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.

Executive Summary

In 2019 the Scottish Government published its strategic approach to uprating, confirming it would use the September Consumer Price Index (CPI) to maintain the purchasing power of certain forms of assistance, in line with statutory requirements. It can exercise discretion to uprate other forms. In addition to uprating, it can (various constraints permitting) choose to increase amounts by more. Every year it has used these annual regulations to make changes additional to just uprating – unsurprisingly given the impact of the pandemic.

This year September CPI was 3.1%. Additional action in these regulations includes increasing Scottish Child Payment from £10 to £20 and increasing Child Winter Heating Assistance by 5%. The regulations are not controversial and we welcome the additional action, though we make recommendations and observations on key implications.

Although these regulations align with human rights and relevant social security principles, assessing them through those lenses is not straightforward because what is required to maintain or make improvements to support for an adequate standard of living and contribution to reducing poverty cannot be neatly captured by an average measure of price inflation. Other factors include environmental changes like Covid-19 that increase or create new needs, thus income needs, changes to related provision that offset increases in another, and the masking of areas where inflation rates are higher than the average inflation measure. These can impact disproportionately on particular equality groups. Stakeholder engagement (time permitting) and additional data may be helpful to understanding their impact.

SCoSS sees no reason at the current time to change from using September CPI as the standard measure though we agree with the Scottish Government that developments in possibly better alternatives should be kept under review. However, in November CPI had risen to 5.1%. There is a risk that uprating by 3.1% could mean a reduction in value by April 2022.

We welcome the increase to £20 per week, while noting the ‘cliff-edge’ implications should earnings increase just enough to disentitle a person from Universal Credit, causing SCP to be lost. However we note there is no proposal to uprate or increase the Scottish Child Payment Bridging Payment and recommend that the Scottish Government clarifies its intentions.

The Scottish Government does not propose to uprate Best Start Grant, though we note it was increased by twice the inflation rate last year and it is helpful to set this decision in the wider context of action to increase the contribution to reduction of poverty in order to understand cumulative impact and offsets. The value of Best Start Foods was increased by more than 3.1% in August 2021. The regulations aim, though we are not completely sure they achieve it, to maintain eligibility thresholds so no one loses out because of increases in the National Living Wage, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.

SCoSS welcomes the above-inflation increase while noting that it may still fall short of energy cost inflation.

This additional payment was made in June 2020 and in December 2021. Given the ongoing impact of the pandemic on unpaid carers, we feel there could be a case for continuing it.

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