Benefit Delivery Summary
In the three years since we had the legislative powers to introduce social security benefits, we have delivered 11 benefits (including 7 new benefits) supporting the people of Scotland. And there are more to come – when our planned 17 benefits are introduced, our new public service – Social Security Scotland – will reach one in three people. It is also important to note that social security in Scotland goes beyond what is delivered by Social Security Scotland, with three additional benefits delivered through local authorities, and Council Tax Reduction in place to support people on low incomes.
Although COVID-19 had an impact on our timetable for delivery of Scottish benefits, over the last year – as the nation grappled with the pandemic – we introduced four new benefits:
- the "game-changing" Scottish Child Payment, which is a key part of our national mission to eradicate child poverty and provides vital financial support to low income families. This is unique in the UK.
- the Child Winter Heating Assistance which helps families of severely disabled children to heat their homes – the eligibility of which will be extended this year and is also unique in the UK.
- our new Job Start Payment which helps young people moving into employment, providing enhanced support for young parents. This is unique in the UK.
- Child Disability Payment, replacing the UK Government's Child Disability Living Allowance. This is our first application-based disability benefit, which was launched on 26 July in three pilot areas, and will be rolled out nationwide on 22 November.
In response to the pandemic, the Coronavirus Carer's Allowance Supplement was also delivered in June 2020 - a double payment of the CAS and this will done again in December 2021.
The national roll out of Child Disability Payment will be followed by our twelfth benefit, Adult Disability Payment, which replaces the UK Government's Personal Independence Payment, and will launch with a pilot in spring 2022 ahead of national rollout in summer 2022.
Following discussions with DWP, we will deliver our new annual £50 Winter Heating Payment, a stable automatic payment specifically for low-income households currently eligible for Cold Weather Payments, in winter 2022 – followed by Pension Age Winter Heating Assistance (mirroring the current Winter Fuel Payment), which is provisionally scheduled for winter 2024.
We will continue to build a social security system that meets the needs of the people of Scotland and will deliver a service that treats people with dignity, fairness and respect.
Low Income Benefits
Scottish Child Payment
The Scottish Child Payment is a transformative action to reduce child poverty – part of a wider strategy to support those who need it most and meet our challenging child poverty targets. Scottish Child Payment opened for applications in November 2020 for children under six years old, ahead of the first payments being made in February 2021. It will be rolled out to all under 16 year olds by the end of 2022. In the interim we are delivering Bridging Payments through our partners in local authorities, paying £520 in both 2021 and 2022 for around 148,000 children and young people.
Scottish Child Payment is an intervention which is unparalleled across the UK. The Scottish Fiscal Commission forecast that the average caseload for Scottish Child Payment in 2021-22 will be 106,000 children. The latest statistics estimate that 105,000 children were actively in receipt of the payment as of 30 June (Official Scottish Child Payment Statistics, August 2021). The payment will be made available to children aged 6-15 by the end of 2022.
Communications and Promotional Activity
As part of our benefit take-up work and commitment to reach people, we will continue to engage in promotion of Scottish Child Payment including paid for marketing, engagement with stakeholders who share our messages in innovative ways for example school enrolment and health visitor packs and inclusion of materials in the Baby Box. Social Security Scotland has also been proactive in the promotion of each family payment including Scottish Child Payment by writing to eligible families on Universal Credit and Tax Credit databases and inviting them to apply.
Job Start Payment
Job Start Payment was introduced in August 2020 to provide a single payment to young people who had been unemployed for at least 6 months prior to being offered a job. The payment is £252.50 with a higher rate of £404 for applicants who are the main carers of children. The money is intended to help young people who may struggle to meet some of the costs which may be associated with starting a new job e.g. transport, clothing or equipment.
As with all benefits delivered through Social Security Scotland, there is a proactive communications and marketing approach. Research carried out in August 2021 showed that young people who had seen promotion of this thought the appeal was instant and universal – that the proposition was rewarding a positive step towards the future. This evidences that campaigns are achieving some success in removing any stigma around benefits. However, more work is required to make eligibility criteria clear through these campaigns.
