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 7 - Impact Assessments
54. As we have been assessing options for policy and regulations we have been logging impacts and developing the following impact assessments on which we are now consulting:
- The Equality Impact Assessment ( EQIA)
- The Child Rights and Welfare Impact Assessment ( CRWIA)
- The Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment ( BRIA).
BSG Equality Impact Assessment Summary
55. The BSG is likely to have a significant positive impact on children and on equalities groups because of the increase in value of the maternity payment and the introduction of the two additional £250 payments. In combination with action to increase take up, for example extending application windows and simplifying eligibility criteria, this could mean that nearly 60,000 more Scottish children benefit each year from a BSG payment than do from the SSMG. The impacts on groups who share protected characteristics that we have identified to date are set out below.
56. Young parents find accessing the benefits they are entitled to confusing and difficult. We also found out that over half of children whose mother is aged 25 or younger were in poverty. Responses from the Social Security consultation highlighted under 18s as a group we should consider making simpler provision for.
57. Therefore the Scottish Government has decided to invest additional resource to introduce automatic entitlement to under 18s – they do not need to be on a qualifying benefit. On a telephone or online claim, this will mean that they are asked fewer questions at application stage, meaning they are more likely to complete the process. Contact with young parents will mean Agency staff can promote income maximisation and make contact with antenatal services if the young person is not already registered.
58. We will work to embed BSG in wider early years policy such as the Family Nurse Partnership which will help improve take-up for younger parents, ensuring they get the support they need to alleviate hardship.
59. Looking at the pattern of disability and poverty we expect families which include a disabled adult or child will be well represented in the BSG applicant group.
60. We heard from the Social Security consultation that costs are higher for disabled children and that we should consider adding Child DLA as a qualifying benefit for BSG. However, we concluded that costs associated with the disability of a child were better looked at through child DLA.
61. The needs of disabled children have contributed to decisions in designing the BSG:
- Disabled children do not necessarily meet developmental milestones in the same timescales as other children. The BSG has a long application window for the early learning payment which accommodates children with different needs;
- Disabled children may not take up a place in formal education at the same timescale and there is no requirement to enrol/attend nursery or school to qualify for a payment; and
- Parents whose new baby has been identified as having a disability will have other priorities in the first few months. The extended application window (6 months rather than 3) will give them more time to apply.
62. For parents who have a disability, we are in the process of building a system which meets accessibility standards. The Scottish Government needs to adhere to Digital First Service Standards. To progress to each new stage of development, the system must pass a Digital First Assessment. These assessments ensure that the system will meet accessibility standards for people who need extra support to use our service.
63. Through the Experience Panels, we are gathering information on the barriers that users experience and seeking to design a system which meets their needs, offering a range of methods for application and contact. It should be noted that all methods of application and contact may not be available from the very first day of BSG implementation but the full service will provide them.
64. In response to the Social Security consultation, specifically related to the Early Years Assistance schedule, two stakeholders (Scottish Women's Aid ( SWA) and Engender) have raised two related points:
- women are vulnerable to financial abuse and protections are required in the BSG process; and
- that there is an imbalance in power in terms of financial resources in the home and that BSG provides an opportunity to mitigate that by paying women in preference to men.
65. They pointed out that using CB to test responsibility may mean that the payment does not go to the main carer. We are therefore considering an alternative test using CTC/ UC. We also plan to raise awareness among Agency staff on the indicators of domestic abuse so that they can provide a sensitive service and signpost organisations who can provide support.
66. We also considered whether to make it the default to make the payment to the mother. However, we concluded that the additional administration and questioning required to do this would be disproportionate. A high proportion of the people who meet the responsibility test will be women, for example in August 2017, approximately 84% of recipients of CB in Scotland were female.
67. We also identified that 57% of mothers in prison stated that they were 'involved in caring for (any of) their children' before they came into prison. The Scottish Government have made clear commitments to reducing reoffending, and have invested £15.5 million in the Reducing Reoffending Change Fund, to create new services that offer mentoring for men and women either to build a new and better life after their release, or to comply with community sentences.
68. We have held meetings with colleagues in the Justice department, the Scottish Prison Service ( SPS) and visited Cornton Vale to understand the pathways of offenders and how best we can support them to access a BSG where they are entitled. Once in post, Local Delivery staff will be able to work with the prisons in their area to identify what help and support can be provided to ensure those who are entitled know and are supported to apply, either as they go in to or come out of prison. In the meantime, we will engage with Prison Health Services to help raise awareness of the BSG within prisons.
