Chapter 7 Social Security
This chapter focussed on social security and how women are twice as dependent on social security as men and have less access to resources, assets and occupational pensions. This is due to a number of factors including women being more likely to give up work to care and earning less than men, and challenges in accessing childcare. This situation is even more acute in households where women experience domestic abuse.
The design of a social security system can affect the gender pay gap in a number of ways. It can equalise access to income or exacerbate inequalities. It can act to enable women to access re-training or fully and equally participate in the labour market. It can force women to take employment which is detrimental to their wellbeing and long term earning potential.
The chapter recognised the disproportionate negative impact the UK Government's social security reform has on women and how we planned to mitigate this founded on the basis of dignity, respect and human rights to make the system fairer where we can.
We committed to a number of actions to address women's equality and make the Social Security system fairer. These actions are being delivered by the Scottish Government and Social Security Scotland. Social Security Scotland is the new Executive Agency created by Scottish Government to delivery social security benefits.
Incorporate Equality into the Social Security Charter
We said we would incorporate women's equality into the Social Security Charter,
to animate the principle of equality and non-discrimination on the face of the Social Security (Scotland) Act and work with equality groups on the development of this Charter. We published the Social Security Scotland: our charter on 15 January 2019 and on 17 October 2019, we published the Social Security Charter: measurement framework.
In developing the Charter and measurement framework, we ensured women were equally represented in the core group which was set up to co-produce these. We established a new core group which allowed us to include people with protected characteristics that were under-represented in the original core group including minority ethnic women and lone parents.
We delivered a bespoke workshop to minority ethnic women and women who use Perth Women's Aid services, to ensure their voice was heard in charter development. The Charter refers to developing policy that seeks to advance equality, non-discrimination and the human right to social security as defined in laws, treaties and guidance.
Gender impact assessments
We committed to ensuring that regulations for specific entitlements, including our new income supplement (Scottish Child Payment), are robustly gender impact assessed, and that their cumulative impact on women's equality is also impact assessed.
In the development of the new Scottish Child Payment, which helps support low income families in Scotland, we undertook an Equality Impact Assessment. The Scottish Child Payment: Equality Impact Assessment was published on 8 September 2020 and considers the potential effects of the payment and how it impacts on people with one or more protected characteristics. Statistics on who claims benefits indicate that women will benefit disproportionately from this policy overall. Lone parents, the majority of whom are women, are considered more likely to live in poverty and therefore eligible for the new benefit. Scottish Child Payment opened for applications in November 2020 and ongoing review of the Equality Impact Assessment will take place.
Social Security Scotland also remain dedicated to ensuring our Social Security Scotland policies are gender assessed. Social Security Scotland has embarked on a series of workshops to increase colleagues understanding of the need and process of Equality Impact Assessments. Our External Equalities Network, has representatives from a number of key stakeholder organisations including Close the Gap, Women's Aid and Engender. The network are invited to comment on all current Equality Impact Assessments. We are working with the Network to improve our understanding of and analysis of the data we collect.
Social Security Scotland undertake client diversity and equality analysis and the most recent publication is available here. All clients are asked to complete an Equality Monitoring and Feedback Form and this analysis reported that 91% of all applications for Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods are made by women.
Social Security Scotland are working to continuously improve existing signposting guidance and design new pathways to signpost our clients to organisations and services that can help improve their financial circumstances and wellbeing as committed to in our Charter.
Social Security benefits have been designed to remove barriers. For example clients only need to fill in an application for Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods once to apply for all payments. During this application process, clients are informed about the new Scottish Child Payment.
Social Security Scotland communications and engagement
Extensive engagement has been carried out with a variety of stakeholders who provide services to women to improve take up of the benefits Social Security Scotland deliver. Also to develop client referral arrangements with a range of other advice and support organisations and to tap into existing expertise from stakeholders, so this can be utilised to support the design and delivery of a high quality public service. Events, information stands, talks and presentations have been delivered across Scotland to stakeholders including; midwives, health visitors, family nurse practitioners, community links workers, women's aid support staff and other third sector organisations who support women.
Furthermore when we develop communication and marketing plans for Social Security Scotland and each individual benefit, we work hard to make sure we consider diverse needs and how we reach clients. We consult with relevant Scottish Government policy areas and stakeholders to get insight to help us plan. In addition to this, we commission user research and testing to hear directly from those who we are trying to communicate with on what they need. In the case of communicating with women about our current live benefits we use channels like 'mums net' and we have literature included in the baby box.
Our experience over the past two years of promoting benefits has led to a number of things becoming standard in the way we communicate. Key to getting people to engage in our content is making sure that they recognise it is for them. This is why we are working hard to make sure that the people who appear in images and video show the full range of groups who we will serve.
Mitigate against UK Government reforms
We committed to identify where the UK Government social security reform is depleting women's capacity to participate in higher and further education, and in a fair and sustainable labour market. Longer-term following this we will consider what programmes and interventions need to be developed, taking into account the diverse needs of all groups of women in response.
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic we are taking part in ongoing engagement with stakeholders, including NUS Scotland, to identify the urgent financial needs of students and what actions we can take to ensure that students are able to continue with their further and higher education. This has included working with colleagues to ascertain which social security benefits are available to students, and how these may be affected by students' circumstances. The Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science has established a Student Hardship Taskforce which includes student representation and a social security interaction focus from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).
Actions going forward in 2021-2022
In addition to taking forward the work we have started above. We will also take forward the actions below
New – Social Security Scotland will publish our first Equality Strategy in 2021. A key commitment is to improve the accessibility of our data and understanding of intersectionality.
New – As part of our Charter Measurement Framework we will establish a baseline measurement of the percentage of staff who said they know about a range of advice and advocacy services and the percentage of staff who said they know how to refer people to advice and advocacy services.
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