Coronavirus (COVID-19) support in low income households: evaluation

Qualitative research evaluating a range of policies and support that were delivered during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research looks at how this support impacted on the finances and wellbeing of low income households.

1. Context for the study


This report presents the findings from qualitative research exploring the lived experiences of low income households, and in particular families with children, during the COVID-19 pandemic. It explores how the range of support available impacted on households' finances and wellbeing. The research aims and questions are set out in the next chapter.

The main focus was on gathering the experiences of families in the following six priority groups most at risk of being in child poverty:

  • Lone parents
  • Families with a baby aged under 1
  • Families with three or more children
  • Families with a disabled family member
  • Young mothers (aged under 25)
  • Minority ethnic families.

The study also included the following low income households:

  • Families on low income but above the threshold for relative poverty
  • Single young adults (under 30) with no children but in relative poverty
  • Young couples (under 30) with no children but in relative poverty.

Families on low incomes as well as single young adults and couples in the age group most likely to have children in the near future were interviewed because the Scottish Government judged these households to be at risk of falling into child poverty in the future.

The findings from this study will feed into the development of the next Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan (2022-26) and the design and delivery of other support plans for low income families and households. Information on child poverty in Scotland is available from the Scottish Government's website. This includes evidence on the six priority family types.

Overview of COVID specific support

The research explores the impact of the range of additional financial and in-kind support funded by the Scottish Government and delivered through local authorities, Social Security Scotland and the third sector designed to assist people to manage the challenges experienced over the course of the pandemic.

The table below summarises some of the key forms of support made available in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Further information can be found in Annex A. The main target for this support was low income households in general, with some support packages targeted specifically at families.

Name Description Delivered by
COVID hardship payments: Winter payment in December 2020 £100 for each child who was in receipt of free school meals based on low income eligibility criteria. Mostly automatic but some may have needed to apply. Local authorities
Scottish Child Payment Bridging Payments Quarterly (4) payments over 2021 calendar year. £100- £160 for each child in receipt of free school meals based on low income eligibility criteria. Local authorities
Low Income Pandemic Payment £130 to each household in receipt of Council Tax Reduction – completed by October 2021. Local authorities
Coronavirus Carer's Allowance Supplement £230.10 to each person in receipt of Carer's Allowance. Social Security Scotland
Free School Meal alternate provision Free School Meal alternatives for eligible children during school closures, periods of online learning and holidays – via direct payment, voucher or food parcel with a focus on a cash-first approach. Local authorities
Support for households facing barriers in accessing food, fuel and other essentials Including through the Freephone and other local authority led initiatives. People could also call local authorities directly. Local authorities and third sector partners.
Self-Isolation Support Service This includes the same support offered via the National Assistance Helpline but is provided via proactive contact with individuals who agree to their local authority passing their details when they speak with contact tracers at Test and Protect (contact is via call and/or text depending on the local authority). Local authorities – with support from Public Health Scotland/Test and Protect to collect and pass on details.
Self-Isolation Support Grants £500 for low paid workers required to self-isolate if testing positive for COVID-19 or identified as a close contact (eligibility criteria changed over the course of the pandemic). Local authorities

COVID-related timeline

By the time this research was undertaken, the evolution of the pandemic had encompassed two separate lockdowns for mainland Scotland and a range of other measures that had been strengthened, or lifted, as required. The milestones which were most likely to shape the experiences those participating in this study are set out below.[1]

Date / Milestone

20 March 2020

All schools and nurseries closed by the end of the week beginning 20 March.

24 March 2020

First lockdown begins in Scotland.

27 March 2020

Rules on social distancing and staying at home published. 'Reasonable excuse' for leaving home includes shopping and daily exercise.

31 March 2020

Guidance published on the provision of childcare and learning for the children of key workers and vulnerable children.

21 April 2020

Campaign launched to raise awareness of the financial support available during the pandemic.

11 August 2020

Pupils return to school in Scotland.

23 October 2020

Scotland's Strategic Framework – a five-tiered approach, Levels 0-4 – is published.

5 January 2021

Second lockdown in mainland Scotland.

22 February 2021

Children in early learning and childcare, and primaries 1 to 3, return full-time to classrooms.

15 March 2021

All remaining primary school children return to school full-time and all secondary pupils on a part-time basis.

2 April 2021

Stay at Home restrictions lifted. Replaced with Stay Local.

19 July 2021

Scotland moves to protection Level 0.

9 August 2021

Scotland moves beyond protection Level 0.

Source: SPICe Timeline of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Scotland.



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