This report presents the findings based predominantly on qualitative research with young people and stakeholders exploring their experiences of Job Start Payment (JSP). Research was carried out by Diffley Partnership between November 2021 and March 2022. The report was commissioned by the Scottish Government to contribute towards the Scottish Government's overall evaluation of JSP, which will also draw on JSP administrative data and research conducted by Social Security Scotland, such as the Social Security Scotland Client Survey.
1.1 Policy background
The Scottish Government is creating a new social security system for Scotland, having taken over a number of benefits devolved in the Scotland Act 2016. Eight principles, set out in the Act, and the Social Security Charter, underpin this new system, which aims to treat clients with dignity and respect.
The Social Security powers that have been devolved through the Scotland Act 2016 give the Scottish Parliament responsibility for £2.8 billion of social security expenditure (around 15% of total benefit expenditure in Scotland). An Order under section 63 of the Scotland Act 1998 gave the Scottish Government further powers to arrange assistance under section 2 of the Employment and Training Act 1973. Social Security Scotland is the executive agency of Scottish Government that is responsible for delivering the social security benefits for Scotland.
1.2 Context of Job Start Payment
The Scottish Government is committed to supporting young people to obtain and retain employment. A key part of this is helping young people on low incomes meet some of the initial costs of starting work, including transport costs, in order to reduce the risk of unemployment or economic inactivity later in life. Such efforts are particularly important given the increase in unemployment amongst 16-24 year olds in the year to December 2021 compared to end of 2019. The increase is linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted the youth labour market. It is therefore crucial that young people who have experienced a sustained period without paid work are given support to enable a smooth and sustainable transition into employment.
JSP is designed to support young people with the costs associated with beginning a new job, such as clothing, food or travel expenses (though the use of the payment is neither stipulated nor monitored). It has previously been observed that upfront costs to enter the job market can be significant for graduates. The concern is upfront costs can make entry into employment untenable or may even deter people accepting a job offer, including lone parents.
Eligible clients find themselves at the intersection of two demographic groups that are less likely to have savings or manage well financially: people in receipt of low-income benefits and young people. This age bracket could be more likely to struggle with the up-front costs associated with entering employment.
JSP forms part of a wider package of measures to smooth entry into paid employment. It also sits alongside ongoing reforms to employability in Scotland that seek to build a holistic system of support, outlined in the Scottish Government's No One Left Behind delivery plan.
It is within this context that this research takes place. Through this commission, Scottish Government was eager to assess the extent to which the JSP is meeting its aims, to understand the impact and experience of applying for and receiving the JSP, and to identify issues, and solutions, around take-up of the benefit.
1.3 Details of Job Start Payment
JSP was designed based on a consultation conducted in 2019 which was reported on in July of that year and responded to by the Scottish Government in December 2019. Social Security Scotland began taking applications for JSP on Monday 17 August 2020.
Since April 2022, the amount of the payment has been a cash sum of £267.65 for those without children and £428.25 for those with children. During the period of primary research within this project, the amounts were originally £252.50 for those without children, and £404 for those with children, increasing from £250 and £400 in April 2021.
Young people aged 16-24 in Scotland who have been out of work and receiving a qualifying low-income benefit for six months are eligible to apply for the payment upon receiving a job offer, and up to three months after such an offer is made. Care leavers have an additional year to apply for JSP (i.e. until they turn 26), and while they do need to be on a qualifying benefit, they do not need to have been on a qualifying benefit or out of paid work for 6 months. . A previous recipient can apply and claim again, if two years have passed since they last received the payment.
Qualifying benefits include Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, or Universal Credit.
The full eligibility criteria can be viewed on the mygov.scot website.
1.4 Research Aims
The Scottish Government has committed to the principle of continuous improvement through regular and rigorous evaluation of social security policies and payments. The Scottish Government has outlined its social security principles and rights-based approach and has committed to conducting regular analysis and evaluations to assess the extent to which devolved benefits are satisfying these criteria.
The research presented in this report will contribute towards the Scottish Government's overall evaluation of JSP, which will also draw on JSP administrative data and research conducted by Social Security Scotland, such as the Social Security Scotland Client Survey. Research aims, sub-aims and objectives are outlined below.
Research Aim 1
Explore the impact of JSP on people who have received this support, by learning about their experiences with the payment.
Aim 1a: Determine whether JSP improves clients' employment outcomes:
- How the payment is spent
- Whether it helps to meet costs associated with starting a new job, and enables clients to take-up employment offers
- Whether it makes clients feel more confident about starting a job, and reduces anxiety during the transition to employment
- Whether it makes clients feel more confident/less anxious about their future (medium- and long-term) employment prospects
- Whether it helps clients to sustain employment.
Aim 1b - Determine whether JSP improves other aspects of clients' lives, such as health and well-being, social opportunities (e.g., social networks), and lifestyle choices:
- Whether it helps clients build and/or sustain social networks
- Whether it empowers clients and allows them to participate more fully in society
- Whether it broadens clients' lifestyle choices
- Whether it impacts the health and well-being of clients' families (including children, where relevant) during and after their transition to employment.
Research Aim 2
Examine possible factors which impact (a) take-up of JSP amongst young people who are eligible for the benefit, (b) JSP application denial rates.
- Reasons why young people who are eligible for JSP may not be applying for the benefit
- Cases where completed applications were unsuccessful, and reasons for rejected applications
- Whether there are any other barriers to accessing JSP, including those associated with the application process
- Whether JSP can be improved to increase take-up levels, and more generally
Regarding research Aim 2, it is important to explain in more detail what is meant by take-up and application denials, which are linked but not always directly.
1. Take-up refers to the extent to which people claim the benefits they are eligible for. To take a hypothetical case, the Scottish Government could estimate that – in a given period - 1,000 young people would have (a) been offered a job and (b) met all of the other eligibility criteria for JSP. If only 500 people had actually claimed JSP during the same period, take-up would be an estimated 50%. This would indicate that the other 500 eligible people who did not receive the payment either did not apply in the first place, or applied but could not provide sufficient evidence to support their claim, and therefore had their applications denied. At the moment, there is no data available on how many eligible young people applied but had their applications denied for not being able to provide enough supporting evidence for their claim.
2. Application denials happen when applicants are ineligible for JSP, or cannot provide enough supporting evidence to prove they are eligible for JSP. Therefore, it is possible that some young people who meet eligibility criteria have their applications denied because they cannot provide sufficient evidence for their claim. However, many will be denied because they simply do not meet the eligibility criteria for the payment in the first place.
It should be noted that while JSP was still in its early stages, take-up of JSP (i.e. eligible young people claiming the benefit) had been lower than anticipated by the Scottish Government. This research therefore explored factors which may have impacted JSP take-up, as indicated by the objectives set out above.
Application denials were also explored as part of Aim 2. From the payment's inception in August 2020 up to 31 March 2022, 10,105 applications were received. Of the 9,595 processed, a majority (53%) were declined. This elevated figure merited investigation.
To address the above aims and objectives, views and experiences were gathered from a range of people including:
1. Recipients of the payment
2. Unsuccessful applicants
3. Eligible individuals who did not apply for the payment
4. Representatives of relevant stakeholder groups with prior experience relating to the Payment
5. Staff from Social Security Scotland tasked with processing and assessing applications.
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