Minimum Income Guarantee Expert Group: interim report

This interim report provides an outline of the group’s work to date towards defining a Minimum Income Guarantee, the context in which the policy is being developed, provide a high-level overview of direction and early thinking towards potential actions.

Background and context

A Minimum Income Guarantee has the potential to build significantly greater levels of financial security in Scotland and contribute to a safety net that would protect against periods of uncertainty, address widening inequity and maximise the potential of the entire population long-term.

Scotland and the UK have faced repeated crises over the last 15 years through the crash of 2007/08 and resultant austerity; the COVID-19 pandemic; and the current cost of living emergency. In many ways this period of time has exposed the insufficiency of the existing UK-wide social security system and the broader social contract. It has outlined in stark terms the need for a radically improved safety net. As we look ahead to the future challenges and changes likely to affect our economy and society in Scotland, and across the world – through, for example: automation, technological change, climate change and a just transition to a net zero economy – Scotland will need to build a social security system fit for the future, and ready to support people to reach their full potential at every stage of their life, and through very different careers than before.

Inclusive growth, fair work and equity are crucial elements of a wellbeing economy. A Minimum Income Guarantee – with a guarantee to a minimum level of income at its core – could be the foundation that sits underneath progress towards these aims. A Minimum Income Guarantee will be achieved through paid work or other income for most; but by offering the reassurance to everyone that there will be a minimum income beneath which no one will fall we can build a safety net for everyone in Scotland which is guaranteed to be there when needed. This safety net could be provided by reforms to social security, work, services and a targeted payment for those that fall beneath the income level.

A UK with social insecurity built-in

The UK-wide social contract and social security system has been reduced and eroded for more than a decade. We have seen levels of support drop beneath what is needed to live a decent quality of life and increasing gaps in the system leaving many without any support.[3] The post-financial crash UK economy has been characterised by increasing levels of insecure work and a stalling of real wages and living standards.[4] This, combined with reductions in spending on public services and the UK Government’s welfare reform agenda throughout the 2010s, has seen an economy, social contract and safety net increasingly based on social insecurity rather than social security.[5]

The current system has developed in ways that undermine equality and sustain and compound systemic disadvantage for women and marginalised groups.[6] Reforms have had a disproportionately negative impact on women’s incomes. This is in part due to bias in system design, and the fact that women are twice as likely as men across the UK rely on social security, with women receiving around 20% of their collective income, in contrast to 10% for men.[7] Lone parent households have been the worst affected by social security reforms over the last decade, which has also had a deep impact on women’s economic security due to the high proportion of lone parents who are mothers.[8] These systemic failures damage society as a whole, but in particular have affected households on lower incomes and those facing intersecting discrimination and marginalisation the most.[9]

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, there were many people and families who relied on social security who had never done so before.[10] Many who had never considered they would rely on social security or who had experience of receiving income-assessed social security in the past were faced with a system that provided low levels of support with too many gaps to provide a genuine safety net when they needed it. Acknowledging the fundamental inadequacy of existing benefits, and the potential impact on the wider economy, the UK government protected incomes by building a furlough scheme in a matter of weeks and introducing a Universal Credit uplift to temporarily boost levels of social security. The action the UK Government was required to take demonstrated what can be done with meaningful investment in the UK’s social and economic infrastructure.

However, the UK-wide system did not become inadequate as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, its inadequacy was not just felt by those on middle-incomes or previously in secure jobs who found themselves suddenly without the income they depended on. The system was inadequate before the pandemic and remains so now in the face of everyday life events like redundancy, ill-health, unpaid caring responsibilities, growing families and relationship breakdown.

The economic effects of the 2007/08 financial crash, austerity and sluggish recovery, Brexit, and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine, have culminated in the current cost of living crisis. This has ultimately resulted in stretched governmental budgets across the UK which limits the opportunity to invest in the existing social security system or make radical change.[11] It is not just rising costs that are the problem; it is the fact that the incomes of those with the least have fundamentally worsened over the last decade.[12]

Scotland has taken action to tackle child poverty, including through devolved social security powers, and has set ambitions to deliver inclusive growth, fair work and a wellbeing economy. Delivering on these ambitions and prioritising social security will be important components to address economic inequalities, eradicate poverty and build financial security for all.

