9. Measuring take-up
This chapter presents our initial estimates of take-up for the low-income benefits currently administered by Social Security Scotland. This includes: Scottish Child Payment, Best Start Grant, Best Start Foods and Funeral Support Payment.
Take-up is a measure of the extent to which people who are eligible for a benefit receive it. The process of calculating take-up is involved and complex, and is subject to an inherent degree of uncertainty.
This chapter also outlines the challenges involved in estimating take-up of carer and disability benefits, and what actions we are taking to address these issues.
How do we measure take-up?
Take-up refers to the extent to which people receive the benefits they are eligible for. Not everyone who is eligible for benefits receives them: this could be because of social barriers, a lack of information, or access to benefits is prohibitively costly or complex.
We can measure the degree to which people claim the benefits they are eligible for by calculating the 'take-up rate' of a given benefit. This is the number of benefit recipients divided by the number of people eligible to receive the benefit.
Figure 1. Illustrative Example of How Take-Up is Calculated
Eligible: Benefit Recipient, Eligible: Benefit Recipient or Non-Recipient, 70% Take-Up Rate
The number of benefit recipients can be obtained from Social Security Scotland, who administer the Scottish social security system, while the number of people eligible to receive a benefit has to be estimated. This is because information on the number of people eligible to receive a benefit is not readily available and eligibility for each benefit relies on different eligibility criteria.
We can only produce an estimate of the take-up rate of a given benefit. The process of calculating take-up is involved and complex, and is subject to an inherent degree of uncertainty. This should be borne in mind when interpreting and using estimates of take-up.
This chapter presents initial estimates of take-up for the low-income benefits currently administered by Social Security Scotland. It also outlines the challenges involved in estimating take-up of carer and disability benefits, and what actions we are taking to address these issues.
Take-up of low-income benefits
Eligibility for the low-income benefits is largely linked to household type and receipt of qualifying benefits so it can be estimated using data from household surveys, like the Family Resources Survey, population data and microsimulation modelling. However, this is done with a relatively wide margin of error, given the data is taken from a household survey which itself is only an estimate of population characteristics.
For each of the following low-income benefits we have developed bespoke methodologies to provide initial estimates of take-up:
- Best Start Grant: Pregnancy and Baby Payment
- Best Start Grant: Early Learning Payment
- Best Start Grant: School Age Payment
- Best Start Foods
- Funeral Support Payment
- Scottish Child Payment
The flowchart overleaf outlines the broad steps involved in calculating the take-up rate of these benefits. We set out our approach to calculating take-up of each low-income benefit in detail in the supplementary analytical paper published alongside this strategy.
Our estimates of take-up generally cover the period of time since these benefits launched. This is because for most benefits, there is not yet enough data to produce take-up estimates for complete financial years. In addition, we generally only consider cohorts of clients i) where the opportunity to apply for the benefit had closed, at the time of the data cut-off and ii) that had the full amount of time to apply for the benefit. Not accounting for these two factors would lead us to underestimate take-up. More information on this is included in the analytical paper published alongside this strategy.
The take-up rates presented in this report should be treated as initial analysis of take-up that is subject to methodological and data improvements. In addition, some of the low-income benefits have not yet reached their 'steady state'. This occurs when growth in the number of benefit recipients flattens, and the number of benefit recipients settles at its natural level. Calculating take-up prior to this is not incorrect from a methodological perspective – it would represent take-up of the benefit at that point in time. However, it could misrepresent the 'natural' level of take-up as we would expect this to increase until the steady state is reached.
Our initial analysis shows that take-up of the low-income benefits aimed at young children is estimated to be in the region of 75% to 85%, which is higher than take-up of Funeral Support Payment. More broadly, qualitative research and policy evaluation could shed more light into benefit's take-up levels.
Looking ahead, we will produce estimates of take-up of most low-income benefits on a financial year basis, to help improve comparability of take-up across the low-income benefits, and across time.
Figure 2. Methodology to Calculate Take-up of Low-Income Benefits
- Use outturn Management Information data from Social Security Scotland regarding number of applications
- Restrict the period which we cover to consider only successful applications that have observed a full application window
- Sum to give number of benefit recipients
Calculate take-up rate as: Take-up rate = Eligible Recipients/Eligible Population
- Use outturn demographic data on the population of interest e.g. the number of births, deaths or population estimates
- Use microsimulation (or outturn data) to calculate the proportion of the relevant population that are eligible for a given benefit
- Apply eligibility proportion to outturn demographic data to give the number of eligible people
- Sum over the same time period as that used for eligible recipients to give eligible population
Calculate take-up rate as: Take-up rate = Eligible Recipients/Eligible Population
Figure 3. Take-Up Rates of Low-Income Benefits – Initial estimates
BSG: Pregnancy and Baby Payment
- Description: helps with the cost of having a baby, and is a one-off payment currently worth up to £606 per child.