Increased Payment and Income Threshold Amounts
Regulations came into effect on 1 August 2021 that will increase Best Start Foods payments from £4.25 per week to £4.50 per week. These regulations also increased the income thresholds for relevant qualifying benefits. This will ensure that working households on the lowest incomes that have received a slight rise in their incomes as a result of increases to the National Living Wage retain eligibility for Best Start Foods We are also committed to uprating certain other types of assistance each year to ensure that the assistance individuals receive maintains its value over time when prices are changing.
Around 84,000 carers received an extra £230.10 Carer's Allowance Supplement in June 2020, meaning eligible carers in Scotland got up to £690 more support last year compared to those in the rest of the UK. We plan to make a further payment of Carer's Allowance Supplement in December subject to Parliamentary process, which will total £462.80 for those in receipt of Carer's Allowance.
We will develop and launch Scottish Carer's Assistance in this Parliamentary term, our replacement for Carer's Allowance, which will work better for unpaid carers. Work on this benefit had to be paused due to the pandemic. We have developed overall aims for Scottish Carer's Assistance and options for improvement, following discussions with carers and organisations that support them. We are continuing to work with stakeholders to consider options and will consult on proposals this winter.
We are committed to providing extra support to people caring for more than one disabled child and considering how best to extend this to support those caring for more than one disabled person of any age.
We carried out a public consultation on the draft regulations for Adult Disability Payment between 21 December and 15 March 2021. This included 10 virtual engagements, including events organised in conjunction with stakeholder organisations for their members, providing workshops at external events, and hosting around 30 stakeholder representatives at a Scottish Government consultation session. This ensured we sought views from as many people as possible on the draft regulations and proposed changes.
In June the consultation analysis and Scottish Government's response to the consultation were published on the Scottish Government website. Following the consultation, the Adult Disability Payment draft regulations were re-drafted and referred to the Scottish Commission on Social Security for scrutiny on 25 June 2021.
Scottish Ministers have consulted the Scottish Commission on Social Security on a range of secondary legislation including, the Disability Assistance For Children And Young People (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021, the Child Winter Heating Assistance Amendment Regulations, and draft regulations on suspensions.
Stakeholder Take-up Reference Group
We are committed to listening to the voices of experience and expertise from the third sector and Local Authorities when designing interventions to maximise benefit take-up, and will continue to do so as the interventions within this strategy are developed and implemented.
The first Benefit Take-up Strategy made the commitment to establish a Stakeholder Take-up Reference Group to implement and monitor the interventions contained within, as well as feeding into the development of future Strategies, ensuring that the Stakeholder perspective is always present in decision making.
This group is a partnership of Scottish Government officials and organisations representing third-sector and local authority interests who have knowledge of issues surrounding benefit take-up. It is designed so that members will bring their experience, expertise, and extensive networks to bear, ensuring that our approach draws on the experience of, and best supports, third sector and local authority partners.
Since the publication of the first Strategy, the Group has met nine times and collaborated on a number of key activities with the goal of increasing take-up of Scottish Benefits. In late 2019 and early 2020 the Group played a central role in shaping the Benefit Take-up and Income Maximisation Funds to ensure that this funding was targeted to enable the maximum benefit to individuals and highest quality in learning.
In the summer of 2020, the Group focussed on responding to the unique challenges of promoting benefit take-up during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, sharing examples good practice from across their organisations.
The Group has also proved invaluable in shaping the Mainstreaming Good Practice work, helping to identify themes and examples from across the third sector, identifying appropriate outputs and feeding into the EQIA process. More recently the Group has helped to define the focus of this Strategy and aided in the delivery of our series of Stakeholder Roundtable events.
As the interventions within this strategy are developed we will continue to involve our Stakeholder Take-up Reference Group and wider network of Stakeholders to ensure that the voices of those organisations who represent the protected characteristic are represented.
Throughout the pandemic Scotland's social security system has continued to ensure people are paid the money they are entitled to and rely on, whilst responding to the challenges of COVID-19. The pandemic has brought about unprecedented change for society as a whole, impacting on every area of life for the people of Scotland.
The Scottish Government's priority is to focus on the recovery and renewal of Scotland, to improve the lives of everyone in our society. To guide and support this recovery and renewal, we have produced a COVID-19 Recovery Strategy. Working in partnership with local government and business partners our COVID-19 Recovery Strategy addresses the unequal impacts of pandemic, because a more equal society is in all of our interests.