Social security reform over time

The UK Government has implemented significant reform and real-terms cuts to social security across the UK, including in Scotland.[13] In 2018, it was estimated that cuts to social security would amount to £3.7bn per year in Scotland by 2020/21.[14] The introduction of Universal Credit has been delayed, chaotic and often cruel in its implementation.[15], [16] Issues including lower payment levels, new caps and limits, a five-week wait for a first payment, repeated freezing of payment levels, severe sanctions and increasing levels of conditionality have disproportionately affected families most at risk of poverty and insecurity.[17]

Following the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, some social security powers were devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The Scotland Act 2016 gave the Scottish Parliament power over a number of welfare benefits, this also included an ability to top up reserved benefits and create new benefits in devolved areas.[18] Since then, Scotland has been able to use its pre-existing powers alongside new ones to mitigate some aspects of the UK system such as using Discretionary Housing Payments to mitigate the bedroom tax, increase Carer’s Allowance through Carer’s Allowance Supplement, and more recently introducing a fuller benefit cap mitigation. However, even by the Scottish Government’s own admission these solutions are imperfect as they are complicated for local government to administer and for individuals to access.

The Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 set in legislation the Scottish Government’s ambition to create a human rights-based social security system, built on the principles of dignity, fairness and respect. Social Security Scotland was created to deliver that social security system and is now delivering thirteen benefits, seven of which are brand new and only available in Scotland.

While progress has been made to improve both the delivery and levels of social security available in Scotland – particularly to low-income families with children – there remains a cross-party ambition and wider support to rethink social security and consider what innovative solutions can be introduced as a result of increased social security and revenue raising powers.[19], [20], [21], [22], [23]

Social security since devolution

2016 March

Scotland Act (2016) is given Royal Assent

The Scotland Act 2016 gave the Scottish Parliament new powers relating to social security. The legislative framework required to deliver a devolved system of social security was later established under the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018.

2018 September

Social Security Scotland is established

Social Security Scotland is an Executive Agency of the Scottish Government. Set up in 2018 to deliver the social security benefits being devolved from the UK Government.

2018 September

First new benefit Carers Allowance Supplement

The Carer’s Allowance Supplement was introduced in 2018 to meet the Scottish Government’s commitment to increase Carer’s Allowance to the level of Jobseeker’s Allowance.

2020 November

Scottish Child Payment opens for applications

The Scottish Government benefit, the new Scottish Child Payment opened early for applications on Monday 9 November.

2021 November

Child Disability Payment National Launch

On 22nd November 2021, Child Disability Payment was rolled out nationally

2022 August

Adult Disability Payment National Launch

Adult Disability Payment was rolled out nationwide on 29 August 2022. Adult Disability Payment is the 12th benefit to be introduced since September 2018.

2022 November

Scottish Child Payment extended to under 16-year-olds

Scottish Child Payment opened for applications for all eligible children under the age of 16 on Monday 14 November.

Minimum Income Guarantee as radical reform

A Minimum Income Guarantee is a new concept which could radically reform financial security in Scotland. It could deliver security for all, narrow inequalities, tackle poverty, and build a Scotland more resilient to the economic and social upheavals. It is not just a crisis response, but a mechanism for greater financial security – for individuals and families, and for our economy as a whole. It would fundamentally change the social contract in Scotland, freeing people and families from the huge financial risks currently inherent in things like job loss, illness, growing a family, disability and relationship breakdown.

A Minimum Income Guarantee is a simple but transformational idea – it is an assurance that no one will fall below a set income level that would allow everyone to live a decent life. This would be delivered through reform to services, changes to the world of work and improvements to social security including a targeted payment for anyone living in Scotland that falls beneath the Minimum Income Guarantee level.

