Social Security (Up-rating) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Regulations 2022: scrutiny report

The Scottish Commission on Social Security's scrutiny report on the draft Social Security (Up-rating) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Regulations 2022 with recommendations for the Scottish Government.

Best Start

There are three Best Start Grants, which take the form of one-off payments:

  • Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment (1st Child Payment)
  • Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment (Subsequent Child Payment & Extra Payment for Twins/Triplets)
  • Best Start Grant Early Learning Payment and School Age Payment

The Scottish Government is not obliged to uprate these and this year has chosen not to do so. However, last year it chose to increase the amounts by 1%, double the 0.5% September CPI. The Section 86A report refers to the generosity of the scheme in comparison to similar schemes elsewhere in the UK.

It is also helpful to set the decision not to uprate BSG in the wider context of action to increase the contribution to reduction of poverty in order to understand cumulative impact and offsets. This is an example of where it may be helpful to include information on offsets and overall impact in section 86A reports.

BSF is a prepaid card that can be used to buy healthy foods in shops or online. The Scottish Government is under no obligation to uprate it. However, increasing the amount of BSF was one of the commitments made by the SNP for the first 100 days of the new Government. In August 2021 the amount went up from £4.25 to £4.50 per week and that is the reason given for not exercising discretionary power to uprate it now. Had the £4.25 amount been uprated by 3.1%, it would have risen to £4.38, so a 25p increase is above inflation.

That could have been impacted, had the opportunity not been taken (as explained in the section 86A report) to use these regulations to amend income thresholds for eligibility for Best Start Foods24, to maintain eligibility, ensuring no one loses out because of increases in the National Living Wage and the increased levels of Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. However, it is clearly important to ensure that the amendment to income thresholds achieves the policy intention. We have not had time to investigate this thoroughly, but our initial calculations suggest this is not as straightforward as it may at first appear. We would welcome confirmation that the approach taken fully achieves the policy goal.

Recommendation 3: SCoSS invites the Scottish Government to clarify whether the increase in income threshold for Best Start Foods takes account of the increase in the National Living Wage and confirm that eligibility has not been inadvertently tightened.

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