Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018: progress report 2022 tp 2023

Report published under Sections 20 and 87 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 to provide an annual update on the delivery of the Scottish social security system.

6. Equality Assessment and Data

This section of the report considers how the Scottish social security system has affected the circumstances of persons living in households whose income is adversely affected, or whose expenditure is increased, because a member of the household has one or more protected characteristics, as outlined in section 4 of the Equalities Act (2010).

The 2018 Act also requires the annual report to include a description of the data used in assessing equality of opportunity. Social Security Scotland collect and publish client diversity and equalities analysis. Unless a protected characteristic forms part of the eligibility criteria for a benefit, information on these characteristics is collected and stored separately from application data. Whilst this information can help us understand who is applying and receiving social security benefits, some of the ways in which having a protected characteristic impacts on finances are indirect (e.g. discrimination affecting access to employment) and it is more difficult to assess the role benefits may play in counteracting these indirect impacts.

  • Social Security Scotland Official Statistics are published for benefits delivered by Social Security Scotland. These statistics cover the number of applications, value of payments made and award outcomes. This data can help us understand the reach of the benefit and this is particularly important where the benefit is targeted towards those with a protected characteristic.
  • Social Security Scotland client and diversity equalities data. The latest available data covers the period from 1 June 2021 to 31 March 2023 and therefore covers this reporting year and is the most relevant data available. For all benefits with an application form, clients are invited to complete an equalities monitoring form and this is a mandatory part of all online applications. Equalities data is stored separately from application information and is later linked for statistical analysis. This data helps us to understand the applications and outcomes for clients by each of the equalities groups.
  • The Social Security Scotland Client Survey was sent to all clients who had received a decision or payment between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023. The survey asks clients about their experience of applying for a benefit, interacting with Social Security and receiving payments. This data helps us to understand the experience and impact of benefits by equality group. The overall response rate to the client survey this year was around 12%.
  • Scottish Government policy evaluations cover the implementation and impact of benefits. This year, we have published five evaluations covering Best Start Foods, Scottish Child Payment, Job Start Payment, Funeral Support Payment and Child Winter Heating Payment. Evaluations draw on evidence from a variety of sources including the data sources above and qualitative research with individuals who have applied for these benefits. Qualitative research is not designed to be statistically representative, and it is not possible to state the extent to which these findings generalise to all applicants in receipt of these benefits.

We can consider applications and awards for benefits that are directly focussed on helping those with a protected characteristic. The Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment is made to households where there is someone who is, or has recently been, pregnant. Between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023, 15,435 applications had been authorised for payment, with just over £6.7 million added to family budgets. Of the 15,435 applications authorised for Pregnancy and Baby Payment, 33% were estimated to be for a first birth and 67% for a subsequent birth as reported in the Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods high level statistics to March 2023.

Best Start Foods launched in Scotland in August 2019 to replace the UK Healthy Start voucher scheme. It provides pregnant women and families with children under the age of three, who are in receipt of certain benefits, with a minimum of £4.95 a week to purchase healthy foods using a payment card. Between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023, 35,790 applications had been authorised for Best Start Foods.

Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods share an integrated application process. Of all the Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods applications that were authorised for payment between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023, 26,530 (45%) were for applicants aged between 18 and 29.

Policy evaluations also help us understand the impact of our benefits targeted at those with protected characteristics. This year, our evaluation of Best Start Foods reported positive evidence of the reduced stigma recipients experience using the payment card as opposed to vouchers and ensured families can always afford essential foods for their children. The evaluation also highlighted potential improvements to increase accessibility and impact of the benefit.