A Minimum Income Guarantee would be rights-based, moving away from conditions and sanctions, limits, waits and caps such as those built in to Universal Credit. The guarantee would plug many of the holes and biases we see in the existing system, delivering a very different system based on rights, equality and dignity. The targeted nature of the payment, paid only to those who fall beneath the minimum income level, has the potential to provide a greater level of support for low-income households compared to universal payments (like some conceptions of a Citizen’s Basic Income[24]) and allow the minimum income level to be tailored to household needs rather than the same for all.

Progress towards a Minimum Income Guarantee doesn’t need to wait

The Steering Group was formed to consider the design of a Minimum Income Guarantee and how this could be implemented in Scotland. This was prompted after seeing cross-party support for the idea throughout the 2021 Scottish Parliament election campaigns and we have since been working to explore the concept from design to delivery. We will consider what steps can be taken now towards a Minimum Income Guarantee while also reviewing what, if any, additional powers would be required to see this implemented fully.

One early finding from the Expert Group has been that progress towards a Minimum Income Guarantee does not need to wait.[25] We do not need full powers or further powers to make progress, even if further powers around social security, work, tax, borrowing and equalities, may well be necessary in the future to realise the full potential of a Minimum Income Guarantee.

The Scottish Parliament has shown itself willing to build a stronger safety net in Scotland, set at a higher level for many, through existing powers and budgets. We will need to see further action in this way to begin to deliver a Minimum Income Guarantee in Scotland over the coming years.

What is a Minimum Income Guarantee?

The idea of a Minimum Income Guarantee in Scotland was developed through a number of reports in recent years. This includes the Institute for Public Policy Research Scotland’s ‘Securing a living income in Scotland: Towards a minimum income guarantee’[26] and the Social Renewal Advisory Board’s ‘If Not Now, When?’ The Social Renewal Advisory Board Report.[27]

The Expert Group has considered existing evidence, commissioned analysis, conducted evidence sessions and deliberated to agree on the following high-level elements.

...ensuring everyone has enough money for housing, food and essentials...

Defining a Minimum Income Guarantee

A Minimum Income Guarantee would ensure everyone in Scotland could secure a minimum acceptable standard of living ensuring everyone has enough money for housing, food and essentials to allow people to live a decent, dignified, healthy and financially secure life.

The Minimum Income Guarantee level would vary by need so would recognise individual and household circumstances. For instance, a single person with no dependents would typically need less income to reach a decent quality of life than a single adult with dependent children or other caring responsibilities. A single person would therefore have a lower minimum income level than those with higher costs. The Minimum Income Guarantee level for different household types would be reviewed regularly to ensure it keeps pace with the costs of living.

The costs people and households face to reach a decent quality of life vary by household type, but also vary depending on what is included within the social contract in Scotland and what is not. As part of the introduction of a Minimum Income Guarantee it would make sense to consider reforms that can reduce the essential costs people and households face.

Household income is made up of income from paid work, social security, and other income and for most this would be enough to reach the Minimum Income Guarantee level. However, as part of the introduction of Minimum Income Guarantee we would also aim to reform work to ensure greater numbers of people reach the Minimum Income Guarantee level through work. In particular, ensuring access to fair, well-paid and secure work and equal pay for women and marginalised groups will be an important step to more households reaching the Minimum Income Guarantee level.

For those who do not reach the Minimum Income Guarantee level through paid work or other income, the guarantee would see a targeted payment to top up income levels. This would guarantee that everyone in Scotland would have a minimum income, and potentially see significant reductions in poverty and inequality. In addition, a Minimum Income Guarantee could have other significant benefits. For example, it could hold huge potential to better recognise and support those doing unpaid labour, primarily women, through caring and household roles. These are of immense societal value and worth an estimated £10.8 billion to the economy per annum, but are not recompensed as such.[28]

We will continue to shape and define a Minimum Income Guarantee over the coming year, this will take into account what can be done under current or future devolved powers or full legislative control in an independent Scotland.

Key principles of a Minimum Income Guarantee

The Expert Group has outlined the key principles that sit underneath a successful Minimum Income Guarantee.

