Five Family Payments Reference Group minutes: March 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 27 March 2023.

Attendees and apologies


  • Anne Baldock, One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS)
  • Ben Sutcliffe, Scottish Government (SG)
  • Fiona King, Save the Children 
  • Jasmine Wood, Scottish Government
  • Joe Rose, Social Security Scotland
  • Kirsty McKechnie, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)
  • Lauren James, Scottish Government  
  • Merlin Kemp, Chair, Scottish Government
  • Nicola Birrell, Scottish Government


  • Polly Jones, Trussell Trust
  • John Cunningham, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Carole Anderson, NHS Scotland
  • Ed Pybus, CPAG
  • Stephanie Millar, Citizens Advice Scotland
  • Katie Dee, NHS Scotland
  • Jill Wood, Engender

Items and actions


The Chair opened the meeting with introductions. All those present gave their name, job title and organisation.

Update on the progress of Scottish Child Payment

This was presented by Merlin Kemp who works in Scottish Child Payment policy.

Key points:

  • most applications received as part of the rollout to 6-15 year olds were processed by end of February. Applications still to be processed required further evidence, sometimes as a result of clients completing the Change of Circumstances form rather than a new application
  • statistics due for publication in May should provide better data on the November rollout applications
  • the analysis of responses to the “Scotland's social security system: enhanced administration and compensation recovery” consultation is set to be published this week. Most stakeholders are generally positive about the prospect of changing the legislative basis for Scottish Child Payment with some caveats
  • a case was flagged where parents were sharing care of the child on an even 50/50 basis and looking for Social Security Scotland to determine who should receive Scottish Child Payment. This is not a competing claim as both individuals agreed care was 50/50. Social Security Scotland cannot carry out split payments and the case has highlighted a need for improved guidance. Merlin will engage with the group further on this
  • latest poverty and inequality statistics are now published. However, the full impact of the Scottish Child Payment roll out won’t be captured until next year’s publication

Proposed amendments to Best Start Foods

This was presented by Nicola Birrell who works in Best Start Foods and Best Start Grants policy.

Key points: 

  • 2023/2024 amendment regulations will remove all income thresholds for qualifying benefits
  • also considering other proposed amendments to increase alignment of Best Start Foods with Best Start Grant and Scottish Child Payment and make some technical changes to improve delivery
  • removal of income thresholds welcomed by stakeholders. Stated that the Universal Credit threshold (that also applies to Free School Meals) is low and stops parents moving into work which pays real Living Wage
  • There may be other groups in comparable position to those with No Recourse to Public Funds, i.e. those with European Union pre-settled status


  • policy officials to explore EU pre-settled status issue. CPAG happy to provide further detail on this area
  • policy officials to circulate slides for further feedback from the group

Overview of Five Family Payments client survey

This was presented by Joe Rose who works in Social Security Scotland.

Key points:

  • the presentation was on responses to 2021/2022 client survey. Respondents applied for any of the Five Family Payments
  • the presentation was welcomed and noted that findings were broadly positive
  • Social Security Scotland is taking action to address call times and to explore better updates on progress
  • once the head of work is cleared from the roll out of Scottish Child Payment, it is hoped that call times will reduce 
  • concerns were raised around application form confusion. This may in part be addressed by automation of Best Start Grant Early Learning Payment and School Age Payment
  • there were issues at the extended eligibility rollout of Scottish Child Payment, with some individuals completing the Change of Circumstance form rather than the new application However, this appears to be a result of unplanned webpage downtime
  • question was asked about whether the lack of backdating in SCP was an issue. No concerns were raised around backdating in the survey but may be more relevant in the most recent survey. Fieldwork for this is still to be analysed.

Any other business

  • suggestion that ID checks may have increased. Merlin advised that the best route to raise this is with Social Security Scotland colleagues with responsibility for operational delivery, noting this has already been raised with them
  • the group was asked for preferences on meeting arrangements. The view at the meeting was that virtual meetings should continue to encourage higher attendance with bigger updates potentially given at in-person meetings, but Merlin agreed he would seek views of other members of the group who had been unable to attend this meeting

Merlin closed the meeting, saying that officials would be in touch with a date for the next one.

Back to top