Best Start Foods, Best Start Grants and Scottish Child Payment (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2022: scrutiny report

The Scottish Commission on Social Security's scrutiny report on the draft Best Start Foods, Best Start Grants and Scottish Child Payment (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2022

Summary of recommendations and observations

Recommendation 1: To promote take up of Scottish Child Payment as it rolls out to under 16s, Social Security Scotland should continue to be proactive in writing directly to families on Universal Credit and Tax Credits inviting them to apply.

Recommendation 2: The Scottish Government is invited to explain how it will make sure that the processes and staffing levels will be in place when Scottish Child Payment opens to children under 16 to manage the anticipated spike in claims in a way that puts the needs of people first – such as clear communications, simple application process and enough staff to process manual payments accurately and on time.

Recommendation 3: Guided by Our Charter expectations on improving take up and making processes simple, the Scottish Government should develop a simple, effective way to re-start Scottish Child Payment so that families with a short gap in entitlement between their child turning 6 and the roll out for under 16s do not miss out on entitlement.

Recommendation 4: The Scottish Government’s review of Scottish Child Payment must take into account the lived experience of people, and any disproportionate impact there may be on particular groups such as lone parents or disabled people, in relation to how they understand and manage the loss of income from Scottish Child Payment when entitlement ends as they move into work or increase hours or earnings and thus lose entitlement to Universal Credit.

Recommendation 5: Following the promise in Our Charter to help improve people’s wellbeing and financial circumstances, Social Security Scotland should proactively refer people to money, debt and welfare rights advice when Scottish Child Payment stops due to changes in household income.

Recommendation 6: The Scottish Government should consider what else it can do to actively help families transition from Scottish Child Payment to an Education Maintenance Allowance at age 16.

Recommendation 7: In line with the Social Security Charter expectation that assistance will be paid ‘on time in the right amount’, once Social Security Scotland is able to assess the time reasonably needed to make quality decisions, it should communicate this to people who are making Scottish Child Payment claims and, in individual cases where exceeded, explain the reasons why.

Recommendation 8: The Scottish Government reconsiders the proposal to restrict the 12 week re-start period and instead finds an alternative way to make any necessary checks to fill gaps in up-to-date information while undertaking a determination without application, so that families who might struggle with the application process do not miss out on entitlement.

Recommendation 9: In its review of Scottish Child Payment, the Scottish Government should look for ways to make eligibility rules fairer by offering the same amount of support to all families whose child dies.

Recommendation 10: The Scottish Government should maintain an urgent focus on take up of Scottish Child Payment to ensure that families also get the early learning and school age payments they are entitled to, realising the potential of auto-awards to increase take up.

Recommendation 11: The Scottish Government should explain how the regulations give Social Security Scotland the discretion to defer or waive making an auto award of Best Start Grant where the claimant requests this or where circumstances suggest that another person may be eligible to apply during the application window.

Recommendation 12: The Scottish Government should ensure that the regulation to pay the higher level of pregnancy and baby payment matches the policy intention with regard to refugees.

Recommendation 13: The Scottish Government should widen the definition of ‘domestic abuse’ to include abusive behaviour by the individual’s ex-partner.

Observation 1: SCoSS and stakeholders warmly welcome the support for children and families through Scottish Child Payment, making good on Our Charter’s promise to deliver a better future by using social security powers to contribute to tackling poverty.

Observation 2: There may be cross-border agreements such as special guardianship arrangements, which could apply to a child who moves from England to live with a kinship carer in Scotland. The Scottish Government could explore whether these should be added to the definition of ‘kinship care’ to ensure no kinship carer misses out on entitlement to the five Scottish family payments.

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