Early years assistance: consultation on the Best Start Grant regulations
This consultation asks questions on whether the draft Best Start Grant regulations will help to improve children’s wellbeing and life chances.
Section 4 - Schedule 1 of the BSG Regulations
Maternity and New Baby Payment
29. Eligibility will be determined via a series of tests carried out on the date of application. The eligibility conditions are:
(a) The application is received within the relevant application window.
(b) No equivalent payment of an SSMG or BSG has been or is due to be made.
(c) The applicant is habitually resident in Scotland, and is entitled to be living in Scotland.
(d) The applicant is, or is the partner of, someone who is going to or has had a baby, or meets the responsibility test for the child by reason other than being a biological parent.
(e) The applicant meets the test for financial circumstances.
The sections below give more detail on each of these.
a) Application Windows – to be valid, the application date must be in the relevant window but it can fall at any point in that window. For the Maternity and New Baby Grant this is between the mother reaching 24 weeks of pregnancy to 6 months after the birth of child. This extends the application window by three months by comparison with DWP to allow more time for parents to apply. Where there is a change of responsibility for the child during the first year of its life (for example where a child is adopted), the window is extended until midnight on the day before the child's first birthday.
b) No award has already been made – SSMG recipients are excluded from receiving a BSG Maternity and New Baby Grant for the same child. Each payment will only be made once per life event unless there is a change in the responsible person (for example the child moves to live with a kinship carer) to someone not named on the first claim, within the application window. In this case, a second payment can be made where the applicant meets the test of being responsible for the child.
c) Residence – our proposal is that Scottish claimants will be defined as those who are habitually resident in Scotland. Broadly, this would mean that to be eligible an applicant's main home must be in Scotland and their intention is to continue living there. They must also be entitled to be living in Scotland. In practice, residence will usually already have been established in relation to the qualifying benefit(s) and for many people this will be sufficient to establish Scottish residence. This, combined with the Scottish Government's shared work with DWP to make the systems as seamless as possible, means that we do not anticipate a significant evidence burden being place on applicants, especially where they are coming to Scotland from other Common Travel Area jurisdictions, in line with the reciprocal and pragmatic approach that is currently taken. However, for a small number of BSG applicants who are under 18 and not required to be on a qualifying benefit, we are required to make provision for a separate residence test. It may also be helpful to note that habitual residence is an established legal concept and is consistent with the eligibility conditions used in the UK system, throughout the Common Travel Area and in many member states of the European Union. Using habitual residence therefore brings a number of advantages:
- Consistency with the UK system is important and mitigates the risk of double claiming and/or gaps in eligibility.
- It will prevent people who happen to be in Scotland on a particular day or for a short period from being entitled to benefits ( e.g. if they have a second home or are on a long holiday).
- Since a person can only be habitually resident in one place at a time, it prevents them from qualifying for assistance from multiple jurisdictions.
30. The other main concept of residence sometimes used in social security systems is 'ordinary' residence. This is very similar to habitual residence in that it requires a person to be living in a jurisdiction and to have an intent to remain there. As we understand it, the key difference is that ordinary residence can be established even where the intent to remain is for a short or temporary purpose, meaning that a person could be ordinarily resident in one jurisdiction but habitually resident in another. While ordinary residence may be easier to administrate, it is therefore a less robust concept that may confer eligibility on people with relatively weak or temporary associations with Scotland. Its inconsistency with the approach taken in relation to the large majority of UK assistance potentially also creates scope for administrative problems, including double claiming.
31. We would welcome comments on the proposal to use habitual residence as the threshold for demonstrating residence in Scotland.
We have proposed that applicants must be habitually resident in Scotland to qualify.
Do you agree with this approach?
d) Life events and responsibility for the child
The applicant needs to:
- be more than 24 weeks pregnant or to have been more than 24 weeks pregnant ( i.e. have already had the baby). We considered making the maternity and new baby grant conditional on the applicant receiving advice from a health professional, in the same way as the SSMG is. However, most women find out about the SSMG after they have registered with a midwife and we found that the requirement for a midwife signature would be a barrier to on-line applications. Instead, applicants will be encouraged to take health advice about their pregnancy if they have not already done so when they apply. Where there is a stillbirth, a payment will be made regardless of whether the application was made before or after the date of the stillbirth, within the application window, in order to provide support for mothers who may have incurred expenses and are coping with the loss of a child;
- be the partner of someone in the situation above. "Partner" is defined in the Interpretation section;
- have taken on parental responsibility for the child at some point before the date of application.
32. The definition of responsibility for a child is set out in the Interpretation section. The wide range of different family situations has made it difficult to establish a simple test and evidence of responsibility. The test in the draft regulations is based on that used by DWP for the SSMG, as set out in the table below. We have worked with organisations such as One Parent Families Scotland, Engender, CELCIS, Mentor UK and Citizens Advice Scotland and identified some advantages and disadvantages of the test. This has led us to consider an alternative approach and possibly a tiered test so that, if an applicant cannot meet the primary test, they have the option to provide evidence in another way. We are still gathering information and exploring the systems and data sharing implications of the tests and would welcome your views on the tests set out below:
Possible Test of Responsibility for the Child
Advantages and Disadvantages
TEST 1 - Set out in draft regulations
1) One of the following is true:
Either the individual or their partner is in receipt of child benefit ( CB) or/
Nobody is in receipt of CB and the child normally lives with the individual.
Kinship carers are excluded from the requirement to be in receipt of CB.
TEST 2 - Possible alternative test
1) The child is listed on your CTC or UC award. You need not be getting a payment in respect of the child e.g. if the child is your 3 rd child.
