lives of people in the places they live. It is an approach which intervenes in the cycle of complex challenges that areas of long ingrained poverty become trapped in. Place based regeneration therefore seeks to be both a policy of prevention and of transformation by addressing the key issues at a local level that contribute to poverty and inequality.

This is not about quick wins, it is about action that delivers across the short, medium and longer term, working together to support resilient and sustainable communities. We will do this through empowering people in communities to take action, supporting communities to develop community assets, enabling them to increase their leverage of investment, encouraging local economic development, enterprising activity and delivering more services and activities locally. This will provide an essential platform to support and deliver Community Wealth Building and to deliver on our commitment to support 20 Minute Neighbourhoods - where people can have their everyday needs met locally within a walk, wheel or cycle of around 20 minutes from their homes.

All of our work to redesign our communities will be underpinned by National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4). The following action will help to drive forward progress in the coming years.

We will invest £325 million over the course of the Parliament in the Place Based Investment Programme (PBIP), which includes continuation of the £25 million Regeneration Capital Grant Fund. The programme, underpinned by the Place Principle, will support the delivery of 20 Minute Neighbourhoods and is designed to make sure that all place based investments understand the place in which they are made, how their contribution will help deliver the changes needed, and how local communities shape their future. It seeks to better link and align investment and resource within places for the benefit of those with the greatest need.

The PBIP, along with our £50 million Vacant and Derelict Land Investment Programme, Town Centre Action Plan, support for Business Improvement Districts and investment in Scotland Loves Local, enables the development of core community infrastructure, helps to create new community assets, brings existing assets into community use and develops land for new use. These programmes directly create new jobs, provide spaces for new enterprise and spaces for community organisations to deliver activities their communities need.

Through the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, the 22 recommended projects for 2022-23 are projected to support or create more than 2,900 jobs as well as thousands of training places, refurbish and bring back into use 29 buildings, create more than 15,000 sqm of business space and support over 50 community facilities which will benefit more than 470 businesses or enterprises.

We will also continue investment our Empowering Communities Programme investing up to £18 million per year, strengthening the focus on action which tackles child poverty. This investment complements our capital Place Based Investment Programme, supporting work both at individual level through strategic partnerships and the Investing in Communities Fund (ICF) and at community level through the Strengthening Communities Programme (SCP) to build capacity, resilience and sustainability.

Through the Empowering Communities Programme over 350 community organisations are being supported, reaching thousands of people in our least advantaged and our most fragile rural and island communities. It is creating jobs and opportunities for people to gain or maintain work and makes a vital contribution in the delivery of public services that communities need.

Social Security

Although our powers are limited, in the three years since we have had the powers and laws to deliver social security, we have introduced 12 benefits, seven of which are completely new[7]. In the coming year, to tackle the cost of living crisis, we will also increase the value of a number of Scotland-specific benefits[8] by 6%, including Best Start Grant and Carer's Allowance Supplement, to enable this financial support to keep pace with rising costs. Our replacement benefits are more generous and easier to access and as a result the Scottish Fiscal Commission has estimated that, by 2026-27, we will be investing £5.5 billion a year in social security[9], a full £764 million more than the funding we expect to get from the UK Government to pay benefits. This is an investment in the people of Scotland and is key to our national mission to tackle child poverty.

We want to ensure that everyone in Scotland has enough money to live with dignity. We are committed to begin work to deliver a Minimum Income Guarantee for Scotland and have established a cross-party steering group. We anticipate the initial report from this group in autumn 2022, with the group expected

to run until at least August 2023, producing recommendations which will be designed to be achievable and implementable, and intended to tackle poverty, inequality and insecurity. We will look to implement these recommendations as far and as quickly as practicable, within the limits of devolved competence.

