The purpose of the interim evaluation was 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 first two of these has been achieved by reviewing the available evidence on Scottish Child Payment, drawn from different sources (primarily bespoke commissioned research carried out by Ipsos MORI, Official Statistics, and Social Security Scotland research). As discussed above, Scottish Child Payment has made good progress towards some of its immediate and short-term, and medium-term outcomes. Based on this progress, it is reasonable to assume that the policy is also contributing towards the government’s long-term aims, such as reduced child poverty.
Despite these positive developments, the interim evaluation has also highlighted some areas where Scottish Child Payment could be improved to achieve better outcomes for recipients. These are outlined below.
Policy implications for Scottish Child Payment
Please note that these implications have been drawn from the commissioned research report by Ipsos MORI, which is available in the full in Annex B. However, they also take into account the wider evidence from Official Statistics and Social Security Scotland research which has been presented throughout this report. They are as follows:
1. There could be a need to (a) undertake further promotional work for Scottish Child Payment, and (b) maximise take-up of the benefit amongst eligible people.
This evaluation indicates that the majority of people who are eligible for Scottish Child Payment apply for the benefit, and that payments are made to people with a wide range of demographic and equalities characteristics from all areas of Scotland. However, third sector representatives have also said that - while they feel the benefit has generally been well promoted so far - further efforts could be made to raise awareness such as (a) more targeted promotions on social media, and (b) yearly promotional campaigns. Additionally, the most recent estimate indicates around 1 in 4 eligible people did not apply for Scottish Child Payment as of June 2021. Therefore, steps may be needed for further promotions of Scottish Child Payment, in order to maximise take-up of the benefit. However, it should be noted that other factors in addition to awareness can impact take-up of benefits. As such, it may also be necessary to explore whether other factors impact take-up of Scottish Child Payment.
2. There could be a need to (a) clarify eligibility rules for Scottish Child Payment, and (b) make it clearer to recipients when their benefit will end.
While the evaluation shows that the purpose of Scottish Child Payment is clear to recipients, there is some confusion around its eligibility rules. Additionally, there is evidence that some recipients do not realise that the payment will stop when their child reaches the upper age-limit for the benefit. As such, it may be necessary to proivde more clarity around the Scottish Child Payment eligibilty criteria, and communicate more clearly to clients that Scottish Child Payment will stop when their child reaches the upper age-limit for the benefit.
3. There could be a need to review specific aspects of the application process to make it easier for applicants.
In general, the Scottish Child Payment application form is praised for being easy and quick to complete. However, the interim evaluation has highlighted some very specific issues that were raised by recipients e.g. a perception that telephone applications took too long, or that some of the demographic questions in the Equality Monitoring and Feedback form seemed intrusive or irrelevant (it should be noted that applicants can select a ‘prefer not to say’ option when answering questions in the form). More issues are highlighted in the commissioned research report at Annex B. It should be noted that it is not clear how widespread these perceptions or experiences are amongst applicants. However, the application process could be reviewed to see if changes are necessary or possible.
4. Where possible, steps could be taken to (a) review application processing times, and (b) improve communications after applications are submitted.
The evaluation has shown that Scottish Child Payment application processing times have increased since September 2021. Additionally, some applicants feel that communications from Social Security Scotland could be better after applications are submitted – which is particularly the case where applicants are struggling financially. As such, it may be necessary to (a) review the application decision-making process to see if it can be expedited, and (b) take steps to ensure that applicants are kept better informed about the progress of applications, especially in cases where processing takes a long time.
5. Further awareness could be raised with applicants about (a) other benefits they may be entitiled to, and (b) additional forms of support.
The interim evaluation has shown that Scottish Child Payment applicants who come into contact with Social Security Scotland staff are not always told about other benefits they may be entitled to, or other forms of support that are available (e.g. via Citizens Advice Scotland). Therefore, more could be done to ensure that applicants who come into contact with Social Security Scotland staff are always informed about other benefits or support, where applicable.
6. The impact of Scottish Child Payment on recipients’ financial situation should continue to be monitored, and the rate of payment kept under review.
Scottish Child Payment helps to reduce the financial pressure on households, and generally makes a positive difference to peoples’ lives. However, recipients still face financial difficulties and are worried about rises in the cost of living. As stated at the beginning of this report, Scottish Child Payment recently doubled to £20 per week (per child), and will increase again to £25 by the end of the 2022, with eligibility extended to children aged 6-15. These policy changes will make it more likely that Scottish Child Payment continues to have a positive impact for families. However, this will also be contingent on external factors (e.g. further rises in the cost of living, or possible changes to UK welfare policy). Therefore, recipients’ perceptions of impact should continue to be monitored over time, and the rate of Scottish Child Payment kept under review.
7. More data is required to fully evaluate progress towards Scottish Child Payment outcomes.
It has been touched on throughout this report that there is currently a lack of data to fully evaluate the medium-term outcomes of Scottish Child Payent, and assess its contribution to longer-term government aims (e.g. reduced child poverty). For example, the evaluation indicates that Scottish Child Payment minimises borrowing and the risk of debt. However, the true impact of Scottish Child Payment on debt levels amongst people on low incomes cannot be assessed with the available evidence. This is similar for other policy outcomes, such as the benefit’s impact on health and wellbeing, material deprivation, and labour market or educational participation. Continued efforts should therefore be made to obtain data to fully evaluate the progress of Scottish Child Payment towards its stated outcomes, once the payment is fully rolled out.
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