Take-up rates of Scottish benefits: November 2023

This publication contains our latest estimates of take-up of Scottish benefits delivered by Social Security Scotland. An 'Easy Read' version of this publication is available in the Supporting Documents section.

This document is part of a collection

Take-Up Strategy Update

As families across Scotland face the pressures of the cost-of-living crisis, ensuring people are aware of and are encouraged to access financial support they are entitled to, is more important than ever. Our social security service design and delivery are underpinned by core values of dignity, fairness, and respect. At the heart of this approach is recognition social security is a human right, and it is imperative we support people to realise this right by delivering a supportive and accessible system. While there remains work to be done, we are reassured by the figures in this publication that on the whole, our approach to encouraging take-up of Scottish benefits has so far been effective.

Progress over the past year (2022-23)

To make sure we are putting money into eligible people’s pockets, the Scottish Government alongside Social Security Scotland, have over the past year continued to deliver on the principles set out in our second Benefit Take-Up Strategy.

Marketing, communications and engagement activities play a fundamental role in raising awareness of financial support available. Social Security Scotland carry out a range of activity across online and offline channels to ensure eligible people are aware of, and are supported and encouraged to apply for their entitlements. Using insight, research, evaluation, and coproduction to ensure target audiences are effectively identified, key messages are crafted to maximise engagement which are deployed through appropriate channels including stakeholders and their networks.

Simplifying application processes and automating payments are among the most effective uses of data to support benefit take-up by minimising burden on individuals. In 2022, Social Security Scotland introduced improvements to reduce manual processing of Scottish Child Payment applications called ‘straight through processing’. This increased automation allows some applications to be processed automatically, providing vital support to families in a timely manner. Statistics published in August 2023, show the median time taken to process an application was 13 working days in June 2023, down from 40 working days in March.

The Scottish Government continues to fund the Social Security Independent Advocacy Service, which has supported over 2,000 people to date when accessing and applying for Social Security Scotland assistance. The Local Delivery service has, over the past 12 months, completed over 50,000 appointments to help people access devolved payments, with over 27,000 of these appointments conducted in people's homes. In addition, Social Security Scotland have recently opened their headquarters in Dundee to the public, allowing people to see specially trained advisors without the need for an appointment.

Forward Look: The Year Ahead (2023-24)

The refreshed Benefit Take-Up Strategy is structured around five guiding principles which underpin our approach to maximising take-up across the suite of devolved payments:

1. Prioritise person-centred approaches

2. Communicate and engage effectively

3. Bring services to people

4. Encourage cross-system collaboration

5. Continuously learn and improve

Drawing on the take-up estimates included in this publication, and in line with wider government priorities, we will shape the coming year’s work according to these principles, ensuring we continue to build on good work already in place across the Scottish social security system.

Principle 1: Prioritise person-centred approaches

Child Poverty Pathfinders

Income via social security is a key driver in tackling child poverty in Scotland and strengthening support for families. In 2022 two pathfinders were established in Glasgow and Dundee, working with key partners including the Department for Work and Pensions, relevant local authorities, and third and public sector organisations, to test innovative and local approaches to support families out of poverty. While there are differences in the way they are implemented, both pathfinders seek to deliver a whole system approach to integrate child poverty initiatives – bringing together services and connecting families to support and benefits they are entitled to. The Glasgow pathfinder adopts a ‘no wrong door’ approach providing full holistic support, including income maximisation via take-up of social security entitlements, while efforts in Dundee have focused on reaching families who did not previously engage with local services. Over the coming year, both child poverty pathfinders will continue to adopt these holistic, person-centred approaches, with ongoing evaluation set to strengthen learning and help us further improve access to the specific services families require.

Principle 2: Communicate and engage effectively

Targeting approaches: Seldom-Heard Groups and Stigma Research

Adopting tailored approaches will allow us to support the communities most in need of assistance, both through the development and implementation of targeted activity and by tackling the key barriers that prevent take-up.