A Minimum Income Guarantee is:

  • a guaranteed level of income beneath which no individual living in Scotland would fall;
  • a minimum income set to ensure an acceptable standard of living that promotes dignity and a decent quality of life;
  • designed to recognise our distinct needs which vary by person and family;
  • clearly focused on tackling poverty, inequality and financial insecurity;
  • a suite of interventions – including to reform collective services, the world of work and social security;
  • accessible to all of us with a clear focus on reducing inequalities.

To succeed a Minimum Income Guarantee will need to be:

  • co-designed by those with lived experience of financial insecurity and the current benefit system;
  • supported by a broad coalition including the general public, stakeholders and within MSPs;
  • co-ordinated, across government and beyond;
  • implementable – through first steps taken under existing powers, with further steps and powers outlined as necessary.

Delivering a Minimum Income Guarantee

The Steering Group’s task is to define a Minimum Income Guarantee for Scotland and to recommend how this can be developed, tested and evaluated and to prioritise early actions. As outlined in the introduction, the Strategy Group provide oversight and advice on the overall process while the Expert Group consider the detail of the design and delivery. The Expert by Experience panel works with the Expert Group to undertake this work.

The Expert Group began by developing a workplan and agreed that members would look at the themes that closely aligned with their expertise and the workstreams were formed as a result. Each workstream was responsible for investigating their topic, commissioning research, collaborating where there was cross-over and reporting back to the Expert Group to deliberate. The following sections offer an overview of the workstream’s discussions and the findings developed across year one.




Examine potential approaches for setting, updating and uprating the level of a Minimum Income Guarantee, or suite of interventions that collectively form a Minimum Income Guarantee.






To consider how a Minimum Income Guarantee will relate to work and impact on employers.




Social Security


To agree an approach for delivery of a Minimum Income Guarantee in relation to the existing social security system.




Public Opinion


Oversee the formation and facilitation of the Expert by Experience panel; gather insights into public perception and support for a Minimum Income Guarantee; framing and communication.






To ensure that equalities considerations are made for each element of Minimum Income Guarantee and to inform other workstreams as they progress in their work. They will also complete a well-evidenced Equalities Impact Assessment (EQIA).




Cost and Financing


Set out costs for a range of Minimum Income Guarantee levels and range of designs by carrying out an analysis of the potential impacts of these on poverty (including child poverty and the priority families), inequality and destitution, considering macroeconomic analysis and considering tax and borrowing.






To consider how a Minimum Income Guarantee can be delivered under existing powers, in addition to a longer-term look at what additional powers may be necessary to achieve the desired outcome. This will include a review of income adequacy and income security; employment law; legislative powers on social security; taxation and borrowing.




Piloting, Implementation and Evaluation


Develop a theory of change, including definition of the desired and potential unintended outcomes for a Minimum Income Guarantee. They will make recommendations for how we test and evaluate a Minimum Income Guarantee.



Level of a Minimum Income Guarantee

The Minimum Income Standard presented a helpful reference point to aid discussions on the Minimum Income Guarantee level. The Minimum Income Standard is based on research undertaken by Loughborough University with members of the public to understand the items that the general public think need to be included in a minimum household budget. The results show what different households need in a weekly budget and how much they are required to earn to achieve this.[29]

Advice was sought from Loughborough University so the Expert Group could understand whether different Minimum Income Standard budgets are needed for Scottish households.[30] They produced analysis which considered rent, childcare costs, fiscal policies affecting income, household costs, and Scotland’s remote rural landscape. It concluded that the average costs facing household types in Scotland remain very similar to average costs in the rest of the UK, with the main differences caused by policies affecting household costs, such as free travel and school meals for children, and free prescriptions. However, within Scotland there are likely to be significantly different costs for different households, including, for example, for remote and rural communities and households. This would mean an entirely new Minimum Income Standard for Scotland is unlikely to be necessary but further work will be required to consider potential additional costs for some households within Scotland.

