Step Four – Assessment
Does your assessment identify any unique impacts on island communities?
The policy is likely to have a positive impact as increasing incomes for low income families may make it easier to sustain residency on an island where cost of living can be higher.
The policy is likely to have a positive impact and lead to more money being spent in the local economy. This is because the value of SCP will increase to £25 a week and low income families will be able to receive payments until child is 16 for SCP. Uptake of both Early Learning Payment and School Age Payment are also likely to increase due to auto-award. We know that low income families tend to spend more of their money locally.
One island stakeholder confirmed to us that they felt that these social security payments have wider benefits of boosting local economies as result of spend in local shops and businesses, supporting responsible social behaviours and positively impacting health outcomes.
The policy is not reliant on high-capacity broadband or access to public transport and is therefore not likely to lead to unfair access. Social Security Scotland take a multi-channel approach and therefore applications can be made online, in writing, by telephone or in person. Support during the application process can be provided via webchat, by telephone or in person.
The policy is likely to have a positive impact by increasing incomes for low income families. The payments are likely to be helpful in meeting the increased cost of living in island communities, including fuel costs.
Those who have a fluctuating entitlement to Universal Credit will still be able to access SCP and BSG. SCP allows determination to be made without an application where someone loses entitlement to UC and then regains it within 12 weeks. When SCP is reinstated, a check will be done to see whether an auto-award of either Early Learning Payment or School Age Payment is applicable.
Social Security Scotland currently creates all its promotional materials in seven alternative community languages including Gaelic.
Does your assessment identify any potential barriers or wider impacts?
Accessibility, stigma and the higher cost of living in island communities were all identified as potential barriers by island stakeholders.
Limited public transport, the extended time required to travel and increased costs to attend appointments were highlighted by island stakeholders as was a lack of digital technology, connectivity and skills. It was noted that some island groups have better transport links than others.
The need for equality of access to face to face support was said to be very important for income maximisation support services. While Social Security Scotland was said to be working well with local stakeholders to raise awareness, one stakeholder told us that the face to face service available from Social Security Scotland was currently limited and not yet able to respond to the full needs of island residents. They highlighted that existing local advice provision via both the local authority and the third sector was important in ensuring access to entitlement and that there was scope for them to deliver support on behalf of Social Security Scotland.
It was noted that stigma is a highly prevalent factor when living on a low income and particularly stigma related to the social security system. Levels of stigma were seen to vary between islands and island groups. We heard that the proportion of incomers in island communities and the size of those communities could impact the level of stigma, and also that stigma was more prevalent in smaller communities, where people living with financial hardship are living close to those with relative wealth.
Cost of Living
It was noted that there is generally a higher cost of living in the islands. Cost of living were said to be particularly higher during winter and the cost of living crisis was likely to be more challenging for more remote communities. As a result of the higher cost of living in island communities, it was felt that the value of BSG and SCP in real terms, would be less in island communities though it would differ between places due to geography or transport links.
Are there mitigations already in place for these impacts raised?
Island stakeholders felt that the best way to overcome the barrier of accessibility was by offering multi-channel access to social security and it was recognised that this is already in place. We also heard that the introduction of auto-award for the Early Learning Payment and School Age Payment could help overcome some of the accessibility issues.
The Local Delivery Service for Social Security Scotland continues to expand. 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. The Scottish Government has committed to providing £10 million of funding over this parliamentary term to increase access to advice services to maximise incomes, tackle the poverty penalty and improve wellbeing. This will be in accessible settings, for example schools.
Raising awareness about the positive socio-economic impacts for local businesses and the wider community benefits, from maximising incomes from social security, was seen as one way in which to reduce stigma.
The Charter for Social Security Scotland already 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; and
- changing the language on social security - introducing more positive words to describe the service and the people who use it.
We also heard that the introduction of auto-award for the Early Learning Payment and School Age Payment could help reduce stigma.
Cost of living
As 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.
One stakeholder suggested that we consider an uplift for island communities. We have considered this, but this would be complex to administer and would not be in line with the approach taken to other social security payments that we deliver. As SCP and BSF are an ongoing entitlements, the amount paid would need to fluctuate where a recipient moved in to or out of an island community and this would increase the risk that overpayments would be made. We also noted that through the National Plan for the Islands, actions have already been identified to tackle the higher costs of fuel, transport and housing as well as to drive inclusive and sustainable economic growth. These actions are likely to have a more direct and positive impact on tackling the cost of living for all residents in Island communities.
Is a full Island Communities Impact Assessment required?
You should now determine whether, in your opinion, your policy, strategy or service is likely to have an effect on an island community which is significantly different from its effect on other communities (including other island communities). To form your opinion, the following questions should be considered:
- Are there mitigations in place for the impacts identified and noted above from stakeholders and community consultations? (If further ICIA action is not required, complete the section below and publish).
- Does the evidence show different circumstances or different expectations or needs, or different experiences or outcomes (such as levels of satisfaction, or different rates of participation)?
- Are these different effects likely?
- Are these effects significantly different?
- Could the effect amount to a disadvantage for an island community compared to the mainland or between island groups?
- If your answer is 'no' to the above questions, please complete the box below.
- If the answer is 'yes', an ICIA must be prepared and you should proceed to Step 5.
A full Islands Community Impact Assessment is NOT required
In preparing the ICIA, I have formed an opinion that our policy, strategy or service is NOT likely to have an effect on an island community which is significantly different from its effect on other communities (including other island communities). The reason for this is detailed below.
Reason for not completing a full Islands Communities Impact Assessment:
Mitigations are already in place for the impacts identified and some of the changes we are introducing will further mitigate these impacts. The evidence does not suggest that any new negative impacts will be created by the changes we are introducing.
Screening ICIA completed by Nicola Birrell - Senior Policy Officer
Signature and date: Nicola Birrell 26 August 2022
ICIA authorised by Ian Davidson – Deputy Director, Social Security Policy
Signature and date: Ian Davidson 31 August 2022
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