The Scotland Act 2016 devolved new social security powers to Scotland. Our paper Creating a Fairer Scotland: A New Future for Social Security in Scotland, which was published in March 2016, set out the Scottish Government's vision and key principles for the future of social security using these devolved powers and intention to establish an agency within the Scottish Government family to deliver the devolved benefits. The enabling legislation for this, the Social Security (Scotland) Bill, was laid before the Scottish Parliament on 20 June 2017 and is currently undergoing Stage 1 of the Parliamentary scrutiny process.
A series of position papers has been provided to the Committee, setting out current policy thinking on key matters to be examined during stage 1 of the Bill. Alongside these, illustrative regulations are being provided to give an idea of how we intend to use the powers in the Social Security Bill to take forward the Best Start Grant ( BSG) (Early Years Assistance in the Bill). The illustrative regulations do not have any status beyond offering an example to inform the debate.
The position papers already provided can be found at:
The Social Security in Scotland Consultation ran from July to October 2016. The section on BSG received over 100 responses from both organisations and individuals. BSG policy and operational policy is being informed by the views of potential users, for example, we have talked to parents and involved them in user testing. Going forward, we will be taking in to account views from the Experience Panels. We have also established a Best Start Grant Reference Group that brings together a range of stakeholders from the public and third sector, to support and inform the development of the BSG.
The illustrative regulations reflect the product of discussions to date but are not the final position on BSG policy. The basic framework of the three BSG payments and the amounts of the payments are well established. We are still developing policy on the detail of the payments and how they will be implemented, although major changes that have an impact on financial planning would need careful consideration.
There will be a public consultation on a further set of BSG regulations, updated to reflect the impact of any changes to the Bill, stakeholder views and developments in the service design, in spring 2018.
Following the devolution of the Sure Start Maternity Grant ( SSMG) in the Scotland Act 2016, Scottish Ministers will use powers to create new benefits set out in the Social Security Bill to introduce a more comprehensive benefit, the BSG.
The policy objectives of the BSG cash payments are to improve children's wellbeing and life chances, providing support to low income families at key transition points in early years. In combination with Healthy Start Vouchers ( HSV), devolved alongside the SSMG, BSG will help mitigate the effects of child poverty and material deprivation. The support will help improve outcomes for children including reducing health inequalities and closing the attainment gap:
- HSV - will help to pay for milk, fruit and vegetables to help mothers and children get the nutrition they need.
- Maternity and New Baby Payment - will help with expenses in pregnancy or of having a new child, for example a pram or additional heating. This lessens the financial burden on lower income families when they are expecting a child.
- Nursery/Early Learning Payment - will help with costs during nursery and early learning years to support child development, for example travel costs, changes of clothes for messy play, trips out and toys for home learning.
- School Payment - helps with the costs of preparing for school, for example a school bag, educational toys, after school activities such as swimming or football, or helping with the cost of school milk or school trips.
Prior to launch, there will be a detailed communication strategy, to ensure that applicants and the services that they come in to contact with and might seek support from are aware of the new benefit, their entitlement and how they can access it. BSG cash payments and HSV will be applied for on a single application form and administrated alongside each other by the Agency. Where we refer to BSG in this document we mean the three cash payments - maternity and new baby, nursery and early learning and school payments. Regulations for HSV will be made separately under the Social Security Act 1988 so the Social Security Bill provisions will not apply to HSV. However, the regulations for HSV will seek to alingn with the relevant sections of cross cutting policy, for example residence etc so that they can be administered alongside each other with a seamless service to applicants.
Format of the Illustrative Regulations
The intention is that regulations will contain all relevant provisions for that type of assistance, including cross cutting provisions such as those for residence and re-determinations. In the case of the BSG, the illustrative regulations are set out 3 sChedules, one for each of the BSG payments. This is to allow for the reader to identify the relevant grant and see all of the provisions for it in one place. Some aspects, for example residence, will be repeated across the schedules.
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