Chapter 12 Social Security and Older People
The Social Security and Older People portfolio is focused on the objectives in the Scottish Government's National Performance Framework to "tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally" and to "respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination". We will continue to prioritise funding to support the development, design and implementation of our devolved social security powers and the new Executive Agency - Social Security Scotland. We will also develop and implement new entitlements and flexibilities to tackle poverty, accelerating the help we give to new families to ensure that every child has the best start in life, and to mitigate the worst impacts of the UK Government's welfare cuts.
This portfolio supports work to prevent discrimination. It promotes equality and human rights, builds more cohesive communities, ensures we support and harness the skills and talents of all people, and reduces barriers for all to contribute to building thriving, resilient communities. This portfolio will continue to support strategic and frontline projects to address inequality and discrimination across the protected characteristics, delivering on our commitment to security through three-year funding streams. This portfolio will also support the mainstreaming of equality and improvement of public sector delivery on equality, the advancement of human rights, and work to prevent violent extremism.
We wish to tackle the structural inequalities in our society, and this portfolio will invest in organisations that promote equality, including the progression of human rights. The empowerment of groups with lived experience of inequality is a key component of this work.
Key Inequalities of Outcome
The opportunities and outcomes that we expect for each member of our society are not equally distributed across Scotland. While this can play out in different ways, and no single indicator tells the complete story, we can look at people's experience of discrimination as an exemplar of how "fair" they believe societal outcomes are. Those who identify as having a protected characteristic, tend to be more likely to report the experience of discrimination in their daily lives than those who do not share the characteristic. This is true of disabled people (9 per cent versus 6 per cent of non-disabled people), minority ethnic groups (19 per cent versus 6 per cent white), those of a non-Christian religion (16 per cent versus 9 per cent of Roman Catholics and 4 per cent of Church of Scotland members) and LGB adults (20 per cent versus 6 per cent of heterosexual/straight).
In the delivery of social security, we are committed to make our system and processes fair, dignified and respectful. Social security primarily provides support to low-income households and those with a disabled adult or child. Relative poverty rates in 2014-17, after housing costs, are higher in households with a disabled adult (24 per cent versus 16 per cent non-disabled), for those in minority ethnic groups (30 per cent versus 16 per cent white), for single working-age women (30 per cent versus 26 per cent for men) and for children (24 per cent versus 19 per cent of all ages). Intersectionality, whereby an individual is in more than one disadvantaged group, can be a compounding factor. Where a child is in a household with a disabled adult, the poverty rate is 31 per cent. For families headed by a single parent, the rate is 41 per cent. Finally, for members of a minority ethnic group, the rate of relative poverty for children is 36 per cent.
Key Strategic Budget Priorities
In the Scottish Budget 2019-20, the Social Security Directorate's spending plans will be set out separately from the Scotland Act implementation costs. In 2018-19, we continued to support the Scottish Welfare Fund and the Discretionary Housing Payments, and also introduced Carer's Allowance Supplement and Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment. Funeral Expense Assistance, Best Start Grant Early Learning and School Payments and Young Carer Grant will commence during 2019-20. We will also consult and continue development activity on the remaining benefits to be devolved under the Scotland Act 2016, including Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments and Attendance Allowance.
Equalities Implications of the Scottish Budget 2019-20
From September 2018, the Scottish Government has paid the Carer's Allowance Supplement to recipients of Carer's Allowance currently administered by the UK Government. Carer's Allowance is available to people aged over 16 who: undertake more than 35 hours per week caring for a person in receipt of a qualifying disability benefit, earn less than £120 per week, and are not in full-time education. When first introduced in 2018-19, the supplement brought recipient's payments up to the level equivalent to Jobseeker's Allowance. Future uprating to the supplement will increase it above the level of Jobseeker's Allowance. The forecast expenditure on the Carer's Allowance Supplement is expected to be £37 million in 2019-20. This includes an inflation-level increase. The Carer's Income Supplement will be more likely to help women, who comprise 69 per cent of the recipients of Carer's Allowance in Scotland. While people are eligible for Carer's Allowance from the age of 16, the Scottish Government will also bring in a Young Carer Grant from autumn 2019. This grant will be paid on a non-discretionary basis to young carers who are not in receipt of Carer's Allowance. Specifically, £300 will be paid annually to all 16-17 year olds (and 18 year olds still in school) who are caring for a person entitled to a qualifying disability benefit for an average of 16 or more hours a week (subject to consultation, and regulations being passed by the Scottish Parliament). This will help young people improve their quality of life, health and education outcomes.
