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Publication - Research Publication

Analysis of written responses to the consultation on social security in Scotland

Published: 22 Feb 2017
Part of:
Equality and rights, Research
ISBN:
9781786527912

Analysis of responses to a public consultation to inform the content of the new Scottish Social Security Bill.

331 page PDF

2.3MB

331 page PDF

2.3MB

Contents
Analysis of written responses to the consultation on social security in Scotland
10. Best Start

331 page PDF

2.3MB

10. Best Start

Proposals for identifying eligible families

10.1 The Scottish Government set out its proposals for identifying eligible families in Part 2 of the consultation document.

Question - What are your views on who should receive the Best Start Grant?

10.2 In total, 115 respondents answered this question (39 individuals and 76 organisations).

10.3 The main themes emerging were:

  • support for providing the Best Start Grant ( BSG) to families on low incomes, and in receipt of broadly similar grants to the Sure Start Maternity Grant ( SSMG);
  • there was also some support for targeting the grant more on those most in need;
  • eligibility could be extended to cover those receiving Council Tax Reduction or Housing Benefit (who are not currently eligible for the SSMG);
  • broad support for the proposed overall increase in the grant, the inclusion of payments for second children, and at key stages after birth; and
  • opportunities to improve the reach and effectiveness of the grant by making changes to when people become eligible, and more effective promotion.

10.4 While many respondents related their comments to the specific three example options set out in the consultation document, others spoke in more general terms about their priorities for this grant.

Similar eligibility to SureStart Maternity Grant

10.5 Although respondents were not asked to select a particular model for eligibility, of the three example options set out in the consultation document, there seemed to be most support for providing the grant to those in receipt of any Tax Credit or Universal Credit - a broadly similar approach to eligibility for SSMG. Only a few respondents (mainly a few local authority respondents) clearly advocated a more targeted approach.

10.6 Those supporting this approach emphasised different reasons for their support. In particular:

  • This approach was seen as relatively easy to administer - as it would be straightforward to identify the families receiving these existing benefits.
  • There was a sense that the current eligibility for SSMG is sufficiently targeted at those on low incomes. Respondents explained that it would still be important for those who may not be eligible for much other support, such as those earning more than the living wage. They felt that these families would still benefit significantly from additional financial support at key stages.

"Amongst advisers and clients who participated [in CAS's consultation on social security] there was a general consensus that the widest proposed criteria should be used, due to its inclusion of working parents. CAS would support the proposals in the consultation document for all parents in receipt of Tax Credits or Universal Credit to be eligible."
Citizens Advice Scotland

"In terms of eligibility, BSGs should be available to all those families currently eligible for SSMGs."
Children in Scotland

"We support the option of a broad number of children and families to get the grant - so that it reaches those families at risk of poverty as well as those in poverty."
One Parent Families Scotland

Widening eligibility

10.7 Among those who broadly supported eligibility based on the current approach, some called for families in receipt of other benefits to be included as well. In particular, a few respondents wanted to ensure that recipients of Housing Benefit (which does not qualify people for SSMG) would be eligible for BSG. A few others suggested Council Tax Reduction, Pension Credit and Disability Living Allowance.

10.8 Some respondents identified particular groups of people who they thought should be eligible for the BSG. In particular,

  • parents who are Looked After Young People or care leavers;
  • kinship carers; and
  • parents under 18.

"Anyone receiving any Tax credits, Universal Credit, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction should receive the BSG. Anyone under 18 should receive BSG, regardless of income. Any child that is looked after by a local authority, or subject of a kinship care order or guardianship order, regardless of income."
Parkhead Citizens Advice Bureau

". . .There is a strong case for considering the particular situation of care experienced young people or those on kinship care orders to have access to this benefit from age 16 years, where appropriate. Further consideration could be given to other vulnerable groups in future."
Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland

10.9 A few respondents also identified recent migrants and refugees, disabled people, and gypsy travellers as groups which could be better supported through the Best Start Grant. A few respondents made the more general point that the system should have a degree of flexibility, in order to respond to the needs of vulnerable groups, or specific families.

Other suggested approaches

10.10 Some respondents made fairly general points that the grant should be targeted at low income families or those who need it most. In these cases, it wasn't clear whether they supported any of the specific examples identified in the consultation document.

