4. Best Start Grant: School Age Payment
The School Age Payment is one of three, one-off payments that constitutes Best Start Grant. This payment helps with the costs of preparing for school and is made to eligible families around the time the child is first old enough to start Primary school. It is currently worth £252.50 per child. There is a set window of time (1 June – 28 February, 9 months) that parents or carers of eligible children born five years prior (1 March – 28 February, 12 months) can apply in.
Approach to Estimating Take-Up
To calculate take-up of the School Age 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 a School Age Payment claimed for them. This data includes the number of ‘eligible’ children attached to a paid application, by the month of application. 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 School Age Payment. This is the number of children that satisfy the age criterion of the School Age 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 FRS is too small to produce eligibility rates for narrower age groups.
We calculate take-up by dividing the number of children that received a School Age Payment by our estimate of the number of children eligible for a School Age Payment. Our estimate of take-up covers the first two application windows since the benefit’s launch i.e. children born from March 2014 to February 2016, or applications for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 years.
Figure 8 provides a high-level summary of the approach taken to calculate take-up of the School Age Payment.
Figure 8. Methodology to Calculate Take-Up of Best Start Grant School Age Payment
- Take Social Security Scotland management information on School Age 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 a School Age 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 a School Age 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.
Estimate of Take-Up
For children born from March 2014 to February 2016, or applications for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 years, we estimate that take-up of the School Age Payment was 81%. The following diagram illustrates the coverage of our estimate of take-up:
Figure 9. Coverage of Estimate of Take-Up of Best Start Grant: School Age Payment
- January 2014 - February 2014: Payment Not (Yet) Available, as of September 2021
- March 2014 - February 2016: Payment Available - Included in Take-Up Estimate
- March 2016 - February 2017: Payment Available - Not Included in Take-Up Estimate
- March 2017 - 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 School Age Payment includes the number of paid children, based on the date the application was received. This is calculated by dividing the total value of payments in that month by £250 (the value of one payment, prior to uprating), to get the number of unique children paid. There were just less than 1,000 paid children where the client’s application was received in May 2020. Most of these were submitted close to the end of May and, given the proximity to the start of the application window for that year (June 2020 to February 2021), we have counted them in that application window. We are unable to tell if any of these were late payments (due to COVID-19) for the previous application window.