The Welfare Foods (Best Start Foods) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2023: Fairer Scotland duty assessment summary

Assesses the impact of changes to Best Start Foods on socio-economic inequality. This duty came into force in Scotland in 2018 and is set out in Part 1 of the Equality Act 2010. It considers issues such as low income, low wealth and area deprivation.


Best Start Foods

The Scottish Government replaced the UK Healthy Start Voucher scheme in Scotland with BSF on 12 August 2019. BSF supports low income families with a pregnant person and/or a child or children under the age of three. The payments are delivered via a pre-paid card.

Initial policy development of BSF was informed by a 2016 report by Nourish Scotland entitled Living is More Important than Just Surviving - Listening to what children think about food insecurity.[2] It was also informed by the report produced by the Children’s Parliament in 2017 entitled What Kind of Scotland?[3] which identified poverty as the most important barrier to a good life. It affects children day to day, in terms of practical things like having enough food to eat and a house that is warm, but also because children may notice the stress money concerns cause the adults at home

BSF is a weekly payment which amounts to £19.80 every four weeks throughout pregnancy, £39.60 every four weeks from birth until a child turns one to support breastfeeding mothers or help the child’s parent or carer with the costs of providing first infant formula milk, then £19.80 every four weeks from one until a child turns three.

BSF targets support to low income families. Under the current regulations for most eligible individuals, qualifying benefits are used as a proxy for means testing and there are income thresholds which apply to some of these benefits. Pregnant persons who are under 18 and their partners are automatically entitled to BSF, without the need for a qualifying benefit, as long as they meet the residency conditions. This is also true for children who are under one and whose parent or carer is under 18, provided the residency requirement is met.

For a child to be eligible for BSF, an individual looking after the child must also be able to evidence child responsibility. For most individuals, the evidence will be receipt of a child responsibility benefit for the child but other forms of evidence can also be accepted, e.g. proof of a kinship care relationship.

Between launching on 12 August 2019 and 30 June 2023, more than 156,000 applications had been authorised for BSF.[4] In total, over £44 million has been provided to those families who need it most. In the 2022-23 financial year around 46,425 people were paid BSF.

Five family payments

BSF is part of a wider group of social security benefits that are intended to support low income families with the costs of raising a child. SCP and the three BSG payments – Pregnancy and Baby Payment, Early Learning Payment and School Age Payment – together with BSF are known collectively as the five family payments (FFP). All five payments are aimed at tackling inequality, improving outcomes and making a positive impact on all of the priority family types identified in Best Start, Bright Futures[5] – the latest Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan (TCPDP). To some extent, all of the payments use qualifying benefits and child responsibility benefits to target eligibility.

BSG replaced the Sure Start Maternity Grant in Scotland. It aims to help alleviate material deprivation, tackle inequality, and contribute to closing the educational attainment gap. The grants provide support to low income families at three key transition points in a child’s early years. BSG Pregnancy and Baby Payment opened for applications on 10 December 2018 and currently provides £707.25 for a first child and £353.65 for second and subsequent children. An additional payment of £353.65 is payable in the case of a multiple birth. The payment also provides support for people who have had a stillbirth. BSG Early Learning Payment opened for applications on 29 April 2019 and the BSG School Age Payment opened for applications on 3 June 2019, both currently provide £294.70 per child.

SCP launched on 15 February 2021 and was introduced by the Scottish Government to tackle child poverty for low income families in receipt of certain reserved benefits. It currently pays £25 a week per child every four weeks in arrears to families with no cap on the number of eligible children a family can claim for. SCP is paid to families with children under the age of 16.

The FFP could be worth around £10,000 by the time an eligible child turns six years old, and over £20,000 by the time an eligible child is 16 years old. This is a significant investment in tackling child poverty and we want all low income families to take up their eligibility. We know from work undertaken to develop the second Benefit Take-up Strategy,[6] published in October 2021, that the complexity of accessing entitlements is a key barrier to take-up. That is why we are keen to make sure accessing the benefits is simple and straight forward. To make it easy to apply for the FFP, there is already a single form to apply for them all. We also promote the benefits as part of a joint FFP campaign which focuses on the full package of support available to low income families. It includes television, radio and digital advertising.

While many people will be able to get all five payments as their child ages, there are some differences about who can receive them. This means that some families will not be able to get all of the payments. There are also some differences in the rules for processing applications for the different benefits.

We know that greater alignment of Scottish benefits could make it easier for people to understand what they are eligible for and simpler for Social Security Scotland to communicate. This in turn could result in higher take-up of the FFP and make it simpler to potentially automate payments in the future.



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