Publication - Minutes

Best Start Grant Reference Group minutes: July 2018

Published: 13 May 2019
Date of meeting: 18 Jul 2018
Location: Victoria Quay, Edinburgh

Minutes of the sixth meeting of the Best Start Grant Reference Group, held on 31 January 2018.

Published:
13 May 2019
Best Start Grant Reference Group minutes: July 2018

Welcome and Minutes

Dorothy Ogle welcomed attendees and asked for introductions. 

The Minutes from meeting held on 31 January 2018 were agreed as an accurate record. 

Item 1: Legislation Update, BSG Consultation and Regulations 

The Scottish Government (SG) provided an update on progress made since the last Reference Group meeting in January 2018. It was noted that since then, the Social Security Act Scotland had gained Royal Assent; a Children’s Parliament Report had been published; the BSG Consultation had closed; the Social Security Committee Evidence Session had taken place; and, a new Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People had been appointed. 

Eligibility  

The group discussed Eligibility for BSG.  The illustrative regulations were written in such a way that it seemed as though all Looked After Children (LAC) were excluded.  SG confirmed this was not the case and kinship carers would be eligible to apply.  

The issue of fathers applying for a BSG where the mother is deceased or incarcerated was discussed, it was noted that these fathers could apply but would be required to meet the responsibility test.  

Responsibility Test 

The group discussed the proposal for Responsibility Test. It was noted that the consultation findings showed that Test 2 (based on receipt of a CTC/UC child or CB) was the preferred option as it was generally considered to be simpler, more efficient, and would allow for greater flexibility in determining responsibility.  

Were more than one person might meet the responsibility test, the group stressed the importance of getting advice to the person caring for the child to ensure they apply first. 

Universal Credit as a qualifying benefit 

The SG confirmed policy remains unchanged and qualification by UC should be an award of more than £0 in the month before or the month in which the application is made. 

Young Parents 

The issue of young parents was discussed. It was noted that the majority of consultation responses agreed with the grandparent being the eligible person but that there were several strong arguments against this around child rights, family breakdown and grandparents subject to immigration control. 

The SG provided the group with an update on the proposed policy for parents under 20, as set out below:

  • Where a parent is under 18 or 18 or 19 and still in full time education or training, there is a choice around who qualifies. Either the grandparent or the young parent can be the qualifying person.

 To achieve this:

  • For 18 and 19 year olds in full time education, we propose to extend the rule for under 18s so that they do not have to be on a qualifying benefit. 18 and 19 year olds who are still dependent on their parents to qualifying by being in full time education rather than on a qualifying benefit.
  • For under 16s, payments may be made to the young parent.  

By testing that the 18 or 19 year old young parent is in full time education or training, rather than whether or not their own parent (the grandparent) is on a qualifying benefit, will extend eligibility slightly but members agreed that this is a group we would want to support as much as possible, therefore there were no objections.  

SG agreed that they would continue to monitor policy and policy impacts going forward. It was noted that one challenge would be gathering information and data and how this could be done effectively.  

Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) as a Qualifying Criterion – for decision  

It was noted that DWP had added SMI loans as a proxy for qualifying benefit in April 2018.  However there have been no applications to Sure Start Maternity Grant (SSMG) under this new criterion.  

The group discussed the reasoning behind SG proposing not to include this as a qualifying criterion at this stage. For a client to qualify for SMI, they would be on the higher end of the income scale as they don’t qualify for UC or CTC. Not including SMI keeps eligibility simpler, but was noted that SG would like to monitor DWP activity on SMI applications to see if uptake increases.  

First Child Rule 

The group discussed DWP’s exception to the first child rule for first time mothers who already have a kinship child.  

SG clarified that they had looked into matching this rule but were proposing not to at this stage as BSG was structured differently. DWP also ask intrusive questions on their application for this criteria which would not fit with the Dignity and Respect model that Social Security have adopted. It was also noted that User Research had identified that users did not want to have to explain their relationship to the child. 

CELCIS noted their strong disagreement on this matter, noting that it did not seem right not to adopt this rule as DWP have done. SG clarified that the overall provision for BSG is better than that for SSMG and to introduce the rule for kinship carers only would be unfair to other groups such as blended families.  

It was noted that there was an overall strong preference to match DWP on the First Child Rule exemption if possible. 

Update on The Charter and Residency Policy 

The Charter 

The group received an update on The Charter and Residency from Stephen O’Neil. It was noted that the new Social Security Act requires the Government to produce a Charter to be agreed by Parliament. SG consulted on what they should do with these new powers, which led to the Social Security Principles. These define a more positive ethos and were created in response to what the public told SG about the current UK system.  

Scottish Ministers are putting people with lived experience at the heart of development. These 40 members will make decisions about what will appear in the Charter, supported by SG. It will then go to Ministers for approval, and then onto Parliament. The planned publication date is November. 

A stakeholder group will be set up to support the development of the Charter and Reference Group members were asked if they would be interested in taking part. 

