This CRWIA has been carried out on the BSG to accompany The Early Years Assistance (Best Start Grants) (Scotland) Regulations 2018.
The Scottish Government is committed to replacing the UK Government's Sure Start Maternity Grant ( SSMG) with the BSG, a new, expanded benefit to provide financial support to lower income families during a child's early years. The grants will be administrated by Social Security Scotland.
This CRWIA has considered the potential effects of BSG and how it impacts on children. Our findings are based on desk based research, analysis of consultation responses and stakeholder engagment and feedback. We have heard directly from people with experience of applying and from people who may be eligible in the future, including young parents. We also took the views of children on the BSG.
The process has evidenced that the BSG is likely to have a positive impact on children because:
- provision has been expanded significantly by comparison with the SSMG, resulting in significant additional investment. This includes increased payments for the first child, the introduction of payments for second and subsequent children and the introduction of two additional payments at transitions in early years.
- eligiblity supports younger parents in particular – mothers under 18 or 18 and 19 and in full time education or training and still on their parents benefit claim will not be required to be on a qualifying benefit.
- the policy and systems for delivery have been designed to improve access, e.g. long application windows, expanded and simplified eligibility, with a view to increasing take up among eligble families.
- integrating the administration of BSG with Best Start Foods ( BSF) ( UK Healthy Start Vouchers, also devolved under The Scotland Act 2016) will bring together provision for young familes making it more straight forward for them to access their entitlements.
- BSG has been extended to some children in informal kinship care. Children who live with a kinship carer who is in reciept of Child Tax Credit ( CTC), Universal Credit ( UC) Child element or Child benefit ( CB).
- there is no limit on the number of children who can benefit from a BSG in any one family which means that children in larger families will benefit significantly by comparison with the SSMG.
- there will be a choice so that parents under 18 or 18 or 19 and still in full time education or training can either qualify in their own right or the grandparent/carer will be able to qualify, to fit with a range of family situations. The proposal in the draft regulations was identified to have a negative impact during the consultation and and the policy changed.
- building on the Social Security Act's human rights based approach, the BSG is founded on dignity and respect. Scottish Ministers are committed to assisting people in accessing their full entitlement. The Social Security Agency will be required to prepare a strategy to promote take up of the benefits it is administrating.
A negative impact was identified on the children of asylum seekers who will not benefit from a BSG if their parents have no recourse to public funds. While we could make payments to these families, the person who receives them would be in breach of their immigration status, leading to potentially severe consequences. Immigration policy is reserved to the UK Government. Scottish Ministers intend to make the case to the UK Government that since BSG seeks to support potentially vulnerable young families, an exception should be made that allows those with no recourse to public funds to access it. Should this succeed, we will amend the regulations to make provision for this group.
A possible negative impact was identified in the consultation on second and subsequent children because the payment that has been introduced is not as high as that for first children. Over the 3 payments, provision for second and subsequent children significantly exceeds that under SSMG. Paying all children a £600 payment would not be affordable within the budget available and introducing different rules depending on family would be complex and possibly create inequalities between children in different families.
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