The following actions focus on the immediate steps we will take within the life of this Plan to deliver on this ambition, including through:

  • Our package of five family benefits
  • Strengthened support for carers
  • Scottish Disability Assistance
  • Help with heating costs
  • Tackling the cost of the school day
  • Additional delivered by local authorities

Our package of five family benefits

Across the life of the first Plan we launched our package of five family benefits comprising Best Start Foods (BSF), three Best Start Grant (BSG) payments and the Scottish Child Payment (SCP). Collectively these already offer financial support to families which is unparalleled across the UK. Our plans to strengthen these over the life of this Plan are set out below.

We will double the value of the SCP to £20 per week per child from April 2022, immediately supporting an estimated 111,000 children under the age of six, and will further increase its value to £25 per week per week by the end of 2022. This will bring the maximum value of financial support available through our package of five family benefits to over £10,000 by the time a families' first child

turns six, and over £9,700 for each and every subsequent child. Increasing the value of SCP will help tackle child poverty head on for eligible families and offer relief in the face of the cost of living crisis.

Subject to receipt of the necessary data from DWP, we will roll out the SCP in full to eligible children under 16 by the end of 2022 child. We will continue to engage with DWP to enable the expansion to proceed as planned and ensure that essential data is available in order to complete assessments and commence awards. Following this expansion, it estimated that 430,000 children will be eligible for this support, lifting an estimated 50,000 children out of poverty in 2023-24.

Working with local authorities we will continue to provide immediate support for school age children by delivering Bridging Payments worth £520 in 2022. Reaching around 144,000 school age children as of December 2021, four payments of £130 will be made over the course of 2022 aligning with school holidays for every child in receipt of Free School Meals on the basis of low income. We will work with our partners in local authorities ahead of the full roll out of SCP to ensure a smooth transition for those children receiving bridging payments who will be eligible for SCP and will explore options to streamline application processes for these children.

We will legislate to remove all income thresholds from BSF by 2023-24, bringing eligibility in line with both BSG and SCP. In addition to expanding the reach of this support to around an additional 30,000 people, we will also move to a cash payment instead of pre-payment cards at the same time – giving parents greater flexibility and choice in how they use this financial support.

To make it easier to access the support available, we will explore systems of automated payment for devolved social security benefits to maximise take-up, and deliver new signposting and referral processes to remove the burden on parents of navigating multiple systems and schemes. This exploration will include linking Scottish Child Payment with Best Start Grant.

As part of this work, we will seek to introduce regulations which will allow us to automatically award the Best Start Grant Early Learning Payment and School Age Payment to qualifying individuals in receipt of Scottish Child Payment when we roll out Scottish Child Payment to under-16s at the end of 2022.

Strengthened support for carers

Carers make an immense contribution to our society, which is why improving support for carers was one of our first priorities with our new social security powers. Since September 2018, our Carer's Allowance Supplement (CAS) has increased Carer's Allowance (CA) by around 13%, supporting more than 126,000 carers on lower incomes, many with some of the most intense caring roles. We have also introduced a Young Carer Grant for young people aged 16, 17 and 18 who spend an average of 16 hours a week caring for someone who receives a disability benefit.

By the end of this Parliamentary term we will go further to support carers, replacing Carer's Allowance in Scotland with Scottish Carer's Assistance. We will work together with DWP to see how quickly we can deliver this new benefit. The key changes we will implement are set out below.

We will improve how support is provided to carers and make links to wider services. This will include working with carers to design systems that work for them, processes that treat people fairly, with dignity and respect, and making links from Social Security Scotland into wider services for carers.

To better recognise the different impacts of different caring situations, we plan to introduce an extra payment of over £500 a year for people who will get Scottish Carer's Assistance who are caring for more than one disabled person. The extra money from the Carer's Allowance Supplement and our Young Carer Grant will continue. We also intend to pay Scottish Carer's Assistance to carers when the person they care for is in the process of challenging a disability benefit decision, and receiving short-term assistance, where no support is currently available. This will help provide more financial stability for carers.

