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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.

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3. Best Start Grant: Early Learning Payment

Background

The Early Learning Payment is one of three, one-off payments that constitutes Best Start Grant. This payment helps with the costs of early learning and is made to eligible families when the child is aged between 2 and 3 ½ years old. It is currently worth £252.50 per child.[7]

Approach to Estimating Take-Up

To calculate take-up of the Early Learning Payment, we need to 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 an Early Learning 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 Early Learning Payment. This is the number of children that satisfy the age criterion of the Early Learning Payment and whose parents or carers receive a qualifying benefit. We estimate the number of eligible children 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. We then estimate the monthly profile of births, using National Records of Scotland (NRS) data on births and population estimates, and apply our eligibility rate to this estimate of the monthly number of births. We take this approach instead of just using births data as it accounts for deaths and migration. We base our calculations using UKMOD on children under 6 because the sample size of the Family Resources Survey (FRS) is too small to produce eligibility rates for narrower age groups.

We calculate take-up by dividing the number of children that received an Early Learning Payment by our estimate of the number of children eligible for an Early Learning Payment, by month of birth cohorts. Our estimate of take-up covers children born from November 2016 to November 2017. We have included cohorts of children where the applicant had at least 12 months to apply when the payment was introduced (rather than the full application window length of 18 months). This is because the shortened length of time to apply does not appear to have affected the number of children receiving a payment in these cohorts. We have included children born up to November 2017 as this was the last month where the opportunity to apply for an Early Learning Payment had closed, as of the data cut-off date.

Figure 6 provides a high-level summary of the approach taken to calculate take-up of the Early Learning Payment.

Figure 6. Methodology to Calculate Take-Up of Best Start Grant Early Learning Payment

  • Take Social Security Scotland management information on Early Learning Payments made to children, this gives the number of benefit recipients;
  • Take NRS population estimate data for Scotland.
  • Estimate the number of children who are within the age range for an Early Learning Payment, by month of birth;
  • Use UKMOD to estimate eligibility rates, with an adjustment to improve alignment with outturn benefit caseload data;
  • Apply eligibility rates to children within the age range for an Early Learning Payment, this gives the estimated total eligible population;
  • Take-up is calculated by dividing the number of benefit recipients by the estimated total eligible population. This is calculated for cohorts of children that have had a full (or close to) application window.

Estimate of Take-Up

For children born from November 2016 to November 2017, we estimate that take-up of the Early Learning Payment was 84%. The following diagram illustrates the coverage of our estimate of take-up:

Figure 7. Coverage of Estimate of Take-Up of Best Start Grant: Early Learning Payment

  • January 2014 - October 2015: Payment Not (Yet) Available, as of September 2021
  • November 2015 - October 2016: Payment Available - Not Included in Take-Up Estimate
  • November 2016 - November 2017: Payment Available - Included in Take-Up Estimate
  • December 2017 - September 2019: Payment Available - Not Included in Take-Up Estimate
  • October 2019 - December 2021: Payment Not (Yet) Available, as of September 2021

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. The data we use for the Early Learning Payment includes the number of paid children, based on the month the application for the payment was received in. This is calculated by dividing the total value of Early Learning Payments issued in a month by £250 (the value of one payment, prior to uprating) to get the number of unique children paid. This payment data is linked to application data, which includes the date of birth of all children attached to the application. For each paid application, the month of birth is calculated for each child who meets the eligible age range for the Early Learning Payment.

For a small number of applications (5%), the application data did not have details of a child within the eligible age range for the Early Learning Payment. This could be because the application was late or the client made an error in their application form that was later corrected by case managers at Social Security Scotland. Given the payment data reflects the ‘true’ number of unique children receiving the payment, we use this to scale our profile of the month of birth of children receiving an Early Learning Payment. This ensures that the number of children receiving an Early Learning Payment that we use in our calculations is in line with the ‘true’ number of unique children receiving an Early Learning Payment, and we are able to calculate the number of children receiving an Early Learning Payment based on their month of birth.

Contact

Email: ruari.sutherland@gov.scot

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