Some of our benefits are directly designed to help people with extra costs associated with being disabled or having a long term health condition. Child Disability Payment provides money to help with extra care and mobility costs that a disabled child or young person might have. It replaces Disability Living Allowance for Children and was the first application-based disability benefits to be introduced by the Scottish Government. The year 2022-23 is the first full year of Child Disability Payment being open to new applicants. In August 2023 high level statistics for Child Disability Payment were published. These showed that between April 2022 and March 2023, 14,150 applications had been authorised for payment with a total value of just over £63.2 million. Including payments made to those who had case transferred by March 2023, the total value of Child Disability Payments issued between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023 was £201.6 million. As of 31 March 2023, it is estimated that 62,325 children and young people were in receipt of Child Disability Payment.

Child Winter Heating Payment is an automatic payment for disabled children and young people under 19 who also receive a qualifying benefit. Statistics published in April 2023 showed that in Winter 2022/23 26,555 payments had been made for children or young people with a total value of £5.7 million. At least 23,890 different recipients received payments in 2022/23 and 7% of recipients received more than one payment (i.e. for more than one child or young person). The evaluation of Child Winter Heating Payment found that the payment had helped mitigate the experience of financial difficult or insecurity and allowed families to better meet the healthcare needs of their disabled child or young person.


Across all benefits, 87% of clients identified as White. Followed by 7% who preferred not to say and then 3% who identified as Asian. Approval rates vary according to benefit type and reported ethnicity; comparisons between benefits is less reliable where there are smaller number of clients.

Those identifying as African were least likely to have applications approved for Scottish Child Payment (83% compared to total rate of 90%), Job Start Payment (22% compared to total rate of 43%) and Adult Disability Payment (48% compared to total rate of 67%). Those identifying as White or Caribbean or Black were most likely to have their application approved for Scottish Child Payment (91% compared to total rate of 90%) and Job Start Payment (46% compared to total rate of 43%). For Child Disability Payment, 17% of those identifying as other ethnic group had their application denied compared to 9% of applicants who identified as White and 10% of Mixed or Multiple Ethnic Groups. For Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods, 'Asian' and 'Caribbean or Black' had the lowest approval rates at 58% compared to the total rate of 69%, while for Funeral Support Payment, 'Asian' had the lowest approval rate at 57% compared to the total rate of 80%.

The client survey asks recipients about the impact that benefit payments from Social Security Scotland have had. Respondents were asked to rate, on a scale of 0-10 ('not at all' to 'a lot'), how much their benefit payment helped them to pay for what they needed, control their finances and how much the payment had made a difference to their life. White respondents were more likely than Minority Ethnic respondents to have a high rating across all three measures.


Some of our Social Security Payments are targeted at families with children and this is reflected in the age profile. The majority of applicants (96%) to Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods were under 45. Slightly less but still a majority of applicants for Scottish Child Payment were also under 45 (79%). Full breakdowns by age for these benefits are provided in the table below.



Scottish Child Payment

All applications



All applications































65 and over





















Source: Social Security Scotland - Social Security Scotland Client Diversity and Equalities Analysis for June 2021 to March 2023

a* suppressed for disclosure control

Other benefits are targeted towards young people. This is our third full year of delivering Young Carer Grant. Statistics published in June 2023 show that for the period April 2022 to March 2023, 33% of applications were made by 16 year olds, 35% by 17 year olds and 28% by 18 year olds. A total of 2615 applications had been authorised in 2022/23. The percentage of applications authorised for those aged 16 years was 74% compared to 69% for those aged 17 years and 68% for those aged 18 years. Job Start Payment is also targeted towards young people. Of applications made between 17 August 2020 and 31 March 2023, around 3% were from those aged 16 to 17 years old, 47% for those aged 18 to 21 years old and 46% for those aged 22 to 24 years. Approval rates for age bands with available data show 29% of applications were authorised for those aged 18-21 years and 37% for those aged 22-24 years as shown in the high level statistics published in May 2023.