2) The child does not appear on a CTC or UC award but you are in receipt of CB for the child.
3) An exception would be required for some people who cannot get these benefits, e.g. kinship carers to be able to provide alternative evidence if they cannot access the benefits listed at 1) or 2).
Question 2 There are two alternative responsibility tests set out in the consultation:
1) receipt of Child Benefit and, where relevant, a care order; or
2) a test based on receipt of either Universal Credit or Child Tax Credit, or Child Benefit.
Which is your preferred test, test 1 or test 2?
Children who do not live with their birth parents
33. We will not pay a BSG where relevant costs for the child are met by the local authority, either in residential accommodation or where they are placed with foster parents. However, due to poor outcomes for kinship care children and because there is not consistent financial support currently available through kinship care allowances, we do propose to pay the BSG to kinship carers. As outlined above, the second approach to establishing responsibility would capture kinship carers who do not have a legal order but have been awarded CTC, UC, or CB for the child. Test 2 therefore reaches more kinship carers than the first approach. Neither will capture all voluntary kinship carers. While we understand that some children living with other family members who do not have any benefits or an order in place may benefit from a BSG payment, we need a simple robust check that the applicant is responsible for the child.
e) Financial Circumstances
34. BSG payments will be made to people who have been correctly awarded a qualifying DWP or HMRC payment, people who are dependent on someone who has been awarded a qualifying payment or who are under the age of 18. Qualifying payments are:
- income support
- income based job seekers allowance
- income related employment support allowance
- pension credit
- any tax credit
- universal credit ( UC) award of more than £0 in the month before or, in the case of new applicants, the month in which the application is made.
- housing benefit
35. While SSMG limits eligibility via tax credits, BSG will be paid to anyone on a tax credit, allowing working people to apply for their BSG payment before a child is born rather than waiting until they are in receipt of a CTC after the child is born. The monthly variations in UC may mean that it is not clear to the applicant whether they are in receipt of UC in the current month at the time they apply for the BSG so we plan to extend the eligibility test over two months. Due to the way that UC is administrated, around 6% of the caseload at any one time has an award of £0 because their earnings are too high to receive a payment. We propose that people with a £0 award of UC should not receive a BSG.
We have proposed that qualification by UC should be an award of more than £0 in the month before or the month in which the application is made.
Do you agree with this approach?
36. Following feedback on the illustrative regulations, we considered including Maternity Allowance ( MA) as a qualifying benefit for BSG as we were made aware of a quirk in the calculation of UC. This means that a small number of lone parents under 25 who do not have to meet housing costs and have earnings at too high a level to receive UC before they go on to MA, will not qualify BSG. Apart from this group, women on MA can qualify by another route. MA is not means tested and income of spouses and partners is not taken into account so including it would dilute the focus of BSG eligibility on people with lower incomes and attach a significant additional cost. We therefore concluded that it would be disproportionate to include MA as a qualifying benefit to reach the excluded group.
37. We have also considered eligibility for young care leavers and have found that they will qualify under the proposed eligibility. Detail on this can be found in the summary of Impact Assessments at Section 7.
Eligibility Options for Young Parents
38. The situations of young parents vary. We will not require young parents under 18 to meet the financial eligibility test of being on a qualifying benefit. The approach set out in the illustrative regulations was for a dependent young parent of 18 or 19 years old to evidence low income through the benefit claim of their own parent, (or the claim of the carer on whom they are a dependant, if not their parent). However, we have found that this would involve obtaining permission from the grandparent for their data to be used, which creates an additional stage in the process and could create a delay in issuing payment. We also concluded that it would often be more helpful for very young parents, under 16, to have the support of an adult in spending the grant.
39. Taking into account what we have heard about the situation for young parents, we think that the most practical way to provide support may be to revert to the approach used for the SSMG. This would mean that the grandparent (or other person in receipt of UC etc in respect of the parent) is the eligible person in cases where the parent is under the age of 16 or is 18 or 19 and in training or non-advanced education and the grandparent or other person is still in receipt of tax credits or UC or CB for the young parent.
We have proposed that in cases where the parent is under the age of 16, or is 18 or 19 and the grandparent (or another carer) is still in receipt of tax credit or UC because the parent is in training or non-advanced education, the grandparent or carer will be the eligible person.
Do you agree with this approach?
Assistance to be Given – Value of Grant
40. For the maternity and new baby grant, the value will be £600 to a first child and £300 to second and subsequent children.
Second and subsequent children
41. In order to determine whether a child is a first or a subsequent child in a family, we propose the same approach as for the SSMG. That is, where there is a child in the family aged under 16, any other child born in to the family will be treated as a subsequent child. Subsequent children will be paid a £300 birth payment rather than £600. Where the parent is under 16, they are excluded from this rule e.g. where a 15 year old is living with her mother and becomes pregnant, she would be entitled to a £600 payment for her first child.
42. There will be no upper limit on the number of children who can receive a BSG in any one family.
Multiple Pregnancy Supplement
43. For multiple births, the normal BSG award is made and, in addition, there is a multi-birth supplement to recognise the additional costs of a multiple birth. This table illustrates the effect:
|No. of children in multiple birth||BSG Payment||BSG Multi Birth Supplement||Total|
|2||£600 (first birth)
£300 (second birth)
|3||£600 (first birth)
£300 (second birth)
£300 (third birth)
|2 but where there is already a child within the family||n/a (first birth)
£300 (second birth)
£300 (third birth)
Form in which the Grant is Given
44. We anticipate that the majority of payments will be made in the form of a BACS payment. No other form of payment will be imposed on an applicant without their consent.
There is a problem
Thanks for your feedback