Challenges for Benefit Take-up
We know that the far-reaching impacts of COVID-19 have been felt unequally, with pre-existing structural inequalities being worsened. We know that people living in already difficult situations, are now worse off than they were before the pandemic. We also know that people who were previously not living below the poverty line, that were in work, that did have a roof over their head, that did have a support system, are now living in and trying to adapt to very different situations. For many, the Social Security Systems of the UK and Scotland will be unknown worlds.
People in poverty, disabled people, people with health conditions who may have been asked to shield, children and young people, older people, minority ethnic communities and women are amongst the most affected by the pandemic. That is why we have carried out extensive stakeholder engagement and research to ensure that in terms of benefit take-up, we are targeting the needs of the people most affected by the pandemic, the most vulnerable of society, and those that are least likely to take-up the benefits that they are entitled to. This Benefit Take-up Strategy captures what we are doing about the immediate impacts of the pandemic on benefit take-up, as well as the long-term effects.
What we have done
Throughout the pandemic we have achieved key milestones in the safe and timely delivery of Scottish benefits.
- We delivered our first 100 days commitment to increase Best Start Foods payments to £4.50 per week, with families now benefiting from the higher payments. We will widen eligibility to include all families in receipt of Universal Credit later in this parliamentary term.
- We delivered our 100 day commitment on an additional Coronavirus Carer's Allowance Supplement (CAS) payment, by bringing forward legislation to make an additional payment in December, which has now been passed by Parliament.
- The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 1 April 2020. The Act temporarily relaxed time limits on applications for Scottish Social Security benefits, including Best Start Grant, Best Start Food and Funeral Support Payment to help ensure that eligible families would not be disadvantaged by the coronavirus pandemic because illness, shielding or caring duties would have prevented them from applying for support on time. Deadlines relating to requests for redeterminations and appeals were also temporarily relaxed.
Specific to increasing benefit take-up, we:
- Worked in partnerships with Health, Schools and Local Authorities to promote benefits and will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure we focus on developing partnership that get timely support to people most affected by the pandemic. Social Security Scotland moved their stakeholder engagement online throughout the pandemic, and between October 2020 and September 2021 they provided 36 events reaching a total of 2818 people, and held 754 meetings with stakeholders to raise awareness of Scottish benefits. They also provided online resources that have been accessed over 2,500 times.
- In 2020-21, we helped advice services to cope with the impact of the pandemic, including using £2.4 million from our share of the debt advice levy to increase the support available to those most disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
- Alternative Local Delivery access routes were developed in response to the pandemic to enable us to offer support in the event of further COVID-19 restrictions. Support can be provided by Video Calling, pre-arranged telephone calls and face to face meetings where restrictions allow.
Social Security Scotland - Communicating through and beyond COVID-19
The pandemic impacted everything in society and our communication and marketing was no different. We had to respond and adapt the ways we interacted with clients and stakeholders.
Making sure print literature, like leaflets and factsheets, are in the hands of people that need them in venues we know they will visit was particularly difficult given that community centres, for example, have been closed. Recognising that opportunities for our print literature were falling away, we therefore turned to use TV advertising for the first time to make sure that we were still reaching those who may not see our digital and social media marketing.
COVID-19 also impacted our marketing plans for promoting Funeral Support Payment. We planned to promote this benefit around peaks in death rates which typically happen over Winter periods. Sadly, however, with COVID-19 this seasonal peak was of less significance and in response we have increased marketing for Funeral Support Payment throughout the year to make sure that people were aware of support available during these difficult times.
Even though restrictions are easing, we recognise that COVID-19 will continue to impact our communication and marketing activity. Therefore, we will continue to gather insight to understand better how the pandemic is driving longer-term behavioural change. This may impact on the channels we use to promote benefits over the longer term – for example we may use radio and TV more and print advertising less. Although we will always be mindful that we are required to use a range of channels to be as inclusive as possible.
We will also take insight from wider Scottish Government communication teams to understand what their analysis can tell us about where and how people are preferring to access information. The NHS and local authorities have also learned a huge amount about reaching seldom heard groups through this period and – when the time is right – we will work with them to understand what they have learned and incorporate it into our ways of working.
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