3. Scottish Government Mitigation
This chapter covers Scottish Government activity to mitigate some of the impacts of the Welfare Reform Act (2012) (the Act), and other UK welfare reforms, on the people of Scotland. A summary of some of the Scottish Government's most significant mitigation activity to date is included in this chapter.
3.2 Discretionary Housing Payments
Discretionary Housing Payments ( DHPs) provide help with housing costs for those on Housing Benefit (or the housing element of Universal Credit). These are currently administered by local authorities on behalf of DWP and will be devolved to the Scottish Government through the Scotland Act 2016.
In the period 2013-2017, the Scottish Government is providing £125m of additional funding for DHPs to mitigate the 'bedroom tax'. In 2015/16, local authorities in Scotland made around 116,000 DHP awards. During this same period the average payment was £425. This amounts to a total value of £49.2 million of awards spent or committed. 
Table 2 - Breakdown of DHP Funding in Scotland (2013-2017) 
|Year||DHP Funding in Scotland||Total|
3.3 Council Tax Reduction Scheme
The Scottish Government and Scottish local authorities continued the Council Tax Reduction ( CTR) scheme in 2015-16, following the abolition of Council Tax Benefit ( CTB) in 2013 (see section 2.3). The aim of CTR is to ensure that low income households do not face difficulties in meeting their council tax liabilities. The CTR scheme replicates entitlement to CTB so that households have the same net liability for council tax (provided that their circumstances remain the same). In 2016-17, a further £23m of funding was provided by the Scottish Government to protect previous entitlement.
There were over 505,000 CTR recipients in Scotland in December 2015 and provisional expenditure for 2015-16 was £336 million. A total of 86,500 (16.5%) of recipients were lone parents and 201,000 (38%) were aged 65 or over in March 2015.
3.4 The Scottish Welfare Fund
The Scottish Welfare Fund ( SWF) is a national grant scheme delivered on behalf of the Scottish Government by all 32 local authorities. The scheme replaced elements of the Social Fund, abolished by the Department for Work and Pensions (see section 2.3).
Delivered on a voluntary basis since April 2013, the scheme was made permanent in April 2016 by the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015 and subsequent legislation. The Scottish Government provides an annual grant of £38 million to local authorities to deliver the scheme, made up of a £33 million programme budget and a £5 million administration budget.
There are two types of grant available:
- Crisis grants for those experiencing disaster or emergency, and who have no other financial support available.
- Community care grants for vulnerable people seeking to establish or maintain a home, including families facing exceptional pressure.
Between April 2013 and December 2015, local authorities awarded £89 million of grants. These grants were made to more than 191,000 vulnerable households across Scotland (63,000 of which were households with children).
3.5 Emergency Food Action Plan
The Scottish Government's Emergency Food Action Plan provided £1 million over 2014-15 and 2015-16 to help combat food poverty in Scotland. The funding supported 26 emergency food aid projects in 17 local authority areas, which aimed to both respond to immediate demands, and help to address the underlying causes of food poverty. Actions ranged from increasing food provision to promoting healthy eating, advice provision and linking food providers across local areas. The funding also supported FareShare, a charity which takes good quality surplus food from the food industry and makes it available to charities and community groups. Over the course of its funding, FareShare distributed 1,853 tonnes of surplus food to over 360 local community groups across the country.
A further £1 million of funding was announced for 2016-17. The funding aims to help emergency food providers link with other local providers to deliver services that give people opportunities to access fresh and healthy food, share a meal, or develop new skills.
3.6 Free School Meals
The Scottish Government continues to fund universal free school meals to children in primary one to three, providing £54m in funding in 2016/17. This measure saves families around £380 a year per child who takes the meals and also ensures children have access to a healthy meal at school. Free school meals for older children and young people are provided if they meet the benefits-related eligibility criteria  .
The Scottish Government is continuing to consider how eligibility to free school meals will be determined in the context of the UK Government's changes in welfare policy. As an interim arrangement, legislation  prescribed the receipt of Universal Credit as an eligibility criterion for free school meals to ensure that no child will lose their entitlement during the early stages of the Universal Credit roll-out. The Scottish Government is working with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA) to consider the eligibility criteria for free school meals in the future.
3.7 School Clothing Grant
Under section 54 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, local authorities are under a duty to provide help to parents of pupils whose clothing may be inadequate for the purposes of school education. The provision of school clothing grants has become the customary way for local authorities to fulfil this duty with local authorities currently being responsible for setting the criteria for allocating grants, for deciding on the grant amount and for the application process. Earlier this year, section 54 of the 1980 Act was amended by the Education (Scotland) Act 2016 to give Scottish Ministers the power to introduce regulations that will end disparities in clothing grant provision across Scotland. Scottish Ministers intend to achieve this in partnership with COSLA, rather than impose regulations, as has been achieved with free school meals for P1-3. The Scottish Government, in negotiation and agreement with COSLA, is seeking consistency of provision, a minimum grant amount and agreed eligibility criteria, informed by evidence.
3.8 Early Learning and Childcare to Vulnerable Two-year-olds
The Scottish Government committed to extending the entitlement of 600 hours funded early learning and childcare to around 27% of two-year-olds from August 2014. Entitlement includes any children with a parent in receipt of an out-of-work benefit, or children in a low income households (as defined through the free school meal criteria). Entitlement also covers two-year-olds who are looked after or subject to a kinship care/guardianship order. In September 2015, 4,321 two-year-olds were registered for early learning and childcare  , this is around 50% of those eligible at term one. The Scottish Government is working closely with key delivery partners to promote the benefits and uptake of this offer for two-year-olds; and has commissioned research on the drivers and barriers to uptake. It is also transforming data collection to more accurately reflect the significant policy change and expansion, including two-year-olds.
3.9 Blue Badges
In 2013, the Blue Badge eligibility criteria was extended as a result of the UK Government's welfare reforms to cover the introduction of PIP. It was further extended in 2014 to cover two groups of people who were in receipt of the higher rate of the mobility component of DLA but who no longer receive that award due to being assessed for PIP.
- To those who do not receive PIP at a rate to passport automatically, and have challenged that decision with DWP, a badge will be issued for a period of one year.
- To those who were in receipt of a 'lifetime' or 'indefinite' HMRC DLA award will retain passporting entitlement to a Blue Badge.
The Scottish Government continues to monitor the impact of PIP on Blue Badge applications through data captured by local authorities through the Blue Badge Information System database.
Email: Philip Duffy