Action: Reference Group Members to contact Stephen O’Neil if interested in joining the Charter Stakeholder Group (email: stephen.o'neill@gov.scot ).

Residency 

The consultation proposed that someone must be habitually resident in Scotland, this means that you can demonstrate that you have lived in Scotland from a period from 4 months and that you plan to remain here. This proposal seemed to be broadly welcomed in the consultation, however a number of responses highlighted that people tend to talk about habitual residence in the common travel area.  

It was noted that the right to reside test would not be applied to under 18s. 

The intention is to make the policy as generous as possible without breaching immigration law.  If we give money to someone with No Recourse to Public Funds this could have consequences for their immigration status.  BSG is not yet listed by the Home Office as public funds but Sure Start Maternity Grant is, and, because it is a cash payment, it is likely BSG will be added to the list in the same way as the Scottish Welfare Fund was when it was created. 

Implementation Update 

The group received an update on the online and mobile application process from Elizabeth Sloan. 

The overall consensus from the group was that they were very impressed with progress made on implementation/applications.  

The group received an update on the Agency from Alex Cruickshank. It was noted that staff are now moving into the 2 agency premises at Dundee House and High Street, Glasgow.  It was confirmed that Dundee House will be the base for Carers Allowance Supplement (CAS) and BSG1.  

The group were updated that CAS have 58 client adviser staff due to start in July 2018 for induction training. Learning plans for BSG staff were being developed, although it was noted that a lot of the training developed for CAS would be transferable to BSG staff also.  

The 7 week learning path was described as; 3 weeks of soft skills and awareness training (e.g. financial abuse, vicarious trauma, mental health first aid, stress awareness, benefits awareness), and, the last 4 weeks of technical training to use the system, other office equipment and the policy.  

It was noted that Citizen’s Advice Scotland would be sharing their benefits awareness training materials with Social Security. The group were asked if they were aware of any organisations or groups of people they thought would have an interest / expertise in areas of training, to let Alex Cruickshank know (alexander.cruickshank@gov.scot). 

Members from Engender, NHS Health Scotland and Maternity Action showed an interest in involvement with training.  

Action: If members are aware of any organisations or groups of people who would want to be involved in / has expertise in training, to let Alex Cruickshank know.

BSG Communications and Messages 

The group received an update on the different phases of BSG communications: 

  • Phase 1 includes communications with professionals who are in touch with those who are eligible for BSG, this includes groups such as NHS, Early Years and other third sector organisations. It was noted that newsletters and messaging that a change is coming would be targeted at potentially eligible people. 
  • Phase 2 will be launched when dates are released and are in the public domain. Messages will include a range of infographics channelled through partner organisations. At this stage, it will be key to ensure that we are working together to make information available. SG will be exploring face to face contact as much as possible as this point, especially with expectant parents and those who are likely to be eligible.  
  • Phase 3 will launch when the benefit goes live. This phase will not only include awareness raising but will also focus on ensuring people are aware of personal eligibility. It was noted that feedback received from phase 2 will shape this phase. Messaging will include social media, infographics and leaflets.  
  • Phase 4 will be the longest ongoing phase. Work will begin at this point in ensuring that language and messages are consistent with media, stakeholders and clients. This phase will focus on take up of the benefit. 

NHS Health Scotland informed the group of a ‘Web to Print’ platform that allows you to use core content for leaflets or posters, but will translate into any language. The author/designers would still control all text and graphics. SG was grateful for the suggestion and agreed that they would be keen to discuss in more detail.

Action: NHS Health Scotland and Annalena Winslow to discuss ‘Web to Print’ online platform for leaflets.  

AOB and Next Steps 

SG confirmed that the BSG would be implemented by Summer 2019, noting that if it were possible, elements of delivery would be brought forward. DO noted that the regulations were to be laid after parliamentary recess in Autumn. DO thanked reference group members for their feedback so far. 

It was discussed that the next meeting was likely to be in autumn but that the group would be kept updated on any progress. 

End

 

Attendees and apologies

  • Kay McIntosh – South Lanarkshire
  • Kerry McKenzie – NHS Scotland
  • Lorna Kettles – Scottish Women’s Convention
  • Mark Willis – Child Poverty Action Group
  • Clare Simpson – Parenting across Scotland
  • Francesca de Munnich – Save the Children
  • Jackie Gibson – NHS Tayside
  • Lizzie Morton - CELCIS
  • Anne Baldock – One Parent Families Scotland
  • Robert McGregor – COSLA
  • Clare Simpson – Parenting Across Scotland
  • Stephen O’Neill – Scottish Government
  • Elizabeth Sloan – Scottish Government
  • Alex Cruickshank – Scottish Government
  • Annalena Winslow – Scottish Government
  • Erica Simmers – Scottish Government
  • Jude Mcintosh – Scottish Government
  • Dorothy Ogle – Scottish Government
  • Alison Melville – Scottish Government

Contact

Email: Barry.Pattison@gov.scot