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.

Uprated benefits

Section 78 of the Act requires that certain forms of assistance are uprated annually. Young Carer Grant was added to the list through the Young Carer Grant Regulations. The forms of assistance in place that will be covered by this requirement are Funeral Support Payment and Young Carer Grant. Legislation is not required to uprate Carer’s Allowance Supplement as its value is calculated with reference to the formula in 81(4) of the Act. The Scottish Government does not have to uprate Best Start Grant under section 78 and has chosen not to do so.

The new payment levels for uprated forms of assistance will come into effect on 1st April 2020. The draft Regulations clarify that the level of payment that applicants for Young Carer Grant or Funeral Support Payments receive will depend on the date a valid application is received, applications made on or after 1st April receiving the uprated amounts. As both have a large application window, this is a helpful clarification. with applications before 1st April receiving the non-uprated amounts and

The Scottish Government intends to amend the Young Carer Grant (YCG) regulations to ensure that a young carer subject to immigration control (which includes carers who are asylum seekers) and with no recourse to public funds could nonetheless receive the grant. In our report on the draft YCG regulations we welcomed the Scottish Government’s intention to seek this exemption. We also recommended that, should people subject to immigration control be granted exemption, the impact of this should be monitored (recommendation 17(i)).

Officials have assured us that this amendment will have no impact on recipients’ immigration status and that the Home Office has undertaken not to add YCG to either the benefits listed as unavailable to persons subject to immigration control in section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, or to the list of restricted public funds in the Immigration Rules.

Eligibility for YCG is contingent on the cared-for person being in receipt of reserved benefits such as PIP/ DLA care component or AA18, which cannot be claimed by people subject to immigration-related restrictions. Young carers are likely to be caring for family members and there is a strong likelihood that the whole family will be subject to immigration restrictions. This could mean that the change to YCG will only benefit a small number of young carers who are subject to immigration-related restrictions and who are caring for people who are not subject to such restrictions. Of course, it would be welcome, and advance various social security principles and human rights, particularly concerning dignity and adequate living standards (the two clearly being interconnected) even if just a small number of people benefit, particularly as it may reasonably be expected that asylum seekers, for example, will be in acute poverty. It will also be important to ensure this limitation is communicated to young carers and their advisers.

Officials have confirmed that they do not hold estimates of the number of young carers who will gain from this exemption, which adds weight to the need to monitor the impact. It also flags a possible wider issue that could arise concerning the interface between devolved benefits, including top-up benefits, with reserved powers and benefits.

Recommendation 4: The Scottish Commission on Social Security welcomes the exemption of YCG from immigration-related restrictions and underlines the usefulness of monitoring numbers receiving it, including, specifically, people subject to immigration-related restrictions

Funeral Support Payment is comprised of three components. In summary, these are: reasonable costs incurred in arranging the funeral; a flat-rate payment of £700 or £120; and reasonable transport costs.

The Scottish Government has decided to ‘uplift’ (i.e. increase the value over and above uprating) of the higher flat-rate component from £700 to £1,000. This is a welcome measure, consistent with the social security principle on contributing towards the reduction of poverty (e). It also clarifies the Scottish Government’s response to a recommendation in our Uprating Measures Report , that the purpose of uprating is just to maintain the value of a particular assistance, and to uplift value beyond that would require separate regulations. While that may indeed be the policy intention of uprating, it seems there is nothing to preclude uplifting measures from being wholly integrated into uprating regulations. This is demonstrated in Regulation 5(3)(a), which directly replaces £700 with £1,000.

In addition, the draft Regulations rectify minor technical issues in the Funeral Expense Assistance regulations (these were finalised before SCoSS was established and so were not subject to our scrutiny) concerning clarification of the different treatment of pre-paid funeral plans and funeral insurance or similar.

Observation: The amendment to the treatment of ‘funeral insurance’, to ensure applicants are not disadvantaged, where it concerns people with low or incomplete insurance, is a small but positive measure.

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