Best Start Grant: equality impact assessment

Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) considers potential effects of Early Years Assistance (Best Start Grants) (Scotland) Regulations 2018 and how it impacts on people with one or more protected characteristics.


10. The Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 [1] (the Act) was brought forward as a result of the changes to the devolution settlement enacted in the Scotland Act 2016.

11. Section 32 [2] and Schedule 6 [3] of the Act make provision for Early Years Assistance and require that Scottish Ministers make regulations setting out provision for eligibility, including residence, what assistance is available, the value of the payments and when to apply. The regulations also include provision for timescales for the processing of redeterminations and certain issues of process relating to application dates. Further rules will be set out in operational guidance.

12. The Early Years Assistance (Best Start Grants) (Scotland) Regulations 2018 (the Regulations) provide detailed rules relating to the BSG pregnancy and baby payment only but this impact assessment relates to all 3 BSG payments - pregnancy and baby, early learning and school age payments.

Policy Aims

13. Scottish Ministers want to make Scotland the best place in the world for a child to grow up. Early interventions and preventative work will target the earliest years of a child's life, to build strong foundations and reduce the number of adverse childhood experiences that we know have lasting impacts on our children and shape their lives as adults. [4]

14. The Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan [5] summarises the actions the Scottish Government will take towards the ambitious targets set out in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 [6] .

15. The BSG is one of a range of measures aimed at giving children the best start in life and will pay qualifying families £600 at around the time of the birth of the first child and £300 on the birth of every subsequent child. An additional payment of £300 is payable in the case of a multiple birth. Qualifying families will also receive £250 around the time the child starts nursery and a further £250 when they start primary school, although there is no requirement to enrol/attend nursery or school to qualify for a payment.

16. At present the SSMG payment provides £500 for the birth of a first child and does not provide support for second and subsequent children.

17. The BSG payments are:

  • Pregnancy and 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.
  • 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 age 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.

18. Administration of BSG will be integrated with Best Start Foods ( BSF) (currently UK Healthy Start Vouchers) to reduce effort for the applicant and administration for Social Security Scotland.

19. This support is part of achieving the Scottish Government's National Outcomes and will specifically contribute towards the following:

  • We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential
  • We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally
  • We are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society

20. Building on the Social Security (Scotland) Act's framework of a benefit that is founded on dignity, respect at its heart, Scottish Ministers are committed to supporting people to access their full entitlement. The Social Security Agency will be required to prepare a strategy to promote take up of the benefits it is administrating.

21. BSG represents a significant additional investment by the Scottish Government in comparison to current SSMG provision. The Scottish Fiscal Commission ( SFC) is responsible for producing independent forecasts of devolved social security expenditure. For BSG Pregnancy and Baby payment, the SFC will publish forecasts alongside the laying of the BSG regulations.

22. Based on assumptions from the SFC model, in the first full year of running 2018-19, we estimate that there will be 12,500 BSG Pregnancy and Baby payments with a total cost of £5.5m. Once the Early Learning and School Age payments are added, we estimate that the total number of payments annually will be in the region of 39,000 at a cost of £12.1m, based on 2019-20 figures.

Who was involved in this EQIA?

23. A New Future for Social Security Consultation [7] ran during summer 2016 (the report on BSG can be found on page 199 of the analysis of written responses to the Consultation on Social Security in Scotland [8] ). The BSG section sought views on key aspects of the benefit and received over 100 responses from both individuals and organisations. The views expressed, along with the findings from a stakeholder event held in May 2016 where workshops included a discussion on equalities impacts, helped shape the initial proposals for BSG discussed with the BSG Reference Group.

24. The BSG Reference Group [9] was established in October 2016 to help gather evidence, bring a variety of informed perspectives and provide feedback on proposals. Members include the Child Poverty Action Group, Poverty Alliance, Barnardos, Save the Children, Engender, Scottish Women's Convention, One Parent Families Scotland, Parent Network Scotland, Maternity Action, COSLA, NHS Health Scotland, Early Years Scotland, Action for Children, South Lanarkshire Council, Glasgow City Council and Dundee Community Health Partnership.

25. We also held individual meetings with reference group members, for example Engender and Scottish Women's Aid, and other stakeholders, for example Young Scot and Families Outside, to discuss the development of BSG, including equalities impacts. We also visited Shakti and Fife Gingerbread to meet women and discuss their needs.

26. Illustrative regulations for the BSG [10] were issued to the Social Security Committee and the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee of the Scottish Parliament on 28th September 2017, during the passage of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018. They were also shared with a range of stakeholders to inform further development of the policy.

27. Early Years Assistance, a Consultation on the Best Start Grant Regulations [11] ran from 26 March to 15 June 2018 which allowed us to gather further feedback on our proposals and develop final policy. Particular questions were asked about how young parents access the BSG and about the test of responsibility for the child. The consultation summarised the findings of impacts assessments to that point and sought views on any further impacts. There were 51 responses to the consultation.

28. The Scottish Government set up Experience Panels to ensure that people with direct personal experience of the current benefits system could help us decide how benefits are delivered in Scotland's new social security system. We have received, and are continuing to take, views from Experience Panel members and other parents, for example groups of people who are disabled or have a long term health condition, on the design of the form and service to deliver BSG. A summary of research findings was published in August 2018. [12]

29. We are now in the final stages of developing the business processes which will allow people to access and receive the BSG. We have taken an 'Agile' approach to service design, which means that we have continually tested evolving designs with clients to make the application process as user-friendly as possible. People from groups who share protected characteristics have been included in this process. We have engaged with Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic ( BAME) groups, pregnant mothers from working and non-working families, single parents, kinship carers, young parents, bereaved parents, and those with an impairment or disability.

30. This research has enabled us to make sure the language used in the BSG application form is easy to understand and has helped us to design evidence gathering processes which put minimum burden on the applicant. After we start to make payments, we will continue to take on board feedback from service users in order to enhance our IT systems and ensure Social Security Scotland staff have what they need to provide a high level of service. This will all contribute to ensuring the service we provide has dignity and respect at its heart.


Email: Alison Melville 

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