Social Security (Act) 2018: progress report 2019 to 2020

This report is published under Section 20 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 which requires Scottish Ministers to report annually on the performance of the Scottish social security system.

Section 4: Equality Assessment and Data

The Act specifies that the annual report should contain an assessment of how the Scottish social security system has affected the circumstances of people whose finances are affected by a person in the household having a protected characteristic listed in section 4 of the Equality Act 2010 (for example age, disability).

As with last year’s report, the assessment of the impact on those with protected characteristics is partial, as only Best Start Grant  and Carers Allowance Supplement were paid during the lifetime of the 2019-20 financial year. Funeral Support Payment and Young Carers Grant were implemented part way through the period. Data are gathered in a number of ways. In some cases, data are a routine part of the application. Up to December 2019, data were also collected through a voluntary equalities monitoring questionnaire. Since December 2019, data on how individuals identify with respect to equalities are now collected within the application, although it is possible for an applicant to select that they prefer not to answer the question. 

Protected characteristics can affect household finance in two ways - one is if the characteristic is deemed to require specific support in the benefit system, and creates an eligibility for the benefit, for example, Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Birth payment, or disability payments (which will be delivered Social Security Scotland in the future). Secondly, a protected characteristic may be related to how likely an individual will be in the circumstances where they are eligible to claim benefits for low income.

The Scottish Government are able to identify those instances, where having a protected characteristic will directly impact on financial circumstances (e.g. the cost of disability or pregnancy) and record where benefits address this. Other impacts are more indirect (e.g. discrimination affecting access to employment), and are thus more difficult to quantify or assess the role benefits play in counteracting them.

The Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment is made to households where there is someone who is, or has recently been, pregnant. By 31 March 2020, 26,790 payments had been approved, adding £10.7 million to family budgets. Of these payments, 31 per cent were £600 payments for a first birth, and 69 per cent were £300 payments for a subsequent birth[4]

Best Start Foods launched in Scotland in August 2019 to replace the UK Healthy Start voucher scheme. It provides pregnant women and families with children under the age of three, who are in receipt of certain benefits, with a minimum of £4.25 a week to purchase healthy foods using a payment card. By 31 March 2020, 30,455 applications had been authorised. 

Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods share an integrated application process. Of all the Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods applications that were authorised for payment by 31 March 2020, 48,630 (53 per cent) were for applicants under 30.

With respect to Carer's Allowance Supplement, it is not possible from current data to say what the relationship is between the carer and the person who receives care. However, it is likely that a proportion of recipients will be providing care to a member of their household who must be a person in receipt of a specified disability benefit. In those circumstances, the additional support provided in 2019/20 - up to £452.40, through two payments of £226.20 – was a contribution to the carer's income which may have had an impact on the household overall. These payments were increased to £230.10 for 2020-21.

Women are disproportionately represented in the client group for Carer's Allowance Supplement, being 69 per cent of the client group for Carer's Allowance. In addition, 45 per cent of claimants for Carer's Allowance are aged over 50[5].

The Young Carer Grant was launched in October 2019. At the end of February 2020, 1030 awards had been authorised. Just under half of these (47 per cent) were paid to 16 year-olds, 34 per cent to 17 year olds and 18 per cent to 18 year olds[6].

In terms of the overall diversity of those applying for benefits through Social Security Scotland (for 2019-20, this includes Best Start Grant, Funeral Support Payment and Young Carer Grant), applicants were asked to complete a voluntary Equality Monitoring and Feedback form alongside their application. The response was relatively low (below five per cent), and since December 2019, equality monitoring questions are now a mandatory part of the application process (with a “prefer not to say” option. A further issue with the data is that that it is overwhelmingly drawn from the group applying for the Best Start Grants (95 per cent).

Accordingly, 50 per cent of the clients who responded were in the 25-34 age group (compared to 16 per cent of the population), as to apply for BSG, parents would tend to have a child under six. Most notably respondents tended to be women (91 per cent, compared to 51 per cent of the population). There were slight skews towards minority ethnic groups (7 per cent compared to 5 per cent in the population), respondents identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or other (6 per cent compared to 3 per cent of the population) rather than heterosexual (92 per cent compared to 95 per cent of the population), and 61 per cent reported having “no religion” compared to 50 per cent of the population. This latter point may be because 92 per cent of respondents were aged 16-44, where 63 per cent of the population report having no religion[7].

Further insight into Social Security Scotland's client base may be gained through a forthcoming all-client survey that will ask clients about their experiences and protected characteristics on a rolling basis shortly after their application. In addition, qualitative research will be undertaken with clients to gather insights into the impact they believe the benefit had on their quality of life, supporting an evaluation of the impact of the devolved benefits. Evaluations for Carer's Allowance Supplement and Best Start Grant (interim) are nearing completion will be published during Autumn 2020.

Carers in Scotland are predominantly female and on generally on lower incomes than those without caring responsibilities. For example, around two thirds of Carer’s Allowance recipients are female.  As well as benefitting the carer themselves, carer benefits will have an indirect positive impact on disabled people, as the person the carer looks after will be disabled. 

Scottish Government officials have worked alongside carer organisations and wider stakeholders to ensure information and advice on Carer’s Allowance Supplement is as accessible as possible. This was achieved through carer support organisations making this information available in a range of formats. The communications around the Supplement were also shaped by research undertaken with Experience Panels, speaking directly to carers with lived-experience to inform improvements to our communications. For the Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement, input from stakeholder organisations on our communications and ensured that information on this new payment was available in a range of formats, including video and BSL video.



Back to top