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
6. Funeral Support Payment

6. Funeral Support Payment

Background

The Funeral Support Payment is a one-off payment which is designed to help people living in Scotland with the costs of a funeral they are responsible for organising[12]. The level of Funeral Support Payment that a claimant will receive is dependent on a number of components. The average payment is around £1,800 and there is no absolute maximum payment, although most components are bound by a maximum.

An application for the Funeral Support Payment can be made anytime from the registration of the death of the deceased until 6 months after the date of the funeral. We refer to this period as the application window.

Approach to Estimating Take-up

To estimate take-up of the Funeral Support Payment, we need to express the number of benefit recipients as a percentage of the total number of people who are eligible for Funeral Support Payment.

For the number of benefit recipients, we use Management Information (MI) data provided by Social Security Scotland which covers deaths registered over the period between October 2019 and November 2020. This relates to the number of people responsible for organising a funeral that claimed Funeral Support Payment. The MI data is used rather than official statistics because the MI data shows Funeral Support Payment applications categorised by month of registration of death, whereas the official statistics show only applications by month of application. This MI data is reported on the same date of occurrence as National Records of Scotland (NRS) death statistics (date of registration) and includes only the months of registration of death for which full application windows have been observed. We cannot say that an eligible person has not taken up Funeral Support Payment until the full application window has been observed, therefore only including full application windows means we do not misrepresent take-up.

As with all other benefits that we present our estimate of the take-up rate for in this strategy, we have produced our own estimates of people eligible for Funeral Support Payment. Firstly, we use NRS death registration statistics categorised by month of registration and split into adults and children as our demographic data.

The next step is to use UKMOD to estimate three eligibility rates to account for the different characteristics of people we would expect to be organising a deceased person’s funeral, effectively splitting deceased people into three distinct groups: children, adults with partners and single adults. The eligibility rates estimate how likely it is for the person responsible for the funeral of a deceased person to be in receipt of one of the qualifying benefits. For deceased children, the eligibility rate is calculated as the number of children living in households on qualifying benefits divided by the total number of children living in Scotland (we assume the child’s parent or carer is responsible for the funeral). For deceased adults who had a partner, the eligibility rate is calculated by dividing the number of adults with a partner living in households where either person receives a qualifying benefit by the total number of partnered adults living in Scotland (we assume the deceased person’s partner is responsible for organising the funeral). For deceased single adults, it is more difficult to model or identify who will be responsible for the funeral. We assume that the probability that the person responsible for organising the funeral is in receipt of a qualifying benefit is equal to the share of adults living in Scotland in receipt of a qualifying benefit.

Before applying our eligibility proportions, we must prepare the data further by splitting adult deaths into single adults and those living with a partner. We estimate this proportion using UKMOD because our definition of partner is broader than what is reported in the death statistics (i.e. we define partner as two adults living together). After apportioning deaths to children, partnered adults and single adults, we apply our eligibility rates to estimate the size of the eligible population.

Figure 12, below, is a flowchart which summarises the methodology used to estimate the take-up rate of the Funeral Support Payment.

Figure 12. Methodology to calculate take-up of Funeral Support Payment

  • Take Social Security Scotland MI data on successful applications categorised by month of registration of the death and by month of application;
  • Exclude months without a full application window;
  • Sum to give Eligible Recipients;
  • Take NRS statistics on deaths by month of registration in Scotland categorised by adult and child;
  • Split adult deaths into partnered and single, using estimated proportions from UKMOD;
  • Use UKMOD to estimate eligibility rate, with an adjustment to improve alignment with outturn benefit caseload data;
  • Apply eligibility proportions from UKMOD to total number of deaths for children, and partnered and single adults;
  • Sum to give Eligible Population;
  • Calculate take-up rate as: Take-up rate = Eligible Recipients/Eligible Population.

Initial Estimates of Take-up for Funeral Support Payment

We estimate that, for deaths registered from October 2019 to November 2020, the take-up rate of the Funeral Support Payment is 59%.

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.

One main limitation of this estimate is how we apply the eligibility proportions. This is based on a series of assumptions. For child deaths, we assume that another adult living within that household - most likely a parent - would be responsible for the funeral. For deaths amongst adults in couples, we assume that the surviving partner would take responsibility for the organisation of the funeral. For single adult deaths, it is much more difficult to predict who would assume responsibility for the funeral as there is a wide range of potential relations who may be considered. The eligibility proportion we apply to single adults assumes that the probability of the responsible person being eligible for Funeral Support Payment is the same as the probability of any person being eligible for Funeral Support Payment.

There is also a limitation surrounding how we distinguish between single adults and adults in couples. We estimate this proportion using UKMOD because our definition of partner is broader than what is reported in NRS death statistics. We define a couple as two cohabiting partners whereas death statistics would only consider those married or in civil partnerships as a couple.

There is an additional factor, which must be borne in mind when interpreting the take-up rate of Funeral Support Payment. Monies from the deceased person's estate are to be used for the main costs of the funeral, if available. If this is possible, then Funeral Support Payment can be claimed for only a small number of components, such as travel. We have not accounted for this rule in this analysis. This is because it would be difficult to make an assumption about the size of a deceased person’s estate, owing to the complexity and the number of variables involved and available data in the Family Resources Survey on this. Moreover, a person would still be eligible for a payment if, for example, the deceased person’s estate could cover main costs of a funeral, albeit the value of the payment would likely be for a relatively small amount. People in these situations may be less likely to take up their eligibility because of this, resulting in the take up rate shown above being lower than we might otherwise expect.

The take-up rate for Funeral Support Payment is our best estimate, but, for the reasons discussed, there is some degree of uncertainty attached to this estimate.


Contact

Email: ruari.sutherland@gov.scot