Gender Reassignment

Across all benefits, around 1% of clients identified as transgender and approval rates did not differ by transgender status. The small number of transgender clients makes comparisons by individual benefits difficult as the data is less reliable. The latest published statistics show some differences across the benefits with larger caseloads of transgender clients but no clear consistent pattern. Transgender clients applying for Scottish Child Payment and Adult Disability Payment were more likely to have their application approved compared to clients who did not identify as transgender (92% versus 90% for Scottish Child Payment and 73% versus 66% for Adult Disability Payment). Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods approval rates show the opposite pattern with those identifying as transgender being less likely to have their application approved (61% versus 69% of those did not identify as transgender).

Religion or belief

Across all benefits, 60% said they had no religion followed by 12% as Roman Catholic, 9% as Church of Scotland, 9% as Prefer not to say, 5% as Other Chistian and 4% as Muslim. At an individual benefit level, the percentage of clients reporting no religion was lower for Funeral Support Payment (40%) and higher for Job Start Payment (78%). This is also likely to do with different age profiles across these benefits. Those identifying as Sikh (38%) or Hindu (52%) were most likely to have their applications denied when looking at all client diversity data. This pattern held true when looking at benefits individually with the exception of Adult Disability Payment where Muslim clients were also more likely to have their application denied (39%) together with Hindu clients (41%) and Sikh clients (38%).

As part our evaluation of Funeral Support Payment, we interviewed clients and half of our sample included those who identified as having a religion. This research identified a range of positive impacts and issues for further consideration which will inform ongoing improvements to the delivery of Funeral Support Payment.


Women are disproportionately represented in the Social Security Scotland client data compared to the general population with 77% of clients identifying as 'woman' and 16% identifying as 'man'. Approval rates are also higher for women with 17% of women denied compared to 31% of men. Men were more likely than women to have applications denied for Best Start Grant (42% vs 30%), Scottish Child Payment (17% vs 9%) and Adult Disability Payment (39% vs 30%). Approval rates for Funeral Support Payment, Job Start Payment, Young Carer Grant and Child Disability Payment were more similar for men and women.

As noted above the client survey asked recipients about the impact of benefit payments. Women were more likely than men to give a high rating (8-10) for statements relating to whether the payment helped them to pay for what they needed, control their finances and how much the payment had made a difference to their life.

Sexual orientation

Individuals who self-identified as 'Heterosexual' accounted for 85% of clients compared to 2% who identified as 'Bisexual' and 1% as 'Gay and Lesbian' and 'In another way'. 'Prefer not to say' was chosen by 10% of clients. Benefits showing the lowest percentage of clients identifying as 'Gay & Lesbian', 'Bisexual' or 'In another way' were benefits targeted at families with children. For example, Scottish Child Payment had 87% of clients identifying as 'heterosexual' and 1% identifying as 'Gay & Lesbian' and a further 1% identifying as 'Bisexual'. In comparison, Job Start Payment had 81% identifying as 'heterosexual', 3% as 'Gay & Lesbian' and 6% as 'Bisexual'. Across all the benefits, approval rates for 'Gay & Lesbian' are lowest at 72% compared to higher approval rates for clients who 'prefer not to say' (82%), 'heterosexual' clients (81%) and those who identified 'in another way' (81%). Those who identified as 'Bisexual' had approval rate of 78%.


Adult Disability Payment had the highest proportion of clients identifying as having a physical or mental health condition or illness (91% compared to 32% for all benefits). In addition, this benefit showed the biggest difference in approval rate between those reporting a physical or mental health condition or illness and those who did not (68% versus 49%).

Around a third of clients (32%) for all benefits with associated equalities and diversity forms reported having a physical or mental health condition or illness expected to last 12 months or more. Approval rates were similar with an 81% approval rate for those reporting a physical or mental health condition or illness compared to 80% for clients that did not.

Carer's Allowance Supplement is an extra payment for people in Scotland who get Carer's Allowance on a particular date. Whilst it is not possible to know the exact figures, it is reasonable to assume that some recipients of this benefit will be providing care to someone in their household who is in receipt of a specified disability payment. Between February 2022 and February 2023, the number of carers in receipt of this payment increased by 3% bringing the total number of recipients as of February 2023 to 83,407.



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