There are several potential barriers that may prevent household incomes from reaching the level of the Minimum Income Standard. Equally, for some households they may face additional costs not captured by the existing Minimum Income Standards, including additional costs for disabled households or carers[31] and the complex needs of priority families.[32] For example, in 2019 it was been estimated that on average, disabled people face additional costs of £583 per months compared to non-disabled people and this equates to almost half of their income. For families with disabled children, extra costs amount to over £1,000 per month for almost a quarter of households.[33]

Collective services, such as free school meals or public transport, can help reduce the income needed to live a decent life. In theory, the more that a household’s costs and essentials are provided through equitable collective services, for free or at a lower cost, the lower the level a Minimum Income Guarantee level would need to be to reach a decent quality of life. Reducing costs could therefore be a crucial element in ensuring everyone reaches a minimum income. There is a basis for this approach that can be built on. For example, the Council Tax Reduction Scheme reduces or eliminates council tax liability for over 450,000 lower income households across Scotland depending on their circumstances and ability to pay.[34] Low-income households are more likely to be in council tax arrears,[35] therefore, expanding the support provided through the Council Tax Reduction Scheme could be a significant financial relief to many. Likewise, childcare costs can present a barrier to households, particularly lone parent households,[36] achieving a decent standard of living and with entering the labour market. Therefore, action to reduce or remove these costs could be a key step towards a Minimum Income Guarantee for all. Our longer-term ambition is to see an expansion of these services that could be incorporated into the Minimum Income Guarantee level.

The provision of collective services and ensuring there is equitable access are equally important. Taking account of differing or inequitable access and uptake of collective services in calculating a Minimum Income Guarantee level, which can occur for several reasons, including systemic biases, is incredibly complex and will require further investigation in year two.

From the discussions that have taken place and the evidence that has been explored to date, the Expert Group has made the following findings.

1. The Minimum Income Guarantee level, in its full form, should be set somewhere between the relative poverty line and the Minimum Income Standard level for different individual and household circumstances. It is expected that this would be higher than current levels of UK Government benefit payments.

2. The Minimum Income Guarantee level, as part of a Minimum Income Guarantee in its full form, should be set to secure a dignified quality of life for all. This would vary by individual and household need and be informed by the general public, and prioritise lived experience of financial precarity and marginalisation.

3. The uprating of the Minimum Income Guarantee level should take into account real changes to the cost of living in a timely manner. This would move away from arbitrary levels of payments set by politicians. A Minimum Income Guarantee needs to be responsive to real and immediate need.

4. Non-means tested disability benefits, such Adult Disability Payment, Child Disability Payment and Carers Allowance, would not be considered as income for the purposes of calculating the Minimum Income Guarantee level for a household.

How can paid work be reformed to support a Minimum Income Guarantee?

The Minimum Income Guarantee level will be achieved through paid work and other income for most households but this will not be the case for everyone. For some groups this will be more challenging due to inequalities in participation and pay across the labour market.

The labour market still reflects and perpetuates engrained inequalities in our society. The progress towards gender parity in pay has been slowing down in recent years and women in Scotland still experience a gender pay gap of 10% when comparing women and men’s overall hourly earnings, rising to 27% when comparing men’s full time with women’s part time earnings.[37] Gender norms and stereotypes around parenthood and childcare are a major contributor to the gender pay gap, mothers in the UK tend to face a wage penalty while fathers often see an increase in their earnings following parenthood.[38] Women, particularly those facing intersecting discrimination, are vastly over-represented in low-paid, precarious work. The disproportionate burden of unpaid labour means women are more likely to have to rely on part time paid roles, are often underemployed, disadvantaged in retirement, and continue to have the societal value of their unpaid labour ignored in public policy.[39]

The employment rate for the minority ethnic population aged 16 to 64 was estimated at 65.1% in 2020/21, significantly lower than the white population (73.2%). This gives a gap in the employment rate between minority ethnic and white aged 16 to 64 years of 8.2 percentage points.[40] Racism and discrimination in the labour market continues to limit Black and Minority Ethnic individuals’ opportunities to access employment, gain promotions and find roles that suitably match their skills which feeds into higher levels of poverty.[41]

Similarly, disabled people face a significantly lower employment rate than non-disabled people. The employment rate for disabled people aged 16 to 64 was estimated at 49.6%. This was significantly lower than the rate for non-disabled people (80.%). Disabled people also experience a disability pay gap of over 31.2% compared with non-disabled people.[42] Not only are disabled people less likely to have a paid job, but when they do, they earn substantially less than their non-disabled peers, even when they have equivalent qualifications.