10.11 A few individual respondents specifically called for the grant to be income based, rather than based on the receipt of specific benefits. A few others proposed a tapered approach with a lower level of grant for families in receipt of universal and tax credits, but with additional sums for those most in need. A few others suggested the grant should be universal or abolished.

10.12 A few local authority respondents, including COSLA, made very similar responses. They emphasised the need to focus resources on those most in need, and suggested that the grant should go to those eligible for additional free early learning and childcare at two years of age.

"Families entitled to the free early learning and childcare at two years of age seems like the group who have the most to gain from this provision."
COSLA

Improving access

10.13 A few respondents suggested that the Scottish Government may need to consider when people become eligible for the grant, to ensure that those who need it receive it. Respondents highlighted potential problems - such as young mothers not becoming eligible until after their babies are born, challenges for kinship carers, and situations where recent migrants may not have been eligible for the birth element, but whose children should be able to access grants at nursery and school start times.

10.14 A few respondents also highlighted that Best Start could be better promoted to improve take up - potentially via health visitors, schools and nurseries, or others in contact with low income families. This issue was also raised by some respondents later in the consultation.

Wider views

10.15 Some respondents took the opportunity to broadly welcome the proposed changes to BSG. A few respondents specifically welcomed the overall increase in amount, the reintroduction of grants for subsequent children, and additional stages of payments at school and nursery time.

"Lead Scotland welcomes the Scottish Government's proposal of replacing the current Sure Start Maternity Grant with a Best Start Grant, thereby increasing the lump sum payments families receive on the birth of a child as well as at key transition points in a child's life."
Lead Scotland

10.16 A few local authority respondents, including COSLA, raised questions about how BSG fitted with wider policy approaches. They asked for clarity about the outcomes that the Scottish Government is seeking to achieve through the grant. They queried the evidence base for universal approaches, such as the baby box, advocating further targeting of resources.

Proposals for identifying who is responsible for a child

10.17 The Scottish Government set out its proposals for identifying who is responsible for a child for the purposes of BSG in Part 2 of the consultation document.

Question - Should we continue to use the same system to determine who is responsible for a child for the purposes of the BSG application? Please explain why.

Table 10.1 Should we continue to use the same system to determine who is responsible for a child for the purposes of the BSG application?
Yes No
Respondent group Number % Number % Total
Individuals 36 80% 9 20% 45
Organisations 40 83% 8 17% 48
All respondents answering 76 82% 17 18% 93

Note: A full breakdown of responses by respondent group is included in Annex 2 (available to download separately as part of this publication).

10.18 A total of 93 respondents answered this question. Most respondents (82%) felt that the same system should be used for the purposes of the BSG application.

10.19 Further explanation was provided by 66 respondents (21 individuals and 45 organisations).

Reasons for answering 'yes'

10.20 Some of those who explained why they supported the current approach simply felt it was important that the grant went to the person responsible for the child, which would usually be someone that lived with the child or received Child Benefit on their behalf.

"Current rules pay the money to the person identified as the primary carer of the child, and this should continue."
Glasgow City Council

"Current system seems to capture the right people."
Individual

10.21 Some who supported the current approach explained that the current system worked reasonably well when compared with other benefits, was fair, or seemed simple.

"It is our experience that there are relatively few disputes over who is responsible for a child and that Child Benefit tends to be paid to those with the greatest link to providing care for the child."
ENABLE Scotland

"I think that seems the fairest way to me."
Individual

10.22 A few highlighted that building on the current approach meant that systems were already in place. They welcomed the consistency and continuity in adopting the existing approach to determine responsibility.

"It builds on the existing infrastructure."
Aberdeenshire Council

"Continuing to use the same test for responsibility for a child currently used for the SSMG and applied to other benefits would offer a consistent, simple message to families and encourage maximum take-up of the Best Start Grant."
Maternity Action

Reasons for answering 'no'

10.23 The main reasons for answering 'no' tended to relate to issues for specific groups. Often respondents identified issues for kinship carers, but other groups included refugee and migrant women, and Looked After Children.

Issues for kinship carers and Looked After Children

10.24 A few respondents (both those answering 'yes' and 'no') highlighted that Looked After Children or those cared for by kinship carers could not be identified under this proposed approach. A few of these, supported the argument put forward by CPAG Scotland, including Children in Scotland.

