Scottish social security system - seldom-heard groups: research

Evidence review setting out the current seldom-heard groups across the Scottish social security system and the barriers they face to accessing their entitlements.

6. Prioritising seldom heard groups

As previously stated, an objective of this review was to consider which seldom heard groups to prioritise for targeting in future take-up initiatives. However, there are several challenges in identifying which seldom heard groups to prioritise.

One option is to prioritise groups based on the extent of their exclusion. However, as outlined in Section 3, the absence of data on many marginalised groups makes it difficult to judge the extent of their exclusion. Furthermore, a lack of evidence does not necessarily indicate a lack of marginalisation. It could just mean that evidence has not yet been collected on a specific group. There are variations in the amount and quality of evidence on the nature and extent of marginalisation among different groups. For example, the availability of data on Pension Credit take-up provides good evidence of underclaiming, particularly among women and single people. In contrast, the lack of data available for minoritised ethnic groups means that, for some groups, even the population sizes are unknown (estimates for the size of Scotland’s Gypsy and Traveller population range between 4,000 and 15,000)[36].

Another option, where data are available, is to use the prevalence of seldom heard groups within Scotland to guide prioritisation. For example, there are currently 120,000 people aged 65 and over living in poverty in Scotland, over half a million disabled households are living in poverty, and 80,000 children in disabled families live in absolute poverty (see evidence summary tables in Appendix B)[22,54]. Campaigns targeting barriers to take-up among these groups may have a relatively large impact. However, a limitation of this approach is that the people who are most marginalised within these groups are not always easily identified.

6.1 Intersectionality

When considering target groups for take-up initiatives, it is important to note the high prevalence of intersectionality among marginalised groups[50]. Intersectionality is a term used to describe groups within groups who may face multiple challenges or forms of discrimination[94]. There is evidence that people who experience poverty, pain, prejudice and stigma, language or literacy barriers, trauma and violence, and a wide range of other challenges face increased barriers to accessing services and support, including social security benefits. These factors are included in Ko and Moffitt’s take-up formula and are frequently intersectional[50]. For example, a person may be a survivor of abuse, have refugee status, and be living with a mental health condition in insecure housing. Veterans and survivors of abuse are over-represented among the homeless population and suffer high rates of mental ill-health and substance use disorders[27,95].

The evidence summaries included in Appendix B identify areas of intersectionality that risk increasing levels of marginalisation from the social security system. For example, rates of disability are higher among single parent and large families, prisoners, minoritised ethnic communities and people in low-paid work. Among older adults, characteristics increasing risks of marginalisation include being female, living alone, living in a rural location, or being disabled or in poor health.

Focusing efforts to improve benefit take-up on one dimension of marginalisation risks missing other important aspects of marginalisation. For example, providing information in a range of community languages does not address marginalisation created by low levels of functional literacy or isolation from sources of information.



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