The Social Security Assistance (Funeral Expense Assistance and Young Carer Grants) (Uprating and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020: scrutiny report

The Scottish Commission on Social Security's scrutiny report on the draft Social Security Assistance (Funeral Expense Assistance and Young Carer Grants) (Uprating and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 with recommendations for the Scottish Government.

Best Start Grant

The Section 77 report states that Best Start Grant will not be uprated in 2020-21. This decision is for the Scottish Government to make and it is not required annually to uprate Best Start Grant or Best Start Foods. It does, however, have the option to uprate any form of devolved assistance should it wish to do so.

While Best Start Grant is already considerably more generous than the equivalent Sure Start Maternity Grant in England and Wales, the Scottish Government has placed particular importance on reducing child poverty. It has explicitly sought to introduce Scottish Child Payment (SCP) to that end and to introduce it as quickly as possible for children aged under 6 in low incomes households. To uprate Best Start Grant would appear to be consistent with that direction of travel. However, in the Section 77 report, the introduction of SCP is presented as a reason not to uprate Best Start Grant.

Recommendation 5: The Scottish Government is invited to explain how its decision not to uprate BSG is consistent with its child poverty goals and with the proposed introduction of the Scottish Child Payment and to consider their combined impact, in the round, on child poverty.

The Scottish Government is, though, obliged to calculate what the figures would be for Best Start Grant (BSG) had it been uprated and include this information in the Section 77 report. These figures show that, had they been uprated, BSG Pregnancy and Baby Payment (first child) would have increased from £600 to £610.20, for subsequent children from £300 to £305.10. BSG Early Learning Payment and School Age Payment would have increased from £250 to £254.25. While these may not seem to be large amounts, they may nonetheless be significant to people on very low incomes. It will be important to track the cumulative impact on total value, should the Scottish Government continue to not uprate BSG in future. This is in line with a recommendation in our Uprating Measures Report:

“Section 77 reports could usefully describe, or be accompanied by documents describing, what the cumulative total value of a benefit would have been had it been uprated annually. This would allow for an evaluation of the effect on poverty levels of not uprating benefits.”

There may also be equalities implications, where people with protected characteristics disproportionately rely on a form of assistance that is repeatedly not uprated.

Recommendation 6: In the event that the decision not to uprate Best Start Grant is not a one-off, Section 77 reports should include figures for what its cumulative total value would have been had it been uprated annually and provide an equality impact assessment.

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