Pregnancy and Maternity
69. By making the BSG maternity payment payable from 24 weeks pregnant (the SSMG qualifying date is 29 weeks) The payment can be made as soon as the pregnancy becomes viable. If a parent has a stillborn child they are entitled to the BSG whether they apply before or after the child is born.
70. We are considering opportunities to raise awareness with regard to maternity discrimination and possible signposts for support where this has been identified as an issue.
Race, Religion or Belief
71. We found that ethnicity impacts on family size, with Black and Asian ethnic groups having larger families than white and Chinese ones. Families of certain religions or beliefs are also more likely to have larger families. A quarter of Muslim households contained three or more dependent children, compared with 14% of Sikh, 7% of Hindu and 5% of Christian households.
72. The Qualifying Benefits of the BSG will capture more than half of families with three or more children. We have heard from families living on low incomes about the frustration and hardship they experience because the current grant ( SSMG) no longer provides support for second or subsequent children and have re-instated these payments. This change to entitlement has particularly affected vulnerable people, who are less likely to be able to plan ahead, and larger families.
73. We engaged with a Chinese parenting group and attended a Black and Ethnic Minority mothers group while we were developing policy. Key messages were about the importance of simple communication, the provision of translation services and the impact on women of having no recourse to public funds.
74. Asylum Seekers cannot claim any benefits. If they are destitute they can apply to the Home Office for assistance but have no recourse to public funds so will not be eligible for BSG. Those who are granted refugee or humanitarian protection status (after 5 years, they can apply for indefinite leave to remain) can claim benefits and therefore would be eligible for BSG.
75. There can be a gap between refugee status being granted and people accessing benefits and housing. The Agency may need to consider evidence requirements during this period e.g. on NI numbers.
We have gaps of evidence relating to:
76. No issues have been raised by stakeholders in regards to this and we don't expect the BSG to negatively impact on this group. The BSG will be payable to anyone who meets the eligibility criteria, regardless of their gender.
77. Work has been carried out to look at inclusive forms of address and how those who have had their gender reassigned are recorded and how the system(s) will manage this change. This work is on-going.
78. No issues have been raised by stakeholders in regards to this and we don't expect it to negatively impact on this group. The BSG will be payable to anyone who meets the eligibility criteria, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Other Groups who may be affected by BSG
79. Whilst not covered under the Equality Impact Assessment we have identified other groups who are likely to be affected by BSG. In addition to the foster carers, kinship carers and adoptive parents identified in the consultation paper above these are:
Young Care Leavers
80. The responses to the Social Security consultation identified young care leavers as a group in need to support and the suggestion made that they should qualify without the requirement to be on a qualifying benefit.
81. We have held numerous meetings with colleagues within the Children and Families Directorate along with stakeholders and specialists to explore scenarios. We have conducted workshops and detailed analysis, including lessons learned by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland in this area.
82. Our analysis shows that young care leavers on low incomes will qualify under rules set out in the draft regulations and that making specific provision for young care leavers might be counterproductive in complicating administration and communication.
83. In some cases, students who are care leavers who become pregnant may not be able to access a qualifying benefit before the baby is born so they will need to wait until they can access a CTC or UC child element after the baby is born to qualify for a BSG. Where a care leaver is not on a qualifying benefit, it will be important for the Agency local delivery function to have effective referrals processes in place to ensure that they can be supported to take up that entitlement to the qualifying benefit and also apply for a BSG
Gypsy / Traveller Community
84. Childbirth is very much seen as a female domain within the Gypsy/Traveller community. Traditionally, women would be attended by members of their family and extended social network at the birth of their children.
85. It is now more common for Gypsy/Travellers to give birth in hospitals; however, many do not attend ante-natal and post-natal care because of the barriers to accessing healthcare, as well as concerns that they will be judged by health care professionals and women from the settled community. Communication methods will play a vital role alongside the Social Security Agency local presence, though this might not be available from the first implementation day of the BSG but will be once full service is in place. Long application windows will also present more opportunities e.g. when the mother gives birth in a hospital or where their child starts school.
Are you aware of any impacts we have not identified?
Are you aware of any evidence relevant to the BSG policy and Gender Reassignment and / or Sexual Orientation?
BSG Child's Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment Summary
Who have we involved in our deliberations?
86. A wide range of stakeholders have been involved in developing the policy:-
Cross cutting meetings have been held with Scottish Government colleagues working on Child Poverty, Children's Early Years, Supporting Maternal Health and Wellbeing, Pregnancy and Parenthood in Young People, Getting it Right For Every Child, Looked After Children and the Baby Box.