Employability services tailored to individual needs are important components to finding people suitable paid work and could be incorporated into a Minimum Income Guarantee. At present, the Scottish Government have several employability schemes in place including Fair Start Scotland[43] (Scotland’s devolved employment support service), No One Left Behind[44] (a person-centred service which includes the Parental

Employability Support Fund, the Young Person’s Guarantee,[45] and support for the long-term unemployed), and Developing the Young Workforce.[46] The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) also provide employability support in Scotland.

There has been welcome interest in the idea of a Minimum Income Guarantee from within trade unions. In particular, there has been interest from the unions for the creative industries who agree a Minimum Income Guarantee has the potential to alleviate issues arising from fluctuating, insecure and seasonal work.

Exploring how a Minimum Income Guarantee will impact employers, the labour market and what is needed to reform work will remain a focus in year two. This will include considering how the targeted Minimum Income Guarantee payment can avoid unintended consequences in relation to incentives to enter work and/or take on more hours or higher pay.

From the discussions that have taken place and the evidence that has been explored to date, the Expert Group has made the following findings.

5. The current economy and labour market has been unable to provide the levels of fair work needed to ensure everyone in paid work reaches the poverty line or Minimum Income Standard.

6. To realise a Minimum Income Guarantee, reform to the world of work is required. These will aim to ensure work is equitable, flexible and accessible to all. This will include reforms to increase levels of pay, achieve equal pay for women and marginalised groups, and guarantee hours worked and career progression. This will mean greater numbers of people reach a Minimum Income Guarantee level without the need for a Minimum Income Guarantee payment.

7. A Minimum Income Guarantee payment will need to reduce as people and households see increases in their income. However, this must be reduced gradually as other income increases to avoid cliff-edges in support. In the context of a full Minimum Income Guarantee scheme, the speed at which a Minimum Income Guarantee payment reduces should be set to maximise the support available to those on the lowest incomes, and to ensure people keep a sufficient amount of additional income.

How will social security reform contribute to a Minimum Income Guarantee?

Accessing the support people are entitled to can be confusing and the systems themselves are very complex. Lack of awareness of available assistance, complicated application processes, and securing the correct evidence, can be burdens or create barriers.[47] Automation and aligning means-tests have the potential to increase uptake, make the journey easier and help low-income families access the support that they are entitled to. Steps should be taken to assess eligibility and enable data sharing between Social Security Scotland, Local Authorities, HMRC and DWP to make progress towards a Minimum Income Guarantee.

The background and context section of this report outlined many of the weaknesses seen in the current UK-wide system and within Universal Credit in particular. The costs associated with transitioning onto/off Universal Credit, the five-week wait for new applications, the benefit cap, two-child limit, sanctions and conditionality are all elements of the existing system that cannot be replicated with a Minimum Income Guarantee.

The majority of social security policy reform in recent years has been designed to move people into paid work. However, this work is too often insecure, part-time and associated with low earnings.[48] There is increasingly evidence that the sanctions and conditionality regime embedded in Universal Credit has not been successful in promoting work as a route out of poverty and may be doing the opposite, including through increasing mental ill-health and undermining wellbeing.[49], [50]

The Scottish Parliament has seen additional powers over social security, and the devolution of a number of social security payments. These powers include the ability to top up reserved benefits and create new benefits in devolved areas. However, many of the powers required to make changes to social security are reserved to the UK Government, including many tax and borrowing powers that might be necessary to fund a full social security system. Understanding what existing social security powers could be utilised to make steps towards a Minimum Income Guarantee and which powers should be sought to realise its full potential will be explored in year two.