We will continue to extend support after launch of Scottish Carer's Assistance, starting with five proposed priority actions. To protect carers' existing support and ensure everyone can benefit from these changes at the same time, we will bring forward these changes once we have safely and securely transferred carers' benefits from Carer's Allowance to Scottish Carer's Assistance. Our five priority actions are: removing education restrictions; increasing the run on of support after the death of a cared for person; increasing the earnings limit, allowing carers to add together hours spent caring for more than one person, and a payment for long term carers.

Scottish Disability Assistance

With the devolution of disability benefits to Scotland we are committed to taking this opportunity to delivering a new, simplified, compassionate system that treats everyone with dignity, fairness and respect, and provides an improved experience.

We successfully launched Child Disability Payment last year and we have begun transferring the benefits of people getting Disability Living Allowance for children. We will complete this transfer by spring 2023, automatically transferring all children and young people in Scotland who currently receive Disability Living Allowance to Child Disability Payment in a phased approach.

Over the life of this Plan we will deliver the new Adult Disability Payment (ADP), replacing Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for people in Scotland. Following a launch in pilot areas this spring, the new benefit will be available across the country from summer 2022.

In contrast to the DWP system, we are removing the burden from individuals to provide supporting information. Instead, clients have the option to ask Social Security Scotland to collect the information they require on their behalf. Our new, person-centred decision-making process will ensure everyone is treated with dignity, fairness and respect and people will be able to apply in the way that's best for them.

We have abolished controversial DWP assessments. Instead, and only where required, for ADP clients we will hold person-centred consultations between the person and a Social Security Scotland health or social care practitioner, starting from a position of trust. Our consultations will not involve functional examinations and the criteria will be applied fairly to all clients. Consultations will not be carried out for Child Disability Payment clients.

As a result of these and other changes, the Scottish Fiscal Commission forecast that by 2026-27 we will invest more than £500 million per year in ADP over and above the level of spending on the payment being replaced, Personal Independence Payment (PIP), with more people forecast to be eligible for and awarded ADP than PIP.

Help with heating costs

Following the introduction of Child Winter Heating Assistance in 2020, we have provided financial support to help disabled children and young people and their families with additional heating costs in the winter months. We will continue to deliver this unique Scottish payment over the life of this Plan, worth £202 in 2021-22. Further action to support low income families with heating costs are set out below.

Beginning in winter 2022-23, we will introduce Low Income Winter Heating Assistance which will replace Cold Weather Payments in Scotland. It will guarantee an annual payment of £50 to around 400,000 low-income households currently eligible for Cold Weather Payments – an investment of around £20 million every year.

Breaking the current link with the weather will give households more certainty about what support they will get. The proposed new allowance is the equivalent to two Cold Weather Payments and should ensure that most people will be better off.

Tackling the cost of the school day

Together with local authorities we are providing a range of targeted support to tackle the cost of the school day for children from low income families. This includes providing a School Clothing Grant of at least £120 for every eligible child in primary school and £150 for eligible children in secondary school, delivering an Education Maintenance Allowance for older pupils and providing Free School Meals for those who need them most – with targeted support throughout the holiday periods.

Over the life of this Plan we will further strengthen the support available, and help tackle the cost of the school day for low income families.

To increase uptake of targeted support, we will work with local authorities, DWP and HMRC to improve data sharing and work toward automation where possible. This will extend to key support including Free School Meals, School Clothing Grant and Education Maintenance Allowance, improving uptake, reducing the burden of evidence on families and ensuring families receive the support they are entitled to.

Aiming to reduce the cost of uniforms for families we will bring forward national guidance on school uniforms. Consultation on this change will be undertaken during June 2022 and we will seek to make guidance statutory during the course of this Parliament.

In addition, we will further expand universal Free School Meal provision to all children in primary schools. This change will tackle stigma and ensure high uptake of healthy and nutritious food for those that need it most. We will continue to deliver alternate provision during school holiday periods for around 144,000 children who need it most.

Support delivered by local authorities

We will continue to invest in key support delivered by local authorities through the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF), Council Tax Reduction scheme and Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) and will work together with local authorities to focus on how we can strengthen the impact of these measures on child poverty.

