Questions 1 to 3: Eligibility criteria
Section 5 of the consultation document set out the key eligibility criteria for Job Grant. Most respondents agreed that these were clear while a number suggested potential improvements or sought clarification about specific points.
The consultation proposed that, in order to receive the grant, a young person must have been offered paid employment in the UK that averages at least 16 hours per week over a four week period, and is expected to last at least three months. While the use of average hours seeks to address evidence that some young people are employed on zero hour contracts, some respondents expressed concern that this was still insufficiently flexible.
Since the proposed rule may have had a disproportionate effect on individuals who can only work a limited number of hours a week, we have changed it. In order to be eligible, a young person must now be in receipt of a job offer that is expected to average 12 hours per week over a four week period.
Similarly, since the length of time the job is expected to last may not be something that applicants necessarily know, or assume with confidence, when accepting a job, we have removed the requirement for the job to be expected to last three months or more.
The consultation proposed that the application window for Job Grant would begin 14 days before the employment start date and end 14 days after it. While user research with young people found that the nature of most jobs provides a very short period from job offer to expected start date, almost half of respondents to the consultation felt that this application window should be extended. The reasons given included that some people may require extra support to complete the application or may need additional time to gather or provide evidence which demonstrates their eligibility. It was also suggested that a longer application window would improve the chances of an eligible young person people finding out about the grant and making a successful application.
We think, therefore, that it would be better for the application period to begin on the job offer date so that young people are eligible to apply as soon as they find out they have a job. This would also be consistent with our approach to other eligibility criteria (such as age, residency and length of time out of work) which are determined at the date of the job offer. We have also decided to extend the application window to last 3 months to help to maximise take up and to enable a potential applicant to establish a pattern of employment over a number of weeks. This should enable them to decide with greater confidence whether the job is likely to meet the eligibility criteria.
The consultation proposed that the job offered must be based in the UK. While no concerns were raised about this during the consultation period, we believe it would be fairer, and easier to administer, if there were no restrictions on the location of the job. Removing this restriction would enable young people to still qualify for the payment if they took a job with a company based overseas or with a UK company with sites overseas. Regardless of where the job is based, applicants will still have to demonstrate that they were ordinarily resident in Scotland on the date of the job offer.
Job Grant for 16 and 17 year olds
The consultation proposed that young people should be able to apply for Job Grant from the age of 16. Some respondents noted that many 16 and 17 year olds will generally not be able to qualify for Job Grant since it is only available to those in receipt of out of work benefits, eligibility for which is restricted by the UK Government to those aged 18 and over. Similarly, 16 and 17 year olds who are being cared for by a local authority, or are being supported by the authority after leaving care, will not be eligible for such benefits.
As Job Start Payment specifically aims to smooth the transition into employment for young people on low incomes, it is important that we are able to verify the applicant's entitlement quickly and efficiently. The use of low income benefits as a qualifying criterion allows Social Security Scotland to do this through the sharing of data with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Without this information it would be more time consuming and complex for us to implement Job Start Payment.
Some 16 and 17 year olds can be eligible to receive out of work benefits where, for example, they have limited capability for work, are responsible for a child or are estranged from their parents. Many 16 and 17 year olds will not be in receipt of out of work benefits because they are in further education or training. We have explored the possibility of enabling a young person to be eligible for Job Start Payment based on other criteria, for example if their parent or carer receives a low income benefit, or if they themselves had previously received Free School Meals. However, the complexity these changes would add to the administration of the grant would be disproportionate. Furthermore, the second option would only verify that the person had previously been part of a household living on a low income.
Different eligibility rules for care leavers
Young people leaving care will be eligible to apply for Job Start Payment until they are 26 years old. Care leavers will also be eligible for Job Start Payment earlier: as soon as they are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, rather than having to have been out of paid work for 6 months before they receive an offer of employment.
We have made these exceptions as outcomes for young people leaving care tend to be worse than those for young people as a whole. Young people leaving the care system are twice as likely to end up not in education, training or employment by the age of 19. We know that the experience of being in care can significantly impact an individual's well-being and life chances, making the transition from care difficult. Care leavers are over-represented among those experiencing imprisonment, teenage pregnancy, mental health issues, depression, expulsion from school, drug misuse, and homelessness and among those leaving school with no qualification.
We also received a number of representations suggesting that other groups of young people, in addition to care leavers, should be entitled to receive Job Grant without having to have been out of paid work and in receipt of benefits for 6 months. Others also suggested that the age range for other groups should be extended. However, the lack of clear evidence of additional need and the requirement to finalise the eligibility criteria in order to ensure the payment will be ready to launch in the spring all argue against introducing further variation to the eligibility rules at this time.
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