Scottish Welfare Fund review: final report - data analysis appendix

An appendix to the main report of the review of the Scottish Welfare Fund, containing technical detail of the secondary analysis.

1. Introduction

About this report

This report provides detailed analysis of the secondary data (i.e. data already collected by local authorities and submitted to and collated by the Scottish Government) to inform the overall ISBN/9781805255284">Scottish Welfare Fund Review. The analysis below is grouped under each research topic. The analysis is based on published tables and also management data – the underlying dataset (anonymised data on individual applicants to the fund) as well as other official data from DWP, analysis undertaken by the SPSO and the Scottish Prison Service, data from foodbanks and survey data.

The data analysis was completed in Spring 2022, using 2019/20 and 2020/21 data. Key tables were then updated with the 2021/22 data when the latest annual update tables became available. Where large scale, bespoke data analysis was conducted early in the project, on 2020/21 data, this was not practical to replicate again later in the project once 2021/22 data was available.

Inevitably, data analysis in a project spanning a long period is challenging, with the need to refresh some key analyses so the results are current. However, the Covid pandemic posed a significant challenge for local authorities and so it was judged only fair that we would primarily use the pre-Covid data (2019/20) in comparing local authorities. It might be argued that some local authorities have changed practice during Covid and after Covid which means that their pre-Covid approaches are now no longer in place. However, on balance, it was agreed that the increased demand on the Fund, staffing challenges during various lockdowns and subsequent impact on practice that the pandemic contributed to would make comparison of 2020/21 local authority data invalid in many ways. The analysis refers to 'pre-pandemic' data where local authority comparisons are made.

A note on data issues

The SWF Scotland level figures are affected by specific issues described for Edinburgh and Glasgow below[1]. There may be additional issues with data quality related to Covid-19. For example, comparison of management information (Tables 73 and 74 in the Annual Update) and figures derived from quarterly data extracts indicates discrepancies in numbers of applications, awards and expenditure for several local authorities.

This needs to be borne in mind when interpreting findings. For example, the most recent figures may be subject to some adjustments in the Scottish Government's own SWF publications, as the Scottish Government receives further updates from local authorities, etc. In addition, there are specific issues around the accuracy of figures in specific periods for particular local authorities that it is important to be aware of when considering findings for those authorities.

In many cases, the quarterly extract included fewer Community Care Grants and/or Crisis Grants than the monthly figures. This could be due to delays in applications being processed, or awards being kept as 'pending' or 'in principle' on local authority systems until they can be delivered/installed etc. However, overall, at Scotland level, the monthly management information and quarterly data extracts have similar figures for Community Care Grant applications (-3% in the quarterly extract compared to the monthly management information) and expenditure (-1%) but there is a slightly larger discrepancy in Community Care Grant awards (-5%).

At Scotland level, the monthly management information and quarterly data extracts have similar figures for Crisis Grant awards (-2% in the quarterly extract compared to the monthly management information) and expenditure (-1%) but there is a slightly larger discrepancy in crisis grant applications (-5%).

City of Edinburgh experienced a software issue in March 2020 that has caused some crisis grant awards and expenditure from March 2020 to be recorded in April 2020 in the quarterly data extract supplied to Scottish Government. Comparison of the quarterly data to monthly management information (Table 74 in the Annual Update) indicates that around 1,335 crisis awards and £141,000 of associated expenditure made in March 2020 has been shifted into April 2020 in the quarterly data extract. This means that in Edinburgh in Jan-Mar 2020 around 33% of crisis awards and 38% of expenditure are missing, and in Apr-Jun 2020 around 17% of crisis awards and expenditure should have been recorded in the previous quarter. Scotland totals will also be affected. It is not currently possible to amend case details so that they appear against the correct month, quarter or financial year.

In March 2020, some Covid-19 related Crisis Grant applications received by Glasgow City were recorded as Community Care Grant applications in the quarterly data extract supplied to Scottish Government. Comparison to the monthly management information (Tables 73 and 74 of the Annual Update) supplied separately by the local authority indicates that in March 2020, around 1,000 applications, 400 awards and £60,000 associated expenditure had been recorded as Community Care Grants rather than Crisis Grants. However, this is difficult to quantify exactly due to ongoing and pre-existing discrepancies between the monthly management information and quarterly extract. These issues will also affect Scotland totals. From April 2020 onwards the issue of Covid related crisis grants being recorded as Community Care Grants appears to have been resolved.

Midlothian were unable to supply information on returns in February and March 2022[2]. This has meant that their data for this period has been estimated, where possible, based on their January 2022 data, and on Scotland-level changes. This information will be updated in subsequent releases.

The data issues above mean that some caution is needed in interpreting figures for particular local authorities. More generally, the purpose of the review is to look at what can be learned about the SWF in the round, for Scotland as a whole, and not to carry out a detailed analysis of issues at a local authority level. Comparisons between local authorities can help shed light on whether the operation, funding and experiences of the Fund are consistent across Scotland or vary between areas. However, caution should be applied in picking out findings on individual local authorities and drawing conclusions from these, since there may be local contextual factors, data issues or other reasons for specific local variations that are not covered by the review.



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