To ensure the SWF is working effectively and providing the support needed, we will undertake a comprehensive, independent review. The review will examine many aspects of the SWF including local authority administration, funding levels, accessibility, promotion, take-up and outcomes for applicants. Findings from the review will be published in early 2023 and will inform any future changes to Scottish Welfare Fund policy or administration.

To strengthen the impact of DHPs, we will publish Scottish guidance for highlighting the potential for these payments to contribute to our national mission on child poverty.

We will also work with local authorities to mitigate the Benefit Cap as fully as we can within the scope of devolved powers, taking immediate steps to support as many families as possible in 2022. We know that around 97% of the households impacted by the cap are families with children, with lone parent families disproportionately impacted, losing an average of £206 per month as of November 2021. Mitigation of the cap will raise the incomes of families hardest hit by UK Government welfare reforms and help them to meet their housing costs.

We want to make it easier for people to access the support available to them and will work together with local government to explore automation of support linked to devolved social security entitlements. We will establish a data sharing and automation project in summer 2022, its scope will include all benefit data held within the social security platforms. This will explore, with local government, how we can make systems work better for those that access them – increasing uptake of support and reducing the burden of evidence on families.

We are providing immediate support to tackle the cost of living crisis in 2022-23 by delivering a £150 payment to all households in receipt of Council Tax Reduction and those in Council Tax bands A-D. Reaching 73% of all Scottish households this will help meet the increasing costs of essentials such as energy and food. This support is administered by local authorities who will largely deliver it as a credit to Council Tax Bills issuing in March and April for 2022-23. In line with the previous Low Income Pandemic Payment, this additional support will also be provided to certain households exempt from Council Tax. Councils have discretion to make these payments in cash rather than as a credit which will ensure support reaches those at greatest risk, including those in temporary accommodation,

Case study: Glasgow Helps

Hanna* is a single parent of five children aged between 4 and 15. She has lived in Glasgow from October 2019, when her relationship ended due to domestic abuse, at which point her only income was Child Tax Credits.

Hanna struggles with mental health as a result of domestic abuse and takes prescribed medication - but doesn't cope well with additional stress or pressure. It wasn't until May 2021 that she made a claim for Universal Credit following advice from friends. However, this claim was refused as Hanna failed the Habitual Residence Test. This decision also stopped her Tax Credits award, leaving Hanna with no income at all. When Hanna contacted One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS), she was relying solely on Crisis Grants from the Scottish Welfare Fund.

The advisor at OPFS assessed Hanna's right to reside status and submitted a Mandatory Reconsideration, challenging the Universal Credit (UC) Habitual Residence Test decision, and arranged access to crisis support to help Hanna and her family through this traumatic period. They then conducted a benefit check; identifying entitlements to other support including Child Benefit, Scottish Child Payment and Best Start Grant.

Hanna holds ambitions of working in the future and feels that part time work would help her mental health giving her 'focus and purpose again'. Through the OPFS Employability service, she received support to progress toward work, including providing a new digital device, digital training, and assistance with connectivity. This was crucial to enabling Hanna to stay in contact with OPFS, access her UC claim, and find training and employment opportunities.

Hanna reports feeling more confident of finding work within the hours she is available and is comforted that OPFS employability support would continue to be available to her once she secures further training or employment.

Through the support received from the OPFS Financial Inclusion service Hanna now receives her full benefit entitlement, including backdated entitlement, providing the financial stability she needs to help her focus on the future.

*Name changed

Income Maximisation

Strengthening the package of benefits and financial support will help thousands of families in Scotland to meet their household costs, and to provide for their families with dignity and respect. However, we recognise that, on their own, benefits are only part of the story and need to be complemented with ongoing and concerted effort to ensure families access all the support they are entitled to.