From the discussions that have taken place and the evidence that has been explored to date, the Expert Group has made the following findings.

8. In its full form a Minimum Income Guarantee payment would top up the income of the households whose income from paid work, social security or other means falls below the Minimum Income Guarantee level. It would be designed to replace many of the existing UK-wide income-assessed social security payments in Scotland, such as Universal Credit. In doing so it may be desirable to retain a diversity of payments so that people and families do not see a reliance on one single payment at one single point.

9. For a Minimum Income Guarantee to deliver its core principle of ensuring that no individual falls below a set level of income, in its fullest form, we will need to see a Minimum Income Guarantee payment that ends the existing ‘caps, freezes, limits and waits’ built into the existing UK-wide system, alongside an end to the sanctions and conditionality regime.

Public opinion

The Expert Group commissioned Involve, a public participation charity, to recruit a diverse group of people with experience of living with insecure incomes and financial uncertainty that will work alongside the Steering Group to design a Minimum Income Guarantee for Scotland. The Expert by Experience Panel has met three times and has already provided us with valuable insights and advice.

The first session was held in-person which provided the panel members with an opportunity to get to know each other and learn about the purpose and process of the panel. Members learned about a Minimum Income Guarantee and subsequently took part in group discussions on how a Minimum Income Guarantee could be good for Scotland and what the challenges might be to achieve this.

...Minimum Income Guarantee could create a more supportive society...

The group agreed that a Minimum Income Guarantee could increase the standard of living; reduce negative impacts of using social security; create a more supportive society; improve mental health; it is fair and equitable; a forward thinking solution to tackling poverty; and that it could boost economic growth.

However, the group also identified concerns and reservations around the cost and funding of a Minimum Income Guarantee; whether the system would be used appropriately; if the Scottish Government have the adequate powers to implement; employer and business support; public support and if a Minimum Income Guarantee would be delivered compassionately. The complexity of the system, limited timeframe to deliver in the current economic climate and the process to develop the policy were also noted.

The aim of session two was to build on the discussion and learning from the previous meeting, particularly around the fairness of a Minimum Income Guarantee and how this related to the current social security system as delivered by the Department of Work and Pensions. Members were asked to identify what aspects of the current system were more or less fair. They felt that the application is difficult and dehumanising; the system lacks compassion; it is not person-centred; provides a low standard of living; and does not provide adequate support for disabled people, people with more than two children, unpaid carers and people with mental ill-health.

While the group agreed the current system is largely unfair, they did acknowledge that the system aims to be holistic; provides a reasonable temporary bridge between jobs; and responds to fraud.

The Panel then considered what principles should underpin a Minimum Income Guarantee and on the whole they were largely in agreement with the Expert Group’s Key Principles as outlined earlier.

The third session sought the Panel’s views on what is meant by a dignified quality of life, what does this feel and look like and how can this be achieved? They also heard about the Minimum Income Standard and what level the Minimum Income Guarantee could be set.

The group reflected on what they consider to be important elements of living a dignified life, they identified a need for adequate healthcare, housing, food, clothing, access to services (e.g. internet and transport), social inclusion, wellbeing and self-care (e.g. haircuts, gym and freedom from stigma), quality education, and access to well-paid and secure employment. The Minimum Income Standard was felt to be positive as it is person-centred and went beyond survival; however, members did acknowledge that this level could be unaffordable for a Minimum Income Guarantee.

An outline for the remaining sessions has been drafted and the following topics will likely be discussed.

  • How will a Minimum Income Guarantee integrate with work? We will explore how members feel about the current system and how this can help or hinder people achieving a dignified quality of life.
  • The Panel will look at how a Minimum Income Guarantee could be implemented and discuss what this would look like, including how it is assessed, paid and what non-financial support would be included.
  • The final session will review their work to date and scrutinise the proposals produced by the Expert Group.

Designing a Minimum Income Guarantee with equality built in

It is crucial that equality considerations are integrated into all aspects of the development of a Minimum Income Guarantee. Focussed discussions between members of the Expert Group and key stakeholders have been facilitated to better assess and understand how a Minimum Income Guarantee may impact particular demographic groups in different ways and what can be done to ensure that the potential of the Minimum Income Guarantee to promote equality is realised in the design and implementation of the policy.

