Article 13: Social and economic benefits
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in other areas of economic and social life in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, the same rights, in particular:
(a) The right to family benefits;
(b) The right to bank loans, mortgages and other forms of financial credit;
(c) The right to participate in recreational activities, sports and all aspects of cultural life.
13.1 Social Security Benefits
The UK Government began rolling out Universal Credit ( UC) in early 2015. The roll-out of full service Universal Credit in Scotland began in March 2016. One feature of this new benefit is that it will be paid to households, not individuals.
The Scottish Government is concerned that this may put women at greater risk of financial abuse.
The Scottish Government has a clear commitment to exploring how and when split payments of Universal Credit can be delivered in Scotland, a commitment we are already progressing. An amendment to introduce automatic split payments of the Universal Credit award, with the option to opt out, was accepted and passed at Stage 3 of the Social Security (Scotland) Bill on 25 April 2018. We have been engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, including women's organisations, to develop policy options for delivering split payments of the Universal Credit award and we will be undertaking further work over the coming months. This will include discussions with the Department of Work and Pensions ( DWP) on the feasibility, operational and cost implications of delivering split payments in Scotland.
We will make an announcement in due course on how and when split payments can be delivered.
The Scottish Government has committed to taking a rights based approach to the delivery of devolved social security benefits and has made express provision for this on the face of the Social Security (Scotland) Bill. In line with these principles, the Scottish Government has continually looked for ways to extend the adequacy of assistance by increasing payment levels, widen eligibility and to provide a more supportive, positive experience for people who will rely on the new system for support.
13.2 Women and Girls in Sport
In 2017 a Women and Girls in Sport Advisory Board was established to provide independent advice to the Minister for Public Health and Sport on female participation and awareness raising in all areas of sport and physical activity. It is intended that this group will recommend further improvements to drive participation in sport and physical activity amongst women and girls and discuss how more private and media investment could be attracted into the sector.
13.3 The Scottish Welfare Fund
The Scottish Welfare Fund is a vital lifeline for people across Scotland. It aims to provide a safety net to people on low incomes by the provision of Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants. From April 2013 to 31 March 2017 more than 254,000 individual households in Scotland have been helped with awards totalling £132.6 million from the Scottish Welfare Fund. Of the 254,000 low income households, almost 137,000 were single person households and more than 84,000 were families with children.
In the same period almost 170,000 Community Care Grants were awarded to enable people to live, or continue to live independently preventing the need for institutional care, and help families facing exceptional pressure. The awards were typically for floor coverings, white goods and furnishings. Crisis Grants provide a safety net when someone experiences an emergency situation, and where there is an immediate threat to health and safety. Just over 400,000 Crisis Grants were awarded and most of the expenditure was on food, essential heating costs and other living expenses.
13.4 Early Learning and Childcare
In Scotland, Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 increased the amount of funded early learning and childcare to 600 hours per year for all three to four-year olds. This has been extended to around a quarter of two- year olds who may benefit most, including those with a parent in receipt of out of work benefits or on low income; and those who are looked after, the subject of a kinship care order, or with a parent appointed guardian.
The statutory entitlement will be increasing to 1140 hours a year by 2020. This expansion in entitlement will be underpinned by a funding follows the child model, which prioritises quality provision while enhancing parental choice and increasing flexibility. The total public sector investment in delivery of early learning and childcare is expected to reach £840 million by the end of this Parliament (2021-22). Local authorities are already starting to phase in this expansion and have been asked to prioritise phasing in the areas of highest deprivation.
13.5 Fairer Scotland Action Plan
The Scottish Government's Fairer Scotland Action Plan sets out Scotland's vision for a fairer and more equal Scotland and includes 50 concrete actions that we will take in this Parliamentary term.
Considerable progress has been made on delivery of these actions: the first annual progress report was published in November 2017; on 9 February, Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill was introduced which will establish Scotland as the only part of the UK with ambitious statutory income targets to reduce child poverty by 2030. The Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 8 November 2017.
The Scottish Government has consulted on a socio-economic duty which came into force on 1 April 2018, ensuring that public bodies take full consideration of socio-economic disadvantage when making key decisions. Other key actions include almost doubling Early Learning and Childcare provision by 2020, investing in our £750 million attainment programme to close the gap for pupils from the most deprived areas, and the establishment of a national poverty and inequality commission. Alongside these actions to develop a fairer future we continue to protect the most vulnerable and those on low incomes by mitigating the worst impacts of the UK Government's welfare cuts.
The Scottish Government will take new steps to tackle poverty in the short term and consider changes for the longer term. These were outlined in the 2017-18 Programme for Government (PfG) and include: establishing a new £50 million Tackling Child Poverty Fund and providing access to free sanitary products to students in schools, colleges and universities.
13.6 Carers Allowance
59% of carers in Scotland are women and in 2015, 69% of Carers Allowance ( CA) recipients were female. The Scottish Government is making the following changes to Carer's Allowance:
The Scottish Government is increasing Carer's Allowance to the level of Jobseekers' Allowance from summer 2018, backdated to April 2018, an increase of £10.40 a week. From autumn 2019, a Young Carer Grant of £300 a year will be paid to all 16 and 17-year olds and 18-year olds still in school who have significant caring responsibilities. Within the current parliamentary term there will also be additional support introduced for those caring for more than one disabled child.