We are building from a strong foundation, including the successful delivery of commitments under 'Every Child, Every Chance'. Under that plan we expanded access to advice and support, and worked with partners to successfully deliver the Money Talk Team service, with an investment of £5.4 million resulting in putting almost £42 million into the pockets of more than 19,600 clients, including nearly £12 million in financial gains for over 3,300 low income families, including the priority groups.

In the last four years, we have published two Benefit Take-Up Strategies to ensure people are aware of, and enabled to access, the financial support that they are eligible for and entitled to. The strategies set out our commitment to promote the take-up of Scottish benefits, and acknowledge that this must be part of a holistic approach to income maximisation, supporting poverty reduction and Covid recovery.

Through the implementation of our second Benefit Take-up Strategy, we will continue working to maximise the take-up of Scottish Benefits, including those which require a reserved qualifying benefit.

The following actions focus on how, with partners, we will ensure that families are maximising their income through:

  • Providing support to overcome barriers to accessing services
  • Improving quality and availability of advice services

Providing support to overcome barriers to accessing services

We want to build on our success to date, and go further to achieve a Scotland where all people are able to access all the support that is available to them, where the additional barriers faced by families most at risk of poverty are removed to enable them to access the support they are entitled to.

We will work across government to set out our collective ambition and framework for cohesive action to maximise incomes. This will cut across a wide range of policy areas where maximising incomes is an explicit or implicit objective, including benefit take-up. By fostering this greater cross-government collaboration, we plan to leverage action and impact across the Scottish Government and our partners to ensure people are able to access the services available to them and are supported to access the benefits they are entitled to.

We will build on our commitment to mainstream good practice in driving benefit take-up, learning from effective approaches as part of the child poverty pathfinders, and scaling these as part of a holistic package of support to families.

We will shift more of the complexity of navigating the benefits system away from potential applicants, making it easier for people to access support when they need it. We will work to systematise more person-centred referrals and warm handovers between services, and further explore systems of automated payment for devolved social security benefits, beginning with the Scottish Child Payment and Best Start Grant.

We will take targeted action to overcome the additional barriers faced by the six priority family types and others most at risk of poverty. This will include working with a range of seldom-heard groups to better understand and address non-take-up of benefits among particular populations. In taking this forward, we are currently expanding the membership of our Stakeholder Take-up Reference Group. We know that one of the best ways to identify the real issues within Seldom Heard groups is to listen to the people that belong to these groups, including people with lived experience of accessing the benefit system, and equally of those that have not yet accessed the benefit system.

In addition, we will take targeted action focused on the priority families. We will support the newly launched and independent Social Security Advocacy Service to bring free support to disabled people to help them access devolved benefits, to better understand and communicate their needs and concerns, and to participate in the processes and decisions which affect them.

We will expand the Family Nurse Partnership local pathways, increasing access to money advice, income maximisation and community support. The Family Nurse Partnership provides support to younger, first time mothers, providing advice and guidance to improve sensitive, responsive care-giving, and increase the economic stability of the family. We will expand this support to all young first time mothers aged 21 and under by the end of 2024, and, where capacity allows, target first time mothers under the age of 25 who are care experienced or from the most deprived communities. This expansion will support up to an additional 500 families per year by 2025.

We will work with Health Visitors to ensure all families receive the financial advice they need. All families have access to a health visitor who delivers the Universal Health Visiting Pathway, which consists of 11 home visits, eight of which are in the first year of life. This allows health visitors to build relationships with families, provide tailored support to the child and parents and a route into other services. We will strengthen this support, including more systematic benefits training, as part of the Universal Pathway, rolling this out by the end of 2024 to ensure that all parents receiving the advice they require.

Improving quality and availability of advice services

We know advice services are essential in supporting families to maximise their incomes, from understanding benefits entitlements to accessing better internet or energy deals or receiving help with managing debt, advice services can provide a lifeline to families struggling to navigate a complex system of supports. We heard from our consultation the benefits that advice services have delivered to families, and are committed to stepping up our support to ensuring families are able to access quality advice, when and where they need it.