"In respect to kinship carers, it will not be sufficient to use Child Benefit to determine responsibility for the child if the support is to be provided to carers of Looked After Children. Such carers are generally excluded from access to Child Benefit if another payment is made for the child's maintenance or accommodation out of public funds ( i.e. kinship care allowance)."
Children in Scotland

Question - Do you agree that each of the three BSG payments should only be made once for each child? If no, what exceptions would you make to this rule?

Table 10.2 Do you agree that each of the three BSG payments should only be made once for each child?
Yes No
Respondent group Number % Number % Total
Individuals 33 73% 12 27% 45
Organisations 34 68% 16 32% 50
All respondents answering 67 71% 28 29% 95

Note: A full breakdown of responses by respondent group is included in Annex 2 (available to download separately as part of this publication).

10.25 A total of 95 respondents answered this question. Most respondents (71%) agreed that each of the three BSG payments should only be made once for each child. However, a substantial minority (29%) disagreed.

10.26 When asked about exceptions, 48 respondents (12 individuals and 36 organisations) provided comments, although not all were substantive. As the question specifically asked for further comments from those who answered 'no', those respondents who disagreed offered the most detailed comments. However, similar points were made by both those answering 'yes' and 'no'.

Exceptions

10.27 Most of those who gave reasons for disagreeing explained there may be exceptional circumstances in which further payments should be made for an individual child.

10.28 Respondents (including those who agreed and disagreed) highlighted specific situations or circumstances where exceptions should be made. These often related to changes in living situations, or chaotic periods for families. More specifically, a few respondents suggested that additional payments should be made where custody or guardianship arrangements for a child change - either permanently or temporarily. For example, as a result of a Court Order, a breakdown in a marriage, changes to custody, adoption, kinship carer arrangements, fostering, long term hospitalisation, or as the result of death of a parent or carer.

"If a child has suffered life changing issues, and if the child ends up in the social services system then more than one payment should be considered."
Individual

"We would support exceptions to the one payment rule. For example:

If a couple break up and one has already had the grant then that could be grounds for two grants; or if a single parent is fleeing domestic violence and the ex- partner had been given the grant as the main claimant of benefit as in Universal credits; [or] if someone is adopting a baby / child and the birth parent has already claimed. Also if Kinship carers take over the care of a baby should they then be able to claim the best start grants."
Parenting across Scotland

10.29 Some respondents, including those who both agreed and disagreed with the proposal, simply took the opportunity to suggest that the Scottish Government should allow exceptions - perhaps based on the existing SureStart exceptions.

Proposals on the maternity payment

10.30 The Scottish Government set out its proposals on the maternity payment in Part 2 of the consultation document.

Question - Should we continue to use the same method as the SSMG to determine whether a child is the first child in a household? Please explain why. If no, what alternative method should we use?

Table 10.3 Should we continue to use the same method as the SSMG to determine whether a child is the first child in a household?
Yes No
Respondent group Number % Number % Total
Individuals 33 70% 14 30% 47
Organisations 23 51% 22 49% 45
All respondents answering 56 61% 36 39% 92

Note: A full breakdown of responses by respondent group is included in Annex 2 (available to download separately as part of this publication).

10.31 A total of 92 respondents answered the closed part of this question. The majority of respondents (61%) felt that the same method should be used. However, a substantial minority of respondents (39%) disagreed. Individuals were slightly more likely to agree than organisations.

10.32 When asked to explain why, or suggest alternative methods, 53 respondents (18 individuals and 35 organisations) provided comments. At times, the same points were made by those who agreed and disagreed.

Main reason for supporting the current system

10.33 Most of those who offered support for the current system (and provided comments) suggested that it made sense to continue using it, as it was a simple or suitable approach.

"Yes, we should continue to use the same method as the SSMG to determine whether a child is the first in the household."
Inverclyde Council / HSCP

"It is the best way to identify."
Individual

Issues for families with large age gaps between children

10.34 Some of those who disagreed with the current approach, and a few of those who broadly agreed, were concerned that the current system may be unfair to families with significant age gaps between their first and second child. They argued it was not practical or realistic to assume these families would keep equipment or clothing over a long period of time. A few also highlighted that, in some cases there might be safety concerns in encouraging them to do so. For example, keeping essential equipment for long periods of time might mean it no longer meets safety standards.