From December 2018, the Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment - £600 for the first child and £300 for all subsequent children - replaces the UK Government Sure Start Maternity Grant. The Best Start Early Learning and School Payments of £250 will be paid when a child reaches the age of 2 or 3 and again around the time they start school. This will be introduced by summer 2019. The total forecast expenditure on the Best Start Grant is expected to be £12.4 million in 2019-20. These payments will support lower income families during the early years of a child's life up through to school age. In making the process for application simpler and extending eligibility and the application window, this benefit will be easier to access, thus encouraging take-up. As there is no cap on the number of children who can qualify, this will especially benefit larger families, which are more prevalent in some minority ethnic groups.
Funeral Expense Assistance (FEA) will replace the current Funeral Expenses Payment by summer 2019. It will provide a contribution towards funeral costs for people on lower incomes who are in receipt of certain benefits and tax credits. The benefit is structured in three parts that provide support towards: burial or cremation, certain transport costs, and a flat-rate payment for any other funeral costs. Forecast expenditure on FEA is expected to be £6.2 million in 2019-20. FEA is more likely to be paid to older people and women. Forty-six per cent of applicants are spouses of the deceased, and women are more likely to survive their partners. The development process for the design of the new benefit will explore the needs of disabled people, thus helping to ensure that they have appropriate access. There will also be considerations of the needs of different religious groups and their funeral practices.
The Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) acts as a safety net for people on low incomes by providing Crisis Grants which help those facing disaster or emergency situations, and Community Care Grants which provide help to establish or maintain a settled home or support individuals and families facing exceptional pressure. From April 2013 to June 2018, 306,305 households have been supported, including 101,270 households with children. Twenty-two per cent of the households receiving support have been headed by lone parents, which are in the majority women.
Expenditure has included mitigating housing costs for 18-21 year olds. In April 2017, the UK Government withdrew entitlement to housing costs under Universal Credit for this age group. Believing this to be unfair, the Scottish Government mitigated the costs. The policy was reversed by the UK Government from 31 December 2018. Similarly the SWF is also the delivery mechanism used to pay Family Reunion Crisis Grants, introduced by the Scottish Government in May 2018. Both are funded separately from the main SWF. The SWF has benefited from consistent investment levels for the last five years. Funding for the SWF (including administration) will be sustained in 2019-20 at £38 million.
Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) provide further assistance with housing costs for those entitled to Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit. DHPs are delivered through local authorities. In order to help mitigate the effects of the UK Government's benefits cap and Local Housing Allowance rates which remain frozen, the Scottish Government has invested £10.9 million in DHPs. DHPs are also used as a means of ensuring we fully mitigate the 'bedroom tax' (cuts to housing benefit in the social rented sector introduced by the UK Government in April 2013) until it can be formally abolished in Scotland through Universal Credit flexibilities. It is estimated that 80 per cent of Scottish households affected by the bedroom tax contain someone with a disability, so this investment will have a particularly positive impact for disabled people. The total budget for DHPs (including administration) will be £64.4 million.
Support for equalities and fairness is at the heart of this budget and demonstrates the Scottish Government's continued commitment to preventing discrimination, promoting equality and human rights and building more cohesive and thriving communities.
The Scottish Government recognises that equality, social justice and inclusive growth are interconnected, and that action to give effect to international human rights treaties requires concerted action to promote genuine equality of opportunity and esteem for all. We will continue to build on Scotland's reputation as one of Europe's most progressive and inclusive national jurisdictions.
In recognition of the challenges annual funding cycles present to third sector organisations, in 2017 the Scottish Government moved to provide three-year funding to directly support frontline services and activity to address discrimination and inequality. Therefore, a significant proportion (approximately £17 million) of this budget is allocated through these funding streams. Multi-year funding enables organisations to better plan services and evidence progress made against outcomes. The five funding streams combined give greater alignment to key Scottish Government priorities and publications.
As we live longer and healthier lives, the way we support and harness the skills and talents of our older people needs to change. We recognise the contribution they have made, but many older people have much more that they want to do. We will therefore deliver improved equality outcomes for older people through our Older People's Framework. We will identify and work to reduce barriers that older people face in making contributions to society, whether in work or in their communities. Establishing this Framework will ensure that there is clear strategic ownership of Scotland's approach to our ageing population. This will be informed directly by the voices of older people, and ensure that there is consistent messaging across the public sector on the positives of ageing and addressing the negative perceptions that older people face.
We will also deliver on a national strategy to tackle social isolation and loneliness. We are one of the first countries in the world to develop a strategic approach to one of the crucial social issues our society faces. This strategy will help to raise awareness about what we can all do to reduce social isolation and loneliness, deliver resources to community groups who need a helping hand to foster social connections in their area and ensure that every part of government is focused on how we empower communities to build a connected Scotland.
The Scottish Government's approach to disability equality - specifically 'A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People', our 'Accessible Travel Framework', and the manner in which engagement with disabled people was taken forward in the process of creating a new social security system - has achieved UN recognition. We will continue to work closely with disabled people, including £1.24 million of continued funding to intermediary organisations representing disabled people, to deliver on that plan and make a real, positive difference to disabled people's lives.