We will enhance access to advice and support, in places where families already go. We will invest £10 million to increase access to holistic advice services in the current parliamentary term. This includes £3 million already committed to a partnership between Health and Social Security to expand Welfare Advice and Health Partnerships – placing money advisors in up to 150 GP practices in some of Scotland's most deprived areas. We will expand further into other health and education settings, building on existing pilots and filling identified gaps. We will continue to support the provision of free debt advice, investing up to £6.5 million from debt advice levy funding in 2022-23.

We will work in collaboration with national, local and third sector partners to maximise the opportunities families have in accessing the support they need. We understand close and trusting relationships are an important part of having difficult conversations about finances, and that different families have different preferences for where they receive support – from a school to a GP, a community based or religious organisation, housing association, website or friend. We will work across government to maximise the number of points where families can get advice and referrals to support services.

This will include building on the unique and key role of General Practice in supporting families who may not be in touch with other services, further embedding roles such as Community Links Workers, Welfare Rights Advisors and Mental Health Workers, to provide non-clinical and social support advice to families experiencing social and financial disadvantage and exclusion, co-ordinating links to other services including financial inclusion and employability

We will continue to provide funding to the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) for its second tier advice line, which supports advisers from other organisations with the most complex queries. This funding also supports the provision of training for advisers on specialist areas such as migrants' access to benefits, and will help people with No Recourse to Public Funds to access the services they are entitled to.

This work will be underpinned by a reinvigorated, strategic approach to communications, enabling families, and those working to support them, to understand and navigate the services available. This will go beyond information on entitlements, embedding our wider approach to income maximisation, focusing on how individuals and families experience services, with dignity, respect and provision of accessible, person-centred services at its heart. We will undertake scoping work to understand how to make better use of existing tools, and whether additional resources are required to support individuals, families and the organisations who work with them to access the information, referrals and in-person support needed to maximise their income.

We will publish our plan for ending the need for food banks in autumn 2022. This will set out our human rights approach to the issue of food insecurity and outline what more we will do using the powers we have to strengthen cash-first responses to hardship. Actions will include investing in local cash-first partnership working that improves pathways between sectors and services and makes food banks the last port of call, and piloting the use of shopping cards as an alternative to food bank referrals alongside money advice to help prevent future need.

Case study: Our Income Maximisation efforts go beyond traditional advice services

The Scottish Government has been funding Sistema Scotland since 2012 and has provided £1.1 million for 2021-2022 from the Culture budget, to support existing Big Noise projects in Raploch, Govanhill, Torry and Douglas, along with a new satellite Big Noise in Fallin and a new Big Noise project in Wester Hailes.

The programme aims to tackle poverty and deprivation, and also increases access to culture. By working with children, Sistema Scotland increase well-being, skills, ambition, confidence and resilience, contributing to longer term, sustained economic and cultural change.

The close and trusting relationships Sistema staff develop with children, their parents and broader families enables them to identify areas of need, and signpost parents to other services for assistance in maximising income, and provides a reliable, fun and safe environment for children to enable parents to take up work or training to increase their incomes.

Warm affordable homes

Housing has a vital role to play in tacking child poverty, it forms not only the foundation for family life – as a safe place for children to grow and learn, and for families to come together – but it also one of the most of the most significant costs which families must continue to meet on an ongoing basis. If families lose their home the effects can be devastating – and cause lasting damage to children's lives.

Since devolution, Scotland has continued to invest strongly in delivering more warm and affordable homes and lower housing costs in Scotland is now one of the main reasons why poverty rates are lower in Scotland than the rest of the UK. However, we know there is more that housing can do to further reduce child poverty over the next four years.

We are committed not only to preserving Scotland's lower housing costs, but taking every opportunity to go further to help families through action focused on:

  • Access to affordable homes
  • Tackling fuel poverty
  • Preventing homelessness

Access to affordable homes

Scotland has led the way with affordable housing across the UK, delivering 105,755 affordable homes since 2007, over 73,000 of which were for social rent. Over the last four years, in addition to continuing delivery of more affordable homes, we have worked with partners in the social housing sector to keep rents affordable, and, through the introduction of the Private Residential Tenancy, have provided households in the private rented sector a greater degree of rent protection, longer notice periods and compensation if rights are not met.