". . . it is becoming increasingly more common for families to be made up of one or more generation of children, this means the concept of deciding when it is appropriate to consider a first or second tier payment becomes more difficult to assess."
Highland Council

"Where there is a sufficient age gap such that it would not be reasonable for someone to have kept items such as a cot or a pram etc. then the arrival of a new child could be considered as if it was a first child."
Glasgow City Council

10.35 Some respondents (both those answering 'yes' and those answering 'no') were concerned that the current system does not take account of different family make-ups, or how these may change over time. A few also raised concerns that families who have moved to Scotland since the birth of their first child, may be unfairly disadvantaged.

"The current method is unfair to many families, including 'blended' families (excludes woman having first baby who has a partner with older children) and families from abroad (refugees unable to bring baby items with them)."
CPAG Scotland

"There may be an older step-child."
Individual

Potential alternatives

10.36 Alternatives were put forward by a few respondents (mostly those who answered 'no' to the closed part of the question):

  • The Scottish Government could further reduce the age limit for the first child.
  • In some situations, the second child should be treated as a first child. In particular, where there is a significant age gap, where there have been particular changes to the family composition or circumstances, or where a family has moved to Scotland since the birth of their first child.
  • Instead of different levels of payments for first and second children, each child could receive the same award level. This was viewed as being simpler to administer, and would address concerns.
  • The system might determine whether the claimant has previously received a BSG or SSMG for a child under 16 who still lives in their household, or if there is another child under 16 who has lived in the UK (or EEA), in the same household as the mother since birth.
  • Child benefit records could be used.

"I think that the award should be the same for each child as many people cannot store the items that they have been given for the first child. . ."
Cassiltoun Housing Association

"There are circumstances . . . where a subsequent child should be treated as though they were the first. It may be a more sensible approach to reduce the age limit of the other child in the property."
NHS Lanarkshire

"Child Benefit records should be considered as the primary identification tool, this would ensure continuity as relationships evolve / partners-family dynamics change."
Angus Community Planning Partnership, in co-operation with the Angus Welfare Reform Group

Question - Do you agree that we should retain the requirement to obtain advice from a medical professional before making a maternity payment? Please explain your answer.

Table 10.4 Do you agree that we should retain the requirement to obtain advice from a medical professional before making a maternity payment?
Yes No
Respondent group Number % Number % Total
Individuals 41 91% 4 9% 45
Organisations 38 79% 10 21% 48
All respondents answering 79 85% 14 15% 93

Note: A full breakdown of responses by respondent group is included in Annex 2 (available to download separately as part of this publication).

10.37 A total of 93 respondents answered the closed part of this question. Most respondents (85%) agreed that the same method should be used. Individuals were slightly more likely than organisations to agree.

10.38 When asked to explain their answer, 69 respondents (20 individuals and 49 organisations) provided further comments.

Improved take up of medical advice

10.39 Many respondents who supported the proposal agreed that this would improve the take up of medical advice, with a view to improving health outcomes. Respondents highlighted the importance of prenatal care in determining health outcomes for disadvantaged families.

"We believe that combining medical support and financial support is an effective way of ensuring new families have what they need and that the relationship between claiming the grant and seeking medical support should be upheld."
Cyrenians

10.40 Some respondents emphasised that this would be a practical way of confirming a pregnancy, in order to confirm eligibility and enable parents to access the grant.

Improving awareness and access to wider support

10.41 Some respondents (both those who agreed and disagreed) emphasised the opportunities to improve access to wider services and support at this stage. They advocated improved signposting and referrals to money advice and other support services.

"There may be an opportunity to ensure other assistance, that can increase pregnancy outcomes, which is available at a local level is also discussed with signposting to relevant agencies also taking place."
NHS Lanarkshire

"Parents should also be referred to independent advice agencies for advice about income maximisation."
Parkhead Citizens Advice Bureau

Criticism of financial incentives

10.42 A few respondents disagreed with the approach in principle. They felt that it was unfair to use financial incentives to encourage people to access medical support. It was suggested that take-up should be improved in other ways, such as better promotion. These respondents felt that a confirmation of pregnancy should be sufficient to access the BSG.