- Time period covered: children born from April 2019 to November 2020.
BSG: Early Learning Payment
- Helps with the cost of a child's early learning, and is a one-off payment currently worth £252.50 per child.
- Time period covered: children born from November 2016 to November 2017.
BSG: School Age Payment
- Helps with the cost of preparing for primary school, and is a one-off payment currently worth £252.50 per child.
- Time period covered: first two application windows (2019-20 and 2020-21)
Best Start Foods
- Helps with the cost of buying healthy food for pregnant mothers and young children. A recurring payment, currently worth between £18 and £36 every four weeks per child.
- Time period covered: April 2020 to June 2021
Funeral Support Payment
- Helps with the cost of organising a funeral, and is a one-off payment.
- Time period covered: Deaths registered between October 2019 and November 2021
Scottish Child Payment
- Description: Helps with the cost of raising a child under six. A recurring payment worth £10 per week per child.
- Time period covered: as of June 2021
Take-up of carer benefits
Identifying the size of the eligible population for carer benefits is challenging, due to the complexity of eligibility criteria. This is based on hours of care given, the cared for person's receipt of disability benefit and the level of carer's earnings.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) commissioned research in 2010 which looked at the feasibility of estimating the take-up rate of Carer's Allowance in the UK using Family Resources Survey (FRS) data. This research concluded that using FRS data to estimate take-up is likely to result in an underestimate of take-up due to misreporting by respondents in the survey. This covers misreporting related to receipt of Carer's Allowance as well as the eligibility criteria, such as hours of care provided, earnings and receipt of disability benefits by cared for person. The DWP do not publish take-up rates of Carer's Allowance.
Similar challenges apply to estimating take-up of Scottish Carer's Assistance and Young Carer Grant. For Young Carer Grant these challenges would likely be more pronounced because the assistance targets a much smaller sub-group of the general population (aged 16 to 18); therefore, the sample sizes in the existing population surveys will be even smaller. For these reasons, we are not reporting take-up of Young Carer Grant at this stage as it would carry a high degree of uncertainty and would likely be misleading.
We are exploring ways in which we can obtain more detailed information on the size of the carer population, by adding questions to existing household surveys. This could improve the accuracy of answers used to predict eligibility for carer benefits. However, we are cognisant of the fact that this cannot fully resolve the challenges associated with estimating take-up of carer benefits.
Social Security Scotland also administers Carer's Allowance Supplement, including the Coronavirus payment. For this benefit take-up is by definition 100% as eligibility is reliant on receipt of Carer's Allowance and the payment is automatic.
Take-up of disability benefits
Eligibility for disability benefits is a complex concept. This is due to the fact that eligibility is currently determined by the outcome of an assessment that is person-centred as opposed to strict eligibility criteria (e.g. based on household income or family composition). Existing data on disability are not comprehensive or granular enough to allow us to produce robust estimates of the number of people who would be eligible but do not apply.
A number of population surveys ask Scottish households disability-related questions. For example, the FRS includes questions about receipt of disability benefits or whether respondents have any physical or mental health conditions or illnesses lasting or expected to last for 12 months or more. Respondents are then asked to identify specific impairments that apply to their circumstances from a list and whether this affects their ability to carry out day-to-day activities. Similar questions are asked as part of the Scottish Surveys Core Questions (SSCQ) which pools responses from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, the Scottish Health Survey and the Scottish Household Survey into one output.
While there is a range of survey questions asking about disability that may more or less capture the same concepts, these data alone may be insufficient to determine eligibility for a disability benefit. Since disability is self-reported in the surveys, there is no objective measure of the eligible population.
Finally, despite the survey information helping to identify some of those potentially eligible for disability benefits, there is an element of discretion in how the actual assessments are undertaken and benefit award decisions are made. As a result, those determined to be eligible through the surveys may not match those determined to be eligible through the assessments. While it is reasonable to expect that all case managers should be adhering to standard guidance and rules, the element of discretion and the person-centred nature of the assessment would mean eligibility would be difficult to infer without the actual assessment.
Child Disability Payment is currently delivered by Social Security Scotland as a pilot. In addition to the issues explained above, estimating take-up of this benefit is not possible at the pilot stage. Child Winter Heating Assistance has take-up of 100% by definition, as eligibility is reliant on receipt of the highest rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance and the payment is automatic.
We are exploring ways in which we can obtain more detailed information on the size of the population eligible for disability benefits. This includes adding or amending questions to existing household surveys, as well as exploring the feasibility of using health record data.
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