We will take specific action to ensure our messaging reaches and resonates seldom-heard communities, adopting tailored communications where we know traditional channels are less likely to be successful. However, to effectively target activity, it is imperative that the Scottish Government is confident in its understanding of which groups are seldom-heard. To facilitate the development of tailored engagement and marketing strategies, we have commissioned independent research to gain a robust and analytical understanding of the current seldom-heard landscape. Findings from this research will be used by Social Security Scotland to develop bespoke approaches to market devolved payments to these groups.

We understand societal barriers such as stigma can prevent people accessing support they are entitled to. We have sought to tackle stigma by adopting a rights-based approach to social security, working to change the narrative and challenge negative perceptions of benefit receipt. To continue to develop effective policy and take-up initiatives, the Scottish Government is undertaking a participatory research process in partnership with the Poverty Alliance, to identify the impacts and challenges stigma presents across the take-up journey, exploring practical examples to tackle this with people with lived experience. In this way, we can ensure the experiences of those who have and will access the Scottish social security system, continue to shape its design and implementation.

Principle 3: Bring services to people

An accessible service delivered with Dignity, Fairness and Respect

As additional social security benefits are delivered within devolved powers, ensuring the current system meets the needs of those it supports is of equal importance. We continue to make access to social security available to people in a way that suits them best, through a variety of channels and in the most appropriate locations. As part of efforts to continuously improve service delivery, access to Local Delivery support is now available across 197 co-located outreach venues in every local authority in Scotland. To ensure we are specifically targeting locations in line with client footfall, usage of venues will be monitored and re-evaluated every 6 months, allowing new outreach venues to open across the country on a regular basis.

In addition to ensuring our own services are accessible, the Scottish Government continues to promote accessibility within the advice sector via targeted funding. In this financial year we will be increasing our total investment in Welfare Advice and Health Partnerships to £4,125,000, over three years, providing dedicated welfare rights advisors in up to 180 GP practices across Scotland’s most deprived settings. Following completion of the ‘test and learn’ phase in 2024, a full and robust evaluation will be published including findings across key metrics such as service user financial gain and impact on deprivation and poverty. Early findings have already highlighted the value of bringing services to people. Almost 10,000 people were supported by the service between January 2022 and March 2023 and were helped to take-up £16.2 million of benefits they were eligible for and 89% of those were ‘new’ users of advice.

Principle 4: Encourage cross-system collaboration

Strategic Data Sharing

We recognise in order to effectively maximise take-up, we will require the support of our valued partners. Delivering efficient and effective public services is one of the missions of the Scottish Government to 2026, and public service reform is central to this mission. Public service reform requires a cross-government approach, and close engagement with public sector, third sector and business partners to help deliver fiscally sustainable public services which improve outcomes and reduce inequalities. Data sharing has been identified as an early priority to explore, supporting joint efforts to tackle child poverty and maximise incomes via take-up of social security entitlements. As part of a holistic approach to income maximisation, we are working with a number of local authorities to explore opportunities for appropriate sharing of data and evidence across the systems that support Scotland’s population. This has the potential to increase awareness of entitlements and remove the barriers to access by allowing targeting and promotion of support.

Principle 5: Continuously learn and improve

Adult Disability Payment Review

While efforts continue to establish robust methodologies to estimate take-up rates for devolved disability payments, work is underway to support take-up activity across the full suite of devolved benefits, including assistance for disabled people. The launch of Adult Disability Payment marked a change in approach to delivering disability assistance in Scotland, with the benefit founded on key principles of dignity, fairness and respect. Continuing to deliver this benefit in line with our founding principles is a priority for the Scottish Government. We are therefore committed to completing an independent review of Adult Disability Payment, as set out in this year’s Programme for Government. This review will enable us to gain insights on disabled people’s experiences applying for and receiving this payment. It will also examine disabled people’s awareness of this financial support and will seek to understand how this can be improved, in line with general consideration of the effectiveness of Adult Disability Payment take-up.


Email: ceu@gov.scot

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