In 2021 we published Housing to 2040, setting out the Scottish Government's ambition that everyone in Scotland should have access to a warm, safe, affordable and energy efficient home. We will deliver progress against this vision for families through the following action:

Over the next four years, we will continue to invest in the Affordable Housing Supply Programme. We will deliver 110,000 more affordable energy efficient homes by 2032, including 70% available for social rent, and 10% in our remote, rural and island communities.

We will place the prioritisation of tackling child poverty at the heart of the Affordable Housing Supply Programme through further strengthening our housing planning processes to strengthen the focus on housing needs by size and location to ensure that larger family homes are delivered where they are required, including through the targeted purchase of appropriate 'off the shelf' properties. We will also introduce an updated Housing for Varying Needs design guide in 2023, for council and Registered Social Landlord (RSL) homes delivered through the Programme, and we will build on this to inform the future development of a new Scottish Accessible Homes Standard.

We will develop a Remote, Rural and Islands Housing Action Plan to ensure that we meet the housing needs of those communities, and help to retain people and attract them to these areas, recognising that the delivery of housing in rural and island communities can be more complex than in urban areas. The development of the Action Plan provides a vital opportunity for further collaborative working – to pull together to do more of what is working well, to create solutions, and to address challenges where they arise to support the delivery of more homes in the right places for our rural and island communities.

In addition to supporting families in the social rented sector, we will take action to reduce costs for families in the private rented sector. We will invest an initial £2.75 million in 2022-23 to begin private rented sector reform. Over the course of this Parliament this reform will introduce rent controls and a new private rented sector regulator, both of which will have a specified aim of reducing child poverty by improving the quality of provision and improving housing affordability for families.

We will also make specific provision for housing that is appropriate for all communities in Scotland, including investment of up to £20 million in the Gypsy/Traveller accommodation fund over five years from 2021-22. Census data shows that Gypsy Traveller children are more likely to live in priority families, and this support has potential to have a direct impact on family finances, for example by reducing heating costs through better insulation and providing digital access to work opportunities and a range of services including money advice and education.

Tackling fuel poverty

In 2019, of the 100,000 families in fuel poverty, around 80,000 were also experiencing child poverty. As the cost of living crisis continues to see energy prices soar, we know the struggle for many low income families faced with an unacceptable choice of rationing fuel or food just to get by. Our Fuel Poverty Act 2019 is the most ambitious fuel poverty legislation in the UK, setting us challenging but achievable targets, that in 2040 no more than 5% of households are fuel poor, and no more than 1% are in extreme fuel poverty.

Beyond the provision of new affordable housing and support with heating costs through social security, we will also support families to make homes warmer and easier to heat, and to reduce the impact of any increases costs from zero emissions systems.

Our Fuel Poverty strategy, published in December 2021, commits to actions to tackle each of the four drivers of fuel poverty: poor energy efficiency of the home; high energy costs; low household income; and how energy is used in the home.

In 2022-23 we will provide up to £42 million for Home Energy Scotland (HES) Loans and Grants scheme – double the 2021-21 level – and will expand the HES advice service, which provides impartial advice to all households on making homes warmer, greener and easier to heat. This expansion will support an additional 12,000 households, and boost the energy-carers element of this service, providing specialist in-depth advice to an additional 1,400 vulnerable households.

We have committed a further £10 million to continue our Fuel Insecurity Fund in 2022-23, as part of a wider package of funding to tackle the cost of living crisis. This will continue to deliver direct support for people at risk of self-disconnection, or self-rationing their energy use due to unaffordable fuel costs.

