Information

The Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendment and Transitional Provision) (Scotland) Regulations 2022: islands communities impact assessment screening template

The islands communities impact assessment (ICIA) considers changes to Best Start Foods, Best Start Grants and Scottish Child Payment in relation to the impacts on people living in the Islands under Section 8 of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018.


Step Two – Gather Your Data And Identify Your Stakeholders

What data is available about the current situation in the islands?

Poverty

On average, rates of poverty tend to be lower in rural areas. However, there are 40,000 children in rural areas that are in poverty, and the barriers to leaving poverty may be greater for those in rural areas. For example, lack of access to employment can also be an issue in rural areas. Poor public transport networks mean that people may not have good access to opportunities for employment, particularly if they rely on bus networks.[3]

In 2019, the fuel poverty rate for remote rural (43%) households was higher than for urban (24%) households or rural households (29%).[4]

Access

Just over a third of island residents say that it is easy to connect between different forms of transport when making journeys to or from their home.[5]

For children, there are problems of access to youth clubs and after-school clubs; over 35% of children in remote rural areas had difficulties accessing youth clubs compared to under 20% in all other areas.[6]

Access to services and support can be difficult. It is suggested that poverty in rural areas may be more isolating in its impact, due to the greater visibility of individuals within rural communities and a rural ideal of self-reliance, i.e. getting things done for yourself. Poor adults in remote rural areas have been found to have particular problems with low levels of support.[7]

Stigma

Through previous user research and experience panels conducted when designing BSG, Funeral Support Assistance and Young Carers Grant[8] we have found that there is a danger of stigma hindering applications for benefits, particularly in more rural communities.

Cost of living

There is widespread evidence that rural areas, and remote and island communities in particular, experience higher costs of living for some goods and services.

In rural and remote areas the costs of travel to essential services, is generally much higher. Those experiencing poverty may be unable to afford transport which reduces their quality of life and increases social isolation. In circumstances where there is no public transport infrastructure families may be forced to run a car, putting pressure on their finances.[9]

Highlands and Island Enterprise found that, typically, the minimum cost of living in remote rural Scotland ranged between 10% and 35% more than the equivalent in urban Britain in 2016.[10]

More recent research has shown that additional minimum living costs for a households in remote rural Scotland typically add 15-30% to a household budget, compared to urban areas of the UK. It also found that for families with children staying in an island community, the food budget required for a minimum acceptable living standard was likely to be 13% higher than in an urban community in the UK. Similarly the budget required for clothing was likely to be 12% higher, for household goods to be 10% higher, for travel to be 28% higher and for social participation to be 18% higher.[11]

Social Security

The latest analysis of client diversity and equalities data[12] shows that for approved SCP applications between December 2020 and May 2021, 1% (410) were from people in island communities. The same analysis showed that for approved BSG and BSF applications, 1% (160) were from people in island communities.

Unpublished analysis of the Social Security Scotland Client Survey information for the period Sep 20 – March 21 showed that those living in island communities reported similar rates of satisfaction to those living in mainland communities, both when applying for the benefits and overall when dealing with Social Security Scotland. There is some evidence that suggests that those living in island communities were less likely to apply by phone, compared to those living in mainland communities. However, this is difficult to say conclusively given the low number of responses from those living in island communities. The percentage of applications made online or by post by those living in island communities were similar to those living in mainland communities. Overall, very few applications were made in person and none of these applications came from those living in island communities.

Who are our key Stakeholders?

Island local authorities and Islands Federation – we have contacted all of these stakeholders for their views.

How does any existing data differ between islands?

Access

In relation to how easy it is to connect between different forms of transport when making journeys to or from their home, Arran, Bute and the Cumbraes have higher levels of agreement with this statement (60%), and Uist and Barra has significantly lower levels (9%).[13]

Connectivity

While 62% of island residents agree that their internet connection at home is reliable, there is significantly lower agreement in Shetland Outer Isles (30%) and Orkney Outer Isles (35%).[14]

Are there any existing design features or mitigations in place?

Connectivity and access

Social Security Scotland operate a multi-channel approach and can take applications online, by phone or by post. Clients can also interact with the agency by web-chat. This helps address both connectivity and access challenges.

Social Security Scotland has set up a Local Delivery service which is made up of specially trained Client Support Advisers who are based within every local authority area in Scotland including our Island communities. These staff operate at the local level, helping and informing clients of benefits available and assisting clients claim what they are entitled to. They give clients a choice in regard to how they access the service by offering support in outreach locations, home visits and prisons. Clients can book an appointment to meet with an adviser at a venue within their local community or at their home and are also able to request video call or telephone appointments.

The Local Delivery Relationship Leads have built close relationships with Local Authorities, Health & Social Care and Third Sector agencies creating opportunities to co-locate agency staff and deliver a service that is tailored to meet the differing needs of each individual area. For example in the Western Isles they are co-located with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, in Orkney with Skills Development Scotland, in Shetland with the NHS and in Argyll & Bute they have community outreach locations with LiveArgyll.

Once fully operational, there will be at least 400 staff spread across all local authority areas in Scotland. Over the coming year they will seek to become embedded and known in the local community.

Our communications and engagement strategy will include a focus on people living in island communities. As well as marketing and promotion via TV and radio, it will include communication via social media, local newspapers and local health boards.

The Scottish Government has committed to providing £10 million of funding over this parliamentary term to increase access to advice services to maximise incomes and tackle poverty. This will be in accessible settings, for example schools.

Stigma

To help address the stigma around claiming benefits, the Charter for Social Security Scotland[15] commits us to: promoting a positive view of social security, explaining it is a public service to be proud of – a human right there for all of us who need it; publicly challenging the myths and stereotypes about social security to help reduce stigma and negativity; changing the language on social security - introducing more positive words to describe the service and the people who use it.

We have also made the application form for the benefits as straightforward as possible, with a single form used to apply for SCP, BSG, and BSF, to encourage those who experience stigma to take up their entitlement.

Social Security Scotland have staff in co-located sites across the country from rural to urban to islands settings. These staff are mobile and flexible, so that they can support clients in places most convenient to them – including their own homes, venues in their local community, hospitals, care homes and prisons. It is hoped this will reduce the stigma felt by people, since the reason for their visit will not be immediately obvious to other members of the community.

Cost of living

As both BSG and SCP can be used flexibly, they are both able to help those in island communities meet the increased cost of living that they face.

Previous user research for SCP found that £10 per week was significant enough to have a positive effect on families. In particular, those participating identified that the additional money could be spent on helping out with essentials such as the weekly shop or clothing.

Prevalence of seasonal/zero hours work

To ensure those who have fluctuating UC awards are able to access the benefits, applicants for BSG and BSF qualify if the UC award is more than £0 in the month of or the month before the application. This means that an applicant knows when they apply that there is an award of UC in place. BSG also has wide application windows; 10 months for the pregnancy and baby payment, 18 months for the early years payment and 9 months for the school payment. SCP can be reinstated without the need for a new application window if a person becomes eligible again within 12 weeks of becoming ineligible.

For auto-award, where someone is not eligible for SCP at the beginning of the BSG application window but later becomes eligible, auto-award will be activated as long as it is within the relevant BSG application window.

Contact

Email: kai.stuart@gov.scot

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