"It was felt that most parents do engage with the relevant medical professional but compulsion could be a barrier for those women who are less likely to engage with services - for example young single mums."
One Parent Families Scotland

"Engagement with health services should be as distinct as possible with the benefit system. Currently people expecting children are given an expected date of confinement and together with a copy of a birth certificate should be taken as sufficient evidence that health services are engaged."
Rights Advice Scotland

Proposals on the nursery payment

10.43 The Scottish Government set out its proposals on the nursery payment in Part 2 of the consultation document.

Question - Are there other points during the first five years of a child's life when families face greater pressure than at the start of nursery (other than birth and the start of school)?

10.44 In total, 65 respondents (20 individuals and 45 organisations) answered this question.

Support for key points already identified

10.45 Some respondents took the opportunity to broadly welcome the points already identified for BSG payments. There was recognition that every family situation is different, but that these stages were key pressure points for most families.

"It was generally agreed by participants at our events that these were the most pressurised points of the first five years of a child's life."
The Poverty Alliance

Other points of significant pressure

10.46 Respondents identified other circumstances in which families might come under particular pressure. Often, these did not relate to a particular age, and would vary for different children and families. Some respondents emphasised that many pressure points are difficult to predict.

10.47 Some respondents emphasised the pressure on families with disabilities, additional support needs, or experiencing illness. They felt that these circumstances created additional financial pressures at particular stages - such as diagnosis. A few respondents highlighted the significant pressure of returning to work, or the end of maternity leave and pay.

"The point at which parents return to work can be a pressure point for many families; this may be considerably earlier than the point at which the child becomes entitled to a funded early learning and childcare place."
Maternity Action

10.48 Other circumstances identified by a few respondents included situations where families are fleeing domestic violence; relationship breakdowns; refugees or asylum seekers; unemployment; and families with a parent who had become imprisoned.

"Not in all cases but there may be some families facing exceptional pressures due to relationship breakdown, fleeing domestic abuse, refugee and asylum seekers, bereavement, diagnosis of illness or disability etc. and in such circumstance parents could benefit from requesting further payments are made early, i.e. before the child starts nursery or school."
Midlothian Community Planning Partnership / Midlothian Council

10.49 A few local authority respondents, called for greater clarity about the outcomes that the Scottish Government is seeking to achieve through BSG. They felt it was important to understand this in order to identify the most important pressure points.

"...It is not clear what the purpose of a Best Start Grant is. This clarity would then assist in determining when it should be paid."
Argyll and Bute Council

Question - What are your views on defining 'the start of nursery' as the point of entitlement to a funded early learning and childcare place, for the purposes of making the second payment?

10.50 In total, 74 respondents answered this question (26 individuals and 48 organisations). Respondents appeared to interpret the proposals and questions differently.

Support for a payment at this stage

10.51 Many respondents expressed their broad support for providing a second payment around the time a child might start nursery, or the approach set out in the consultation document.

"This would seem like a sensible time to make the payment. It should also have the advantage of ensuring that families of vulnerable 2 year olds are supported at the earliest opportunity and act as an incentive to take up the place."
Barnardo's Scotland

Concerns about fairness and consistency in access

10.52 Some respondents emphasised that families will have variable arrangements for childcare - including informal arrangements and private provision. A few others emphasised that the age children start nursery varies significantly across Scotland.

10.53 At times, respondents seemed unclear about whether being eligible for a free nursery place or the entitlement to free early years education alone would be used to identify those eligible for the payments, or whether take-up of the entitlement was required.

10.54 There was some concern that in situations where a parent chose not to take up their entitlement, or had problems accessing it, they may not be eligible for the second payment of the grant. This led to variable suggestions about providing funding based on age, registration with childcare providers, or other criteria.

"Should a parent not be able to access support through a funded childcare place due to either a lack of resources generally or issues relating to their child's disability then it is important that they are not disadvantaged."
ENABLE Scotland

Other suggestions

10.55 A few local authority respondents highlighted the value in aligning grant entitlement with early learning entitlements, with a view to improving access to both.

"There may be an opportunity here to dovetail access to the BSG with increasing take up of the funded place - local authorities are already engaging with those entitled to the ELCP and joining up these two initiatives could maximise access to both locally."
COSLA

10.56 A few respondents, including the Child Poverty Action Group, proposed that entitlement should be based on the same criteria as the maternity element of BSG. A further few respondents suggested that a specific age should be the trigger.

