Publication - Research and analysis

Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 - benefit take-up strategy - October 2021: measuring take-up of low-income benefits

In this supplementary paper to our second benefit take-up strategy we set out our approach to the measurement of low income benefits.

Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 - benefit take-up strategy - October 2021: measuring take-up of low-income benefits
2. Best Start Grant: Pregnancy and Baby Payment

2. Best Start Grant: Pregnancy and Baby Payment

Background

The Pregnancy and Baby Payment is one of three, one-off payments that constitutes Best Start Grant. This payment helps with the costs of a new baby and is made to eligible families around the time of their child’s birth. It is currently worth £606 for a family’s first child and £303 for subsequent children. In most cases, an application can be made for the Pregnancy and Baby Payment from 24 weeks pregnant until the child is 6 months old (if someone takes over looking after the child, they have until the child turns one to make an application).[6]

Approach to Estimating Take-Up

To calculate take-up of the Pregnancy and Baby Payment, we express the number of benefit recipients as a percentage of the total number of people who are eligible for the benefit.

To calculate the number of benefit recipients, we use management information from Social Security Scotland on the number of children that have had a Pregnancy and Baby Payment claimed for them. This data includes the number of ‘eligible’ children attached to a paid application, by their month of birth. The child’s date of birth from the application form is used to determine which Best Start Grant payment they are ‘eligible’ for. The data we use is different to the official statistics for Best Start Grant, which are reported on the basis of the number of applications, where one application can be made for multiple children, or the total value of payments.

We need to estimate the total number of people who are eligible for the Pregnancy and Baby Payment. This is the number of births where the child’s parents or carers receive a qualifying benefit (or qualifies through other means), and is estimated by month of birth cohorts. To do this, we use UKMOD to first estimate the percentage of children under 6 who are eligible for a Best Start Grant payment (i.e. their parent or carer is predicted to be in receipt of a qualifying benefit). This is our eligibility rate, which is combined with data from National Records of Scotland (NRS) on the monthly number of births to calculate the size of the eligible population. We base our calculations using UKMOD on children under 6 because the sample size of the FRS is too small to produce eligibility rates for narrower age groups.

In our calculation of the size of the eligible population, we account for mothers under the age of 18 being eligible for the Pregnancy and Baby Payment regardless of whether they receive a qualifying benefit. In addition, we account for the fact that the Pregnancy and Baby Payment can be claimed for still births.

Our estimate of the size of the eligible population for the Pregnancy and Baby Payment is calculated for first and subsequent births separately. We differentiate between the two on the basis of whether a benefit unit has only one child, or multiple children, in our calculation of the eligibility rate using UKMOD. This serves as a proxy for a first or subsequent birth, respectively.

Figure 4. Methodology to Calculate Take-Up of Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment

  • Take Social Security Scotland management information on Pregnancy and Baby Payments made to children;
  • Estimate the small number of remaining payments expected in application windows that have a maximum of six months left in the application window, this gives the number of benefit recipients;
  • Take NRS data on the number of live-births and the number of still-births, to get the total number of births;
  • Estimate the share of first or subsequent births, and births where the mother is under 18;
  • Use UKMOD to estimate eligibility rates, with an adjustment to improve alignment with outturn benefit caseload data.
  • Apply eligibility rates to births, and 100% eligibility rate for mothers under 18, his gives the estimated total eligible population;
  • Take-up is calculated by dividing the number of benefit recipients by the estimated total eligible population.

Take-up of the Pregnancy and Baby Payment is calculated for children born from April 2019 to November 2020. We do not consider children born from December 2018 to March 2019 because parents or carers of these children could still have received the UK Government’s Sure Start Maternity Grant and did not have a full application window to apply. An application window is the period of time around the child’s birth when an application for Pregnancy and Baby Payment can be made (typically from four months prior to birth to six months after birth). As such, these clients are not directly comparable with later clients. We have included children born up to November 2020 as this was the last month where the opportunity to apply for a Pregnancy and Baby Payment had closed, as of the data cut-off date.

Estimate of Take-Up

For children born from April 2019 to November 2020, we estimate that take-up of the Pregnancy and Baby Payment was 79%. We have also estimated the take-up rate for first and subsequent births separately. Over the same time period, we estimate that take-up of the Pregnancy and Baby Payment was higher for subsequent births (83%) than for first births (71%). The following diagram illustrates the coverage of our estimate of take-up:

Figure 5. Coverage of Estimate of Take-Up of Best Start Grant: Pregnancy & Baby Payment

  • January 2014 - November 2018: Payment Not (Yet) Available, as of September 2021
  • December 2018 - March 2019: Payment Available - Not Included in Take-Up Estimate
  • April 2019 - November 2020: Payment Available - Included in Take-Up Estimate
  • December 2020 - December 2021: Payment Available - Not Included in Take-Up Estimate

Comparing Take-Up Estimates of Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment

In the first Benefit Take-Up Strategy, we had published a first estimate of take-up for the Pregnancy and Baby Payment that was 67% for children born from 1 December 2018 to 31 March 2019. These cohorts of children are not included in our current estimate of take-up (79%) because clients did not have a full application window to apply and could still have received the UK Government’s Sure Start Maternity Grant, so are not directly comparable with later clients. For reference, we would now estimate take-up over this period to be 71%, an increase of 4 percentage points. This difference reflects new payment data from Social Security Scotland, updated eligibility estimates and changes to our approach to calculating take-up.

Caveats and Limitations

In addition to the limitations set out in Boxes A and B, there are some key caveats attached to this take-up estimate.

We use management information produced by Social Security Scotland for the number of benefit recipients. This data accounts for instances of multiple births, using information included in the client’s application form on the ‘expected number of children’ they will have. This information is not available for a small number of applications (0.4%) so the modal value (one child) is used.

We estimate the small number of payments remaining for those cohorts of children where the application window has not closed, and there are up to six months until the child turns one. We estimate that this accounts for a very small number of payments (less than 3% of payments in a given month of birth cohort, based on the profile of payments in completed, full application windows). This maximises the coverage of our take-up estimates and ensures we make efficient use of the available payment data. These figures will be revised with outturn data going forward.


Contact

Email: ruari.sutherland@gov.scot