In line with our commitment to improve access to information and services for our citizens whose first or preferred language is British Sign Language (BSL), the Scottish Government took a highly consultative approach to the development of the BSL National Plan following the introduction of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015. In this financial year, alongside the implementation of a number of national actions, we will continue to support public bodies with £160,000 for their duties with regards to the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act.
Scotland is proud of our progressive approach to human rights, equality and inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. Continued investment (including £894,000 for intermediary organisations working with LGBTI people) will support activity to make education, public services and wider society more inclusive of LGBTI people so that Scotland continues to be one of the best places for people of any sexual orientation or gender identity to live.
The Equality budget will continue to support delivery of the Scottish Government's ambitions for women's equality, with targeted financial support to organisations working to ensure that women's experiences are reflected in policy making, to close the gender pay gap, and to improve the recruitment, retention and progression of women. The Equality budget also supports the First Minister's Advisory Council on Women and Girls, and will deliver a comprehensive response to their first report. The Advisory Council will raise awareness of gender inequality, champion the rights of women and girls, and act as a catalyst for change.
This budget supports our ongoing commitment to address all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) by providing continued investment for frontline services as well as advancing the strategic priorities within 'Equally Safe', our strategy to prevent and eradicate VAWG. Combined resource from across the Justice and Equality Budgets provides broader support across sectors to help address gendered attitudes and inequalities through the implementation of our Equally Safe Delivery Plan. £5.8 million will be given to organisations working on VAWG in 2019-20 as part of their three-year funding allocation.
Funding will also support a major national campaign to challenge sexual harassment and sexism, a pilot accreditation scheme for employers to support efforts to tackle gender‑based violence in their workforces, and the development of a whole-school approach to tackling gender based violence. Resources will continue to support a range of local domestic abuse and sexual assault services across Scotland that support women and children who have experienced gendered violence, including additional funding for Rape Crisis Centres to help those who have experienced rape or sexual assault access the support they need. £800,000 has been allocated to Rape Crisis centres as part of the 2019-20 portion of the three-year funding.
We will bring forward a Female Genital Mutilation Bill to strengthen the protection of women and girls from this form of gender-based violence. The Bill will propose protection orders for women and girls at risk and statutory guidance for professionals. We are consulting with communities to understand what further protections may be helpful.
We will continue to deliver a range of outcomes and activities set out in the Race Equality Action Plan and to build on the significant amount of work underway regarding the progression of race equality in Scotland, most notably through implementation of the 'Race Equality Framework'. This sets out a long-term partnership approach for promoting race equality and tackling racism and inequality from 2016 to 2030.
In addition to specific Scottish Government-led activities for Gypsy/Travellers as set out in the Race Equality Action Plan, this budget will provide significant resource to continue to improve the wellbeing and protect the human rights of Gypsy/Traveller families in Scotland. We are supporting greater opportunities for the voice of the Gypsy/Traveller community to be heard in decisions that affect their lives, including over £1 million funding, over three years, to organisations supporting the Gypsy/Traveller community and investing £100,000 to establish the new Gypsy Traveller Women's Voices Project to empower women in the community to participate in public life in Scotland. To help children and young people in this community to overcome barriers to their learning and opportunities, we will support the new Young Gypsy Travellers Assembly to ensure the views of young people are central to our work. We will also provide an additional £275,000 to support and share best practice in delivering education for all ages and stages through the Scottish Traveller Education Project (STEP) to pave the way for a further £500,000 Tackling Child Poverty Fund investment in a community education programme starting from 2019.
The Scottish Budget 2019-20 will support the response to the recommendations from the First Minister's Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership, and to address the human rights and equalities impact of Brexit. We will also respond to the Scottish Parliament's Equalities and Human Rights Committee's Human Rights Inquiry, ensuring further engagement with the public on these issues that impact on everyone's lives. We will continue to promote the Scottish Human Rights Defender Fellowship, and engage constructively with international human rights processes and institutions.
The suite of equality outcomes published in April 2017 provides a particular focus on themes such as VAWG, mental health and education. Training and mainstreaming work will ensure that across the Scottish Government, policy and legislation continues to be assessed for its impact on equality. The Equality budget will help ensure that policy development is informed by the views and voices of equality communities and stakeholders in order to bring about positive change.
Budget within the Social Security and Older People portfolio will increase as competence for new benefits transfer to Scotland, and we deliver on the Social Security (Scotland) Act's commitment to uprate benefits. Our social security initiatives support low-income families. Best Start Grant and Carer's Allowance Supplement are already underway, and Funeral Expense Assistance and Young Carer Grant will follow during 2019-20. The Equality budget continues to fund key initiatives whereby we aim to empower all of Scotland's citizens throughout society.
1. Scottish Household Survey 2017: Neighbourhoods and Communities
2. Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland 2014-17
Email: Liz Hawkins