" CPAG believe you should be able to claim the Best Start Grant nursery payment if you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit (or have been in receipt of a qualifying benefit in the past six months) and your child is aged two to three."
CPAG Scotland

Question - Are there any particular issues related to the nursery payment that you think we should consider?

10.57 In total, 53 respondents (23 individuals and 30 organisations) answered this question. Of these, some said they hadn't any particular further issues to raise, or referred to their earlier answers.

10.58 Those who did respond tended to reinforce points made in response to earlier questions.

10.59 The key points raised by a few respondents included:

  • questions about how BSG would relate to other financial support offered at this stage and why this stage was identified;
  • the importance of ensuring families have access to funding at the right time, to be able to support appropriate purchases; and
  • additional support and advice could be offered at this stage to families - such as money advice.

10.60 A few respondents made broader points about the importance of supporting families with childcare costs.

Proposals on the school payment

10.61 The Scottish Government set out its proposals on the school payment in Part 2 of the consultation document.

Question - Are there any particular issues related to the school payment that you think we should consider?

10.62 In total, 48 respondents answered this question (19 individuals and 29 organisations). Of these, some remarked that they had no particular issues to raise.

Relationship to other financial support

10.63 Some respondents (mainly local authority respondents) asked for consideration to be given to how this grant related to other financial support available to low income families with children starting school - such as grants for school clothing and footwear. A few suggested that the funding available for this grant could be used in a different way, to better complement existing support.

"Consideration has to be given as to what this school payment is covering. There is already a footwear and clothing grant available to all low income families. This may be an opportunity to consider this funding alongside this existing budget and allow families to access this money more than once a year - looking to put it in place for the different school terms, recognising the wear and tear as well as the growth children will have throughout the year."
North Ayrshire Council

Other issues

10.64 It was highlighted that ages for starting school can vary significantly. A few respondents suggested that enrolling or accepting a place in school should be the trigger for entitlement. A few also emphasised the importance of ensuring grants are available well in advance of starting school, to enable families to use the grant to help meet costs such as for uniforms.

"These payments should be made before the child actually starts school in order to allow the parent to buy uniforms and school essentials before the term begins. This award should be triggered when the parent is notified of school acceptance."
The Poverty Alliance

Question - Should the school payment be payable to all eligible children who begin primary school for the first time in Scotland, or should an upper age limit be included?

10.65 In total, 90 respondents answered this question (42 individuals and 48 organisations).

Support for making the payment to all eligible children

10.66 Most of those who responded to this question said that the school payment should be made to all eligible children who begin primary school for the first time in Scotland. A large number of respondents broadly supported this approach. The most common reason was that an age limit would be unfair to children starting school at a later age - because of their family circumstances, recent migration, or a disability or additional support need.

"Circumstances in which children would start school at a later point are likely to be linked with other financial pressures, such as a change in immigration status, moving house, or disability within the household. Support should therefore be extended to mothers of all eligible children starting primary school in Scotland for the first time."
Engender

"There should be no upper age limit as children may move to Scotland from other countries and may need support to purchase essentials for school."
Inverclyde Council / HSCP

"If an upper age limit is included this could potentially discriminate against children with exceptional needs who delay the start of their formal education."
Bobath Scotland

Practicalities of enforcing an age limit

10.67 A few respondents suggested that it would be administratively challenging to have an age limit. These were mostly local authority respondents and included both those who supported the grant going to all eligible children, and those who said it was difficult to answer this question.

"In administrative terms the exclusion of an upper age limit would increase the administrative checking required as checks would need to be carried out to ensure the child had not received the payment elsewhere."
COSLA

Wider issues

10.68 A few, mostly local authority respondents, called for greater clarity about the outcomes the Scottish Government wishes to achieve through this grant. They suggested that without this, it was difficult to answer this question.

Proposals for the application process

10.69 The Scottish Government set out its proposals on the application process in Part 2 of the consultation document.

Question - What are your views on our proposals in relation to BSG application process?

10.70 In total, 67 respondents answered this question (22 organisations and 45 individuals). Generally, respondents were supportive of the proposals set out.

10.71 The main themes discussed were:

  • extending the application window;
  • support for the three stages of assessment; and
  • the role of local authorities.