87. Representatives from the Child Poverty Action Group, Maternity Action, One Parent Families Scotland, Save the Children, Action for Children, Barnardo's, COSLA and Early Years Scotland are members of the Best Start Reference Group.
- Current projections show that more than 50,000 families will be supported by the BSG, with approximately 63,000 payments being paid each year.
- 19 per cent of children in Scotland, approximately 190 thousand, were living in relative poverty before housing costs ( BHC) in 2015/16. This compares to 17 per cent the previous year.
- In 2015/16, 10 per cent of children were living in combined low income BHC and material deprivation, unchanged from the previous year. In 2015/16, 100 thousand children were living in material deprivation.
- After housing costs, 12 per cent of children were living in combined low income and material deprivation, unchanged from the previous year. In 2015/16, 110 thousand children were living in material deprivation.
- A publication from SPICE suggests there could be between 7,000 and 13,000 children in "informal" kinship care in Scotland.
88. We have held discussions with the Children's Parliament Scotland and drawn on relevant work that they have already done to gather views of children on similar topics. They will be holding sessions with children on our behalf during the consultation period to look at what the BSG could be used for that would make a difference to children and to take their views on responsibility for the child.
89. The BSG will benefit children in lower income households, including those living in poverty. Although BSG is not a regular payment, it does affect household incomes directly and could result in a small improvement in poverty indicators. This may not be necessarily visible in the child poverty statistics. BSG could have an impact on material deprivation by providing more income for parents and carers to buy some of the items that are on the list that determines material deprivation, so the indicator may show some improvement.
90. As detailed in the EQIA, children of young parents, in lone parent households, in lower income households, living in poverty, children with a disability, living as part of bigger family will all benefit positively from the BSG.
Children in families where parents have re-partnered
91. Children born into families where the parents have re-partnered will be positively affected by the BSG. Under the current SSMG, they would not receive any support where there is already a child in the family. As a result of the restoration of payments to second and subsequent children the parents of these children will receive a £300 maternity or new child payment, as well as two further payments of £250. However, it could be argued that the first child born into a newly formed family will be disadvantaged because their parents will only receive £300 rather than the £600 that they would receive if there were no children in the family.
Children who are born as part of a multiple birth
92. Children born as part of a multiple birth will be positively affected by the BSG. To acknowledge the additional costs of multiple births, in addition to a first child receiving the higher rate of payment, one child in every multiple birth will also receive the higher rate of payment.
Are you aware of any impacts on children's rights and wellbeing which are not identified here?
BSG Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment Summary
93. 14 private businesses and 5 business organisations responded to the public consultation on social security in Scotland.
94. There was no clear message from businesses regarding the BSG. The BSG represents an additional spend of £17 million into the Scottish economy and therefore there are likely to be impacts upon businesses. Some people will buy items that they would not have bought without a payment. The impact will be dispersed across the country and sectors of the economy.
95. It is expected that the introduction of a Scottish benefits could cause additional requests for information and support from existing advice services. The Scottish Government is aware of the potential pressure points and has noted the importance of the new Scottish social security Agency working alongside the advice and support services provided by a range of organisations including Citizens Advice Bureaux, charities, social landlords and Local Authorities to provide a "seamless customer experience - from advice, to application to payment" as detailed in the Review of Publicly-funded Advice Services in Scotland  .
96. The Scottish Government does not believe that the Best Start Grant/ Early Years Assistance Regulations will have an adverse impact on the competitiveness of Scottish companies or the third sector within Scotland, the UK or elsewhere in Europe.
97. Any procurement required to support the administration of the BSG will be subject to the Public Contracts Scotland (2015) Regulations and the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 which together provide a national legislative framework for sustainable public procurement which supports Scotland's economic growth through improved procurement practice.
Test run of business forms
98. No new business forms will be brought in with the implementation of the proposed legislation.
Legal Aid Impact Test
99. The right to appeal to a First-tier Tribunal is provided for in the Bill. Legal Assistance will continue to be available to individuals to appeal an entitlement decision to the First-tier Tribunal, to the Upper Tribunal, Court of Appeal or Supreme Court. The Scottish Government does not expect any new impact on the legal aid budget, and expects legal assistance through the statutory scheme of Advice and Assistance, and Advice by Way of Representation will continue.
Enforcement, sanctions and monitoring
100. The Bill proposes a duty on the Scottish Ministers to publish an annual report on the performance of the Scottish social security system.
101. Audit Scotland will monitor and report on the delivery of the social security system, including the new social security Agency.
Can you identify any business related impacts not identified?
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