To date, workshops have taken place to discuss how a Minimum Income Guarantee can support Black and people of colour and care experience young people. We will continue our in-depth review of equality considerations across year two and insights will also be used to inform decision making and evidence an Equalities Impact Assessment (EQIA).

The Expert Group welcomed speakers from the Radiant and Brighter Community Interest Company, MoneyMatiX, Intercultural Youth Scotland and the Whole Family Project at Capital City Partnerships to discuss ways to tackle racism and discrimination when developing and implementing a Minimum Income Guarantee.

The speakers outlined several barriers experienced by some Black and people of colour including in experiences of immigration systems and how these often undermine people’s ability to engage in the labour market; challenges with translating qualifications obtained outside the UK; lack of UK credit history leading to unfair financial outcomes; residential status and time in Scotland limiting options for support; unsupportive education system; insecure work and underemployment; racism and discrimination. The importance of support and advice being shared by small, trusted, grassroots organisations was highlighted and will be taken under consideration. A Minimum Income Guarantee must recognise systemic racism and be designed to be anti-racist, and continued engagement with Black and communities of colour and organisations advocating for racial equality will be required throughout the process.

Care experienced young people are also disproportionately likely to experience financial hardship and can face significant barriers to achieving a positive transition to adulthood and independent living. Many 16- and 17-year olds who have been in looked after care cannot access Universal Credit or wider income support.[51] A Minimum Income Guarantee has the potential to deliver transformational change and could ensure care experienced young people can live a decent and financially secure life. Aberlour, Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum (Staf) and Who Cares? Scotland met with the Expert Group to highlight the importance of providing guaranteed financial support, highlighting the Welsh Basic Income Pilot for Care Leavers.[52] The Expert Group will continue to engage with Aberlour, Staf and Who Cares? Scotland and their Care Leavers Income Advisory Group. The outcomes from the Welsh Government pilot will also be monitored closely with the expectation that learning could help inform how a Minimum Income Guarantee may successfully support care experienced young people.

We will continue our efforts across year two to engage with and collate the views and experiences of all equalities groups that will be impacted by the introduction of a Minimum Income Guarantee.

Piloting, implementation and evaluation

Initial discussions about undertaking an Evaluability Assessment are underway. This will help to clarify the mechanisms through which the policy is intended to have impacts on poverty, inequality and financial security, the assumptions underlying these mechanisms, and the key uncertainties. A team at the University of Glasgow have recently won research funding to assist the Expert Group with this work. It will help to identify the key evaluation questions that need to be built into plans for implementation, and any uncertainties that might benefit from piloting.

Discussions in relation to how a Minimum Income Guarantee can be implemented are co-dependent on the work of the social security group in particular, and the identified means for getting additional incomes to people. Further work in this area will take place in year two.

Potential scope within existing devolved powers

Work to explore what could be achieved under existing powers is ongoing and will be an area of focus in year two. To date work has focused on devolved Social Security powers.

The Scotland Act 2016[53] gave the Scottish Parliament legislative competence in relation to a number of welfare benefits by amending Schedule 5 of the Scotland Act 1998. The Fiscal Framework[54] agreement which accompanied the act set out the funding mechanism for benefits devolved to Scotland. The Scottish Government has the power to create new benefits in areas of devolved responsibility. However, the cost of any additional benefits would need to be met from the existing Scottish Budget, no additional funding would be received from the UK Government.

As the Expert Group moves into year two more work will be done to assess what could be done under the current powers of the Scottish Government relating to social security, taxation, employability and education to lay the foundations of a Minimum Income Guarantee. The Expert Group will also explore what additional powers would be needed to realise the full potential of a Minimum Income Guarantee.

Costing and funding

The Workstream responsible for reviewing the cost and making recommendations on how a Minimum Income Guarantee is funded will begin in year two as a fuller understanding of the design becomes clear.



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