Step One – Develop A Clear Understanding Of Your Objectives
What are the objectives of the policy, strategy or service?
Scottish Child Payment, Best Start Foods and the 3 Best Start Grant payments – Pregnancy and Baby Payment, Early Learning Payment and School Age Payment - are known collectively as the Five Family Payments (FFP). Delivered by Social Security Scotland, they are five different payments which aim to provide support to low income families with the costs of raising a child.
Scottish Child Payment (SCP) launched on 15 February 2021 and was introduced by the Scottish Government to tackle child poverty for low income families in receipt of reserved benefits. As of 1 April 2022, it pays the equivalent of £20 a week per child every four weeks in arrears to families with no cap on the number of eligible children a family can claim for. SCP is currently paid to families with children under the age of 6 – recognising that, of all children in poverty, almost 60% live in a household where the youngest child is aged under 6, and the early years are key to improving long term outcomes. While it has always been our intention that SCP should be paid to children under 16, we were able to introduce the Scottish Child Payment early for all eligible children under six. By now rolling out SCP to children aged between 6 and 15 we are expanding this intervention to tackle child poverty which is unparalleled across the UK. These regulations will increase the value of SCP to £25 a week per child. This could lift 50,000 children out of poverty, reducing overall child poverty by an estimated 5 percentage points in 2023/24.
The Scottish Government has replaced the Sure Start Maternity Grant in Scotland with the Best Start Grant (BSG). The BSG is intended to support eligible families with the additional costs associated with having a child in their early years. It aims to help alleviate material deprivation, tackle inequality, and contribute to closing the educational attainment gap. The grant provides support to low income families at three key transition points in a child's early years.
The BSG consists of 3 payments: Pregnancy and Baby; Early Learning; and School Age. As of 1 April 2022, the Pregnancy and Baby Payment provides £642.35 for a first child and £321.20 for second and subsequent children. An additional payment of £321.20 is payable in the case of a multiple birth. The payment also provides support for people who have had a stillbirth. Both the Early Learning Payment and the School Age Payment provide £267.65 per child.
The Scottish Government replaced the UK Healthy Start Voucher scheme in Scotland with Best Start Foods (BSF) on 12 August 2019. BSF supports low income families with a pregnant woman and/or a child or children under the age of 3. The payments are delivered via a pre-paid card.
BSF currently provides £18 every four weeks throughout pregnancy, £36 every four weeks from birth until a child turns one to support breastfeeding mothers or help with the costs of providing first infant formula milk, then £18 every four weeks from one until a child turns three.
The FFP all target support to low income families. For most eligible individuals, qualifying benefits are used as a proxy for means testing. For BSF, there are income thresholds which apply to some of the benefits.
We want to:
- expand eligibility for SCP to low income families with a child under 16 (currently children under 6);
- increase SCP to £25 a week
- In the unfortunate situation where a child to whom a claim relates dies, these amendments will also provide for a payment, equivalent to the value of Scottish Child Payments made in the 12 weeks prior to the child's death, to be made. This will bring the payment closer in line with the reserved benefits which act as qualifying benefits for SCP;
- allow reinstatement of SCP within 12 weeks of effective change rather than within 12 weeks of original determination;
- introduce auto-award for elements of BSG to reduce the need for applications and increase uptake;
- update the meaning of surrogacy for BSG and BSF to mirror change to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008;
- remove the condition that the child is not looked after by the local authority in residential care for BSG;
- provide new exceptions to the general rule that an individual is only entitled to the higher Pregnancy and Baby Payment when they are applying in respect of their first child, for families in the following situations, who are more likely to be starting from scratch without the items that the Pregnancy and Baby payment is intended to provide:
- individuals granted refugee status, humanitarian protection, or leave under the Afghanistan resettlement schemes or the Ukraine resettlement schemes, who have a child from before they arrived in the UK;
- individuals who took on responsibility for a child/children who was not their own when that child/children was more than 12 months old; and
- individuals who have been forced to leave their home with a child/children due to domestic abuse;
- widen the definition of kinship care across BSG, BSF and SCP to ensure that, as we roll out SCP to under 16s, eligible kinship carers who are not related to the child but are known to them and have a pre-existing relationship with the child are included.
What are the intended impacts/ outcomes and how do these potentially differ across the islands?
The intended impact is to:
- support more children in poverty by increasing age threshold for SCP;
- provide greater support to children in poverty by increasing the value of SCP;
- support more children in poverty by removing the condition for BSG that the child is not looked after by the local authority in residential care and expanding the meaning of surrogacy for both BSG and BSF;
- provide a more compassionate and dignified system in the event of the death of a child or SCP recipient;
- make it easier for families to receive Early Learning Payment and School Age Payment of BSG and increase uptake of both;
- provide greater support to families who are more likely to be starting from scratch without the items the Pregnancy and Baby Payment is intended to provide; and
- ensure that, as we roll out SCP to under 16s, eligible kinship carers who are not related to the child but are known to them and have a pre-existing relationship with the child are included.
Potential impacts for islands:
- Greater resilience for families to meet higher cost of living in island communities – increasing incomes for low income families may make it easier to sustain residency on an island where cost of living can be higher;
- Reduce the stigma around applying for benefits which can be greater in remote rural communities - by making it easier to receive elements of BSG without the need for an application;
- Reduce the need to travel or have online access in order to apply for benefits, which can be barriers for island communities - by making it easier to receive elements of BSG without the need for an application;
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