Extending the application window

10.72 The proposal which attracted the most support in the responses was the extension of the application window, with most of those commenting on this agreeing it should be six months. It was felt that this would be more manageable for parents at a difficult time and seemed more reasonable - given that some parents would not be able to apply until after birth - and would be fairer to people who may not be able to apply so quickly after birth.

"The extension to the time in which the grant can be claimed is very welcome - many families miss out because for various reasons their claim is too late - child tax credits being claimed post birth, lack of awareness, entry to the country after the time period."
Cassiltoun Housing Association

"I like the fact it takes into account people's situation can change, I also like the proposal to extend the application window for the first payment."
Individual

Support for three stages of assessment

10.73 Some respondents expressed their support for assessing eligibility at each of the three stages. They suggested this was sensible, fair and easy to understand.

"Treating the three payments separately seems a sensible proposal."
Parenting across Scotland

"We also agree that it makes sense to reassess eligibility for later payments at school and nursery age."
Barnardo's Scotland

Potential role of local authorities

10.74 A few, mainly local authority respondents, proposed that local authorities should have responsibilities in relation to identifying eligible families, and for promotion or assessment for the nursery and school stages of the grant.

"Given the notes in the consultation, consideration should be given as to who would be best placed to have the discussion i.e. Maternity payment being discussed with a health professional during pregnancy, nursery and school payments via local authorities. This would enable a more effective way of delivering the grant as local authorities also have records of those in receipt of clothing grants, free school meals. There is an opportunity to link all of those together to provide a more holistic, joined up approach."
West Lothian Council

Other suggestions

10.75 A few (mainly local authority respondents) called for the process to be as simple as possible, given the complexity of issues that need to be taken into account. A few others called for eligible parents to be automatically entitled to or paid the benefit. There were various suggested triggers for this, including entitlement to Healthy Start. It was argued that this would be a simple, easy way to improve access to the new elements of the benefit, and that this might be especially beneficial to particularly disadvantaged groups. A few also highlighted the importance of promotion and communication.

"A simple, straight forward application process is essential.
East Ayrshire Council

"We think it would be important that the BSG is an automatic payment, as this is a new social security payment and there will be a lack of awareness about the system."
One Parent Families Scotland

"If eligible for the healthy start vouchers, then eligibility for the BSG should be considered automatic, and vice versa. This would save paperwork and time. I would imagine some people would know about applying for one of these but not necessarily both, so would make applications quicker and easier."
Individual

"The extension of the application window is welcome but there will need to be communication around this."
Aberdeenshire Council

Question - What are your views on establishing an integrated application process for the BSG and Healthy Start? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this approach?

10.76 In total, 69 respondents commented on the first question (23 individuals and 46 organisations). 44 respondents commented on the second question (14 individuals and 30 organisations). Very similar key themes and points were made across both the questions on integrating the application process for BSG and Healthy Start.

General support for integration

10.77 There was widespread support for the integration of the BSG and Healthy Start application processes, with a large number of respondents broadly welcoming the proposal.

"An integrated application process for the Best Start Grant and Healthy Start vouchers would be preferred in order to maximise the number of eligible people receiving information and support."
Youthlink Scotland

"Yes - as above if one application can cover both that would make the process easier."
Rights Advice Scotland

Potential advantages of integration

10.78 The most common suggested advantages of an integrated approach related to simplicity - with respondents suggesting integration would reduce bureaucracy and improve efficiency. Respondents suggested that an integrated approach could also be easier to promote. This in turn could improve awareness. By having a single form, people could access both grants at once.

"Not only would the integration of application for BSG and Healthy Start make more administrative sense, it also has the potential to ensure that women receive all of the support they are entitled to. Separate applications for both can, at present, be confusing for women. As a result, many are put off from applying for one or both methods of support."
Scottish Women's Convention

Potential disadvantages of integration

10.79 Some (mainly local authority respondents) suggested that bringing the two together could potentially create confusion. In addition, they felt that stigma attached to either grant might put people off applying for the other. For example, if Healthy Start vouchers are associated with very low income families.

"Need to have a carefully considered approach. Healthy start vouchers are not well used. Care needs to be taken not to have a poor uptake because of the perceived stigma around the voucher system. There is potential for there to be confusion about recipients expecting a cash payment and then not understanding about the voucher element."
West Lothian Council

10.80 A few respondents highlighted that the timing and eligibility criteria are currently different for the two grants. A few suggested that these might need to be aligned - otherwise the application processes might actually become more complicated, and the grants more difficult to promote and understand.