We will build on the commitment to invest at least £1.8 billion over this parliament to kick start the heat transition and support those least able to pay, and deliver a new, enhanced successor to Warmer Homes Scotland – providing support for fuel poor households. We will invest up to £55 million in 2022-23 to provide heating and energy efficiency measures to eligible households, including households with a pregnant woman or child under 16 in receipt of an income based benefit. We will explore opportunities for our marketing to better target priority families as part of the development of the successor to Warmer Homes Scotland, to contribute to reducing energy costs for priority families. This investment will make our homes warmer and more energy efficient – progressing our commitments both to decarbonise the heating in one million homes by 2030 and to remove poor energy efficiency as a driver of fuel poverty.

We know that decarbonisation presents additional challenges for low income households, and have committed to only take forward actions where they will have no detrimental impact on fuel poverty rates. Zero emissions systems are often more expensive to run, and we are committed to taking these actions to ensure that our move to net zero does not disproportionately impact those least able to pay.

Preventing Homelessness

Homelessness has a devastating impact on families and children, increasing barriers to accessing employment and education, disrupting social support networks and negatively affecting mental and physical health. Whilst its causes are complex, we are committed to ending homelessness, and learning from the lessons of the COVID-19 response to focus on stopping homelessness before it happens.

Between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021 there were 11,804 children associated with homelessness applications assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness, and on average, households with children spent longer in temporary accommodation than those without. 21% of all households assessed as homeless/threatened with homelessness were single parent households, with the most common reason for single female parent households becoming homeless being violent household dispute.

We are committed to continue investing £100 million in Ending Homelessness Together. We recognise that prevention is the most effective way to end homelessness, and will continue to invest in projects that contribute to reducing child poverty and preventing homelessness for example projects supporting tenancy sustainment and income maximisation.

We will work in partnership with housing associations to break the cycle of homelessness, and have committed to funding Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans for 2022-23 and 2023-24 to enable local authorities to scale up Housing First in their areas. Projects funded to date have focused on the priority families, people experiencing mental health and addiction issues and women and children facing domestic abuse.

We will also ensure that families in temporary accommodation receive the appropriate support to address the issues that may have contributed to their homelessness or their experiences of poverty, assessing their needs when the family first enters temporary accommodation to enable local authorities to identify the services best suited to meet these needs and support families in relation to the three main drivers of child poverty.

We recognise that housing is only one part of a package of support that many families will need to exit poverty. We will work on a cross agency basis to ensure that where housing support is required to lift a family out of poverty it is available as part of the package of support. We will support partners to ensure a central focus on the best interests of children experiencing homelessness, including, amongst other things, proximity to facilities and social networks. We will also work in partnership with local authorities and housing associations to maximise the role housing can play in supporting a 'no wrong door' approach, recognising the often unique role of housing providers in their communities.

Case study: Queens Cross Housing Association, role of housing in the community

"Without these interventions this flat would just have been another fail and meant nothing to me. I now feel I have a home which is safe and secure and am enjoying putting my own stamp on it. I feel better in myself knowing my budgeting is improving and with the advice and assistance provided I feel more confident dealing with things"

Mandy is a 30-year-old housing association tenant and has a one-year old daughter. She moved into her own tenancy when she was 17 has struggled to maintain her tenancy, to furnish it and make it a home. The Housing Association's Family Wellbeing service provided a range of bespoke support.

Making a Home – Support was given to apply for the Scottish Welfare Fund and other grants to get essential household items and for the provision of video doorbell via police. She was also provided with access and support to free wifi and a tablet to ensure digital inclusion.

Managing Money – Mandy is on benefits and struggles financially. The Financial Inclusion team helped her set up affordable repayment plans and reduce the deductions coming from her benefits. She was given Energy Advice and fuel vouchers which help her to heat her home. She was also supported to use the association's local Pantry service with a lifetime membership of £1 allowing weekly access to £10 – 15 of groceries for £2.50.

Developing Parenting Skills – Since feeling more settled in her home Mandy has engaged with her GP and other family resources about supporting her with child's development and advice around routine.



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