Scottish Child Payment: interim evaluation

Findings from the interim evaluation of Scottish Child Payment.


This section introduces Scottish Child Payment and the rationale behind its implementation. It also summarises the eligibility criteria, aspects of the application process, and the overall evaluation aims relevant to this report.

Scottish Child Payment: description

Scottish Child Payment is a key strategic commitment in the Scottish Government’s national mission to reduce child poverty. It was implemented using powers devolved through the Scotland Act 2016, which gave the Scottish Parliament responsibility for £2.8 billion of social security expenditure. This includes the power to top-up reserved benefits for individuals who appear to require additional financial assistance. Scottish Child Payment is delivered through Social Security Scotland. Its role in reducing child poverty has been outlined in two tackling child poverty delivery plan publications:

The tackling child poverty delivery plan recognises that, in isolation, no one action can make the change needed. As such, Scottish Child Payment is one of a range of Scottish Government policies intended to tackle child poverty. These include (a) other benefits administered by Social Security Scotland, such as the Best Start Grants and Best Start Foods, and (b) wider measures around work and earnings and the cost of living.

Scottish Child Payment is intended to deliver regular, additional financial help to low-income families. Its purpose is to assist with the costs of raising a family, but it is up to recipients to choose how they spend the money. The payment began as a weekly sum of £10 for each child in the family under 6, paid every four weeks. The payment amount doubled to £20 per week in April 2022 and will further increase to £25 by the end of 2022 – however, it should be noted that this evaluation is based on information gathered before the payment amount increased to £20 per week.

Scottish Child Payment opened for applications in November 2020, with payments beginning in February 2021. Its broad aims are to:

  • Achieve a reduction in child poverty of 3 percentage points when the benefit is fully rolled out
  • Reduce the depth of poverty by increasing incomes of people not just below the poverty line but those further below it
  • Ensure a sustainable and lasting reduction in poverty for families with children.

To be eligible for Scottish Child Payment, clients must (a) live in Scotland, (b) receive a qualifying benefit, and (c) be able to demonstrate that they or their partner are responsible for a child under 6 (increasing to 16 by the end of 2022). It does not affect other UK or Scottish Government benefits that they receive - although it may affect local council allowances or grants.

The families most at risk of poverty

As stated above, one of the key aims of Scottish Child Payment is to reduce the depth of poverty by increasing incomes of people not just below the poverty line, but those further below it. This is because, as set out in the tackling child poverty delivery plan[1], the Scottish Government is particularly focused on providing assistance to six groups at greatest risk of poverty. These groups are:

  • Lone parents
  • Families with a disabled adult or child
  • Young mothers
  • Minority ethnic families
  • Families with a child under 1 year old
  • Larger families (i.e. with three or more children)

Recent policy developments

Scottish Child Payment increased in value to £20 per week in April 2022. The Scottish Government has also pledged to increase Scottish Child Payment to £25 per week and extend eligibility to children aged 6-15 by the end of 2022. It is estimated that, as a result of extended eligibility, the number of children who will benefit from Scottish Child Payment will increase by over 200,000 to 304,000.[3]

Application process

Applications can be made online, by phone, by paper form, and in person using the local delivery service. At the beginning of the application process, applicants are asked whether they would like to also apply for Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods at the same time as they apply for Scottish Child Payment. To keep things as simple as possible for the client, if they choose to also apply for Best Start Grant and Best Start foods they are required to complete only one application form.

Social Security Scotland processes each application received and makes a decision whether to approve or deny the application. An application will be denied if the client is not eligible to receive Scottish Child Payment. An application will be authorised if the client is eligible and provides the appropriate evidence to receive Scottish Child Payment. Applicants may also withdraw their application before a decision is made.

Applicants can choose to provide supporting evidence when making an application by post or through online document upload. If an applicant does not provide all the evidence required for an application, they will be contacted by a client advisor and asked to provide this. Once this evidence has been received, Social Security Scotland aims to make a decision as soon as possible with payments following soon thereafter.

To help manage the demand expected when Scottish Child Payment officially launched on 15 February 2021, Social Security Scotland enabled clients to apply in advance of the benefit being introduced, from 9 November 2020. Anyone applying for Scottish Child Payment in this application window was made aware that they would not receive a decision until after 15 February 2021, and that the first payments would be made to clients from the end of February 2021 onwards.

Accessibility of Scottish Child Payment

Social Security Scotland is committed to accessibility. To maximise this, multiple application channels are available: digital, paper and telephone. The digital application process is compatible with assistive technologies and clients can request 3 phone calls and letters in a variety of formats e.g. in over 100 different languages, using BSL video calls, or in braille, easy read and large print.

Evaluation aims

The Scottish Government published its approach to evaluating the first wave of devolved social security benefits, including Scottish Child Payment, in November 2019.[4]

The purpose of the interim evaluation is to provide learning about the overall implementation of the benefit and the extent to which Scottish Child Payment’s immediate and short-term outcomes have been met, now that the benefit has been in operation for over a year. In doing so, it can also assess progress towards Scottish Child Payment’s medium-term outcomes, and its likely contribution to long-term government impacts for children, such as reduced child poverty. However, the latter, longer-term impacts will also be affected by Scottish Government interventions outwith social security, designed to support children and their families. As such, they will not only be attributable to Scottish Child Payment.

Specifically, the evaluation objectives are to:

1. Evaluate the extent to which Scottish Child Payment has met its policy outcomes.

2. Assess the likely contribution of Scottish Child Payment to wider long-term government outcomes for children and their families.

3. Discuss implications for future policy development.

The findings will provide groundwork for policy improvement, and feed into the development of future evaluations of Scottish Child Payment. Future evaluations will take place once the benefit has been live for at least three years - at which point Scottish Child Payment will have increased to £25 per week (per child), and will be rolled-out to those responsible for eligible children aged under 16. However, it should be noted that the current evaluation is focused on the impact of Scottish Child Payment prior to April 2022, when the payment amount was £10 per week (per child).



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