- Document Cover
- Summary of recommendations and observations
- Executive summary
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Qualifying benefits for Best Start Foods
- 3. Who can claim and receive payment
- 4. Alternative forms of payment
- 5. Rate of payment
- 6. Approach to scrutiny
- Annex A: About the Scottish Commission on Social Security
- Annex B: Summary of key provisions in the draft Regulations
- Annex C: Stakeholder engagement
- Annex D: Scrutiny timeline
Best Start Foods is a Social Security Scotland payment that helps towards the costs of being pregnant or looking after a child. It is part of the 5 family payments, along with the three Best Start Grant payments and Scottish Child Payment.
The draft regulations (the Welfare Foods (Best Start Foods) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2024) make various changes to Best Start Foods, in terms of who is eligible, who can claim and receive a payment, what forms of payment are possible and how the rates of payment are defined.
Currently certain qualifying benefits which entitle a person to Best Start Foods are subject to income thresholds. These regulations will remove those thresholds.
These regulations will also allow Social Security Scotland to treat applications received no more than ten days prior to the day an individual is entitled to Best Start Foods as having been received on the day they became entitled to Best Start Foods.
If an application for Best Start Foods is turned down because the applicant is not in receipt of a qualifying benefit and that applicant later receives a backdated award of that qualifying benefit, these regulations will allow Social Security Scotland to award Best Start Foods with effect from the date of the initial Best Start Foods application.
Currently Best Start Foods payments to an individual whose qualifying low-income benefit is Universal Credit continue for a period of eight weeks after entitlement to Universal Credit ends. These regulations will extend this eight-week run on so that it applies to all qualifying benefits, not just Universal Credit.
Currently Best Start Foods can be awarded without a qualifying benefit to a pregnant person who was under 18 when they became pregnant, the partner of a pregnant person who was under 18 when they became pregnant, or a child under one year old whose parent or responsible individual was under 18 when the child was born. These regulations will make the following eligible for Best Start Foods without a qualifying benefit also:
- A pregnant person aged 18 or 19 who is a dependant. This entitlement continues until the child is born, even if the pregnant person is no longer a dependant
- The person upon whom an 18- or 19-year old pregnant person is dependent, or their partner. This entitlement continues until the child is born, even if the pregnant person is no longer a dependant
- An 18- or 19-year old dependant who is the partner of a pregnant person. This entitlement continues until the child is born even if the partner is no longer a dependant
- A child under one year old, whose parent or carer is an 18- or 19-year-old dependant. The child continues to be entitled until their first birthday, even if their parent or carer is no longer a dependant
- A child under one year old whose parent was under 18 or an 18/19-year-old dependant during pregnancy, as long as that parent or their partner is responsible for the child
- A child aged one or two years old, whose parent or carer is under 18 or an 18/19-year-old dependant. Entitlement ends if the parent or carer turns 18 or is no longer a dependant
Many of these provisions serve to align the conditions of entitlement for Best Start Foods to those for Best Start Grant.
During pregnancy, if the pregnant person is eligible, Best Start Foods can currently be awarded to the pregnant person or their partner. These regulations will allow a pregnant person’s partner to be eligible if the partner is under 18, or if the partner is an 18- or 19-year old dependant, regardless of whether the pregnant person is eligible themself. Additionally, these regulations will allow a pregnant person’s parent or carer, or that person’s partner, to be eligible if the pregnant person is under 18 or an 18- or 19-year old dependant. Applications received from the pregnant person will be prioritised over any other applications.
Once the child has been born, only the child is entitled to Best Start Foods. Currently, only a person responsible for the child can claim on the child’s behalf. These regulations will allow the partner of a person responsible for the child to claim on the child’s behalf. Should more than one person wish to act and be paid on the child’s behalf, Social Security Scotland will consider who is best placed to do so.
Best Start Foods is normally paid in the form of a pre-paid debit card. These regulations will allow Social Security Scotland to credit an equivalent amount into someone’s bank account in exceptional circumstances, e.g. being unable to use a card due to an impairment or being too young to be issued with a card.
Currently the rates of payment for children under one year and during pregnancy/for children under three years are set separately. These regulations stipulate that the rate of payment for children under one year will be double the rate of payment during pregnancy/for children under three years.