"The eligibility criteria would need to be aligned for the claim process to work effectively."
Maternity Action

"May be difficult to market both things at once - some who are entitled to BSG and expect a cash payment may be unsure what the provision provides if vouchers are mentioned - potential stigma attached with healthy start vouchers may prevent applications coming forward."
COSLA

Proposals for alternative support

10.81 The Scottish Government set out its proposals for alternative support in Part 2 of the consultation document.

Question - Would the option to receive items rather than a cash payment as part of the BSG have benefits? Please explain why.

Table 10.5 Would the option to receive items rather than a cash payment as part of the BSG have benefits?
Yes No
Respondent group Number % Number % Total
Individuals 32 78% 9 22% 41
Organisations 28 68% 13 32% 41
All respondents answering 60 73% 22 27% 82

Note: A full breakdown of responses by respondent group is included in Annex 2 (available to download separately as part of this publication).

10.82 In total, 82 respondents answered the closed part of this question. Most respondents (73%) said there should be the option to receive items rather than a cash payment. Individuals were slightly more likely than organisations to support the approach.

10.83 81 respondents (31 individuals and 50 organisations) provided comments when asked to explain their answer.

10.84 The main themes emerging were:

  • the importance of choice; and
  • the potential stigmatisation.

The importance of choice

10.85 Both those who agreed and disagreed reinforced the importance of choice. In fact, choice was the main theme emerging from the comments. Those who supported the proposal often reinforced that families should have a choice between cash or goods.

"Only if very optional and not pushed on applicants through personal judgements."
Scottish Out of School Care Network

10.86 The main explanation for not supporting this idea also related to choice, with some respondents feeling this proposal might undermine choice. It was suggested that the approach was not in keeping with the principles the Scottish Government wishes to promote through the new social security system, with a few feeling that it might undermine dignity and respect.

"We strongly believe that providing awards in kind undermines the principles of dignity and respect."
The Poverty Alliance

"Cash only - let people take responsibility for their own lives."
Individual

Other reasons for supporting the proposal

10.87 Respondents who supported the proposal suggested that offering access to goods and services might be more appropriate for families who struggle to budget, or who they believed might spend money on inappropriate items. This as a key theme, particularly amongst individuals who responded.

10.88 Another key theme amongst respondents who agreed related to securing better value for families. Some respondents felt there was potential for the Scottish Government to secure significant savings, and suggested this could offer families access to good value items.

"The buying power of Government could be used to get best value for families and the system."
Ayr Housing Aid Centre

Potential stigmatisation

10.89 A few respondents (including those who agreed and disagreed) suggested that offering a limited number of goods might lead to stigmatisation, and potentially put families off accessing the grant. This was raised mainly by those who disagreed with the approach.

"There is also the potential to stigmatise children and families, where only specific goods are given and are easily recognised, there has been a big shift away from this and we should continue down this line."
NHS Lanarkshire

Proposals for improving take up

10.90 The Scottish Government set out its proposals for improving take up in Part 2 of the consultation document.

Question - Which services should promote awareness of the BSG to ensure that claimants know about it at the relevant time?

10.91 In total, 84 respondents (31 individuals and 53 organisations) answered this question.

10.92 A large number of respondents emphasised the important role that NHS staff should play in promoting BSG, and supporting access to it. In particular respondents highlighted the role of midwifes and Health Visitors, as well as GPs, pharmacists, health centres and hospitals.

10.93 Other specific key services or professionals identified by some respondents included:

  • school or education staff - particularly to promote grant payments at nursery or school stages;
  • social work services - particularly to promote the grant with more vulnerable families;
  • childcare and early years services and staff;
  • third sector and community organisations; and
  • advice and information services.

10.94 Respondents highlighted the responsibility of statutory services to promote the grant, and also mentioned the valuable role of third and private sector organisations. A few respondents suggested there could be better promotion of the grants in public places that pregnant women might be visiting. A few others reinforced the opportunities to promote the grant through other schemes or opportunities - such as the baby box, at birth registration, or at regular medical appointments. A further few respondents felt there would be value in a strategic or nationwide element to promotion, possibly including a public awareness campaign.


Contact

Email: Trish Brady-Campbell