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.


The Scottish Commission on Social Security (SCoSS) is an advisory non-departmental public body set up to provide independent scrutiny of the Scottish social security system (including benefit regulations) and hold Scottish Ministers to account. They have provided independent scrutiny of these regulations.[90]

In their report, SCoSS welcomed the removal of the income thresholds which apply to some qualifying benefits, noting that as well as increasing eligibility this change has the potential to improve take-up and efficiency. They also welcomed the introduction of the ability to treat an application as made at a later date, the ability to make a new decision where an individual was previously denied BSF due to the lack of a qualifying or child responsibility benefit and providing a further eight weeks entitlement to BSF when entitlement to Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit or Housing Benefit ends.

The prioritisation of BSF applications from the pregnant person over any other application in relation to her pregnancy and the ability to consider the circumstances of the pregnant person when making a decision on who to award if multiple claims are received but there is not one from the pregnant person themselves were received positively by SCoSS. However, they highlighted that it was important for the Scottish Government to work with stakeholders, including those engaged in supporting individuals experiencing domestic or financial abuse, to develop an understanding of the potential for abuse by a partner and what additional mitigations may need to be put in place. As highlighted above, we have consulted with Engender, Scottish Women’s Aid and Scottish Women’s Convention to understand the potential impact of the mitigations we are putting in place to address risks of financial abuse and coercive control. These organisations have broadly welcomed the approach that we are taking.

SCoSS also highlighted the need for clear, accessible guidance on who is likely to be able to receive an alternative form of payment, the process for requesting one and how to challenge decisions. They also suggested that BSF recipients should receive guidance on the type of retailers who can accept the card and how to request the addition of their local retailer to the list of approved retailers. Social Security Scotland will give consideration to the external content required in relation to when an exception can be made to the prepaid card. Social Security Scotland will also review the literature provided to BSF clients and identify how this information could be strengthened.

Finally, SCoSS noted that further alignment of language and processes for BSF with the wider Scottish social security system would be helpful in the future. They also noted that there may be challenges communicating the changes being made and therefore stressed the importance of clear and unambiguous guidance for everyone involved – including applicants and administrators. As part of the communications and engagement strategy for the regulations, Social Security Scotland will create and share resources to support eligible people, and stakeholders supporting eligible people, to understand the changes and how and when to apply. Information will also be shared with relevant stakeholders via a series of events to ensure they have all the information and guidance that they need to support eligible people to apply.

We intend to commission a further evaluation on BSF as part of a wider evaluation of the FFP to report in 2025. We will also continue to engage with members of the Five Family Payments Reference Group to monitor their impact.

Social Security Scotland carry out regular surveys to understand the experience of clients who have applied for the FFP. The Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018[91] places a duty on the Scottish Ministers to report annually to the Scottish Parliament on the performance of the Scottish Social Security System during the previous financial year, including in relation to protected characteristics. The report is to describe what the Scottish Ministers have done in that year to meet the expectations on them set out in the Charter.[92]

We have established a Benefit Take-up Stakeholder Reference Group. 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 can provide a valuable source of experience and expertise, acting as a sounding board for policy work going forward. Since the publication of the second Benefit Take-up Strategy in October 2021,[93] the group has expanded to include organisations representing seldom heard groups of the population, as identified in the strategy, as well as stakeholders representing the protected characteristic groups.

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Name: Ian Davidson

Job title: Deputy Director, Social Security Policy Division



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