Social Security Scotland is One! | CPAG

Social Security Scotland is One!

Published on: 
25 September 2019
Written by: 

Kirsty McKechnie

Welfare rights adviser, Early Warning System

It is one year since Social Security Scotland became operational and CPAG in Scotland’s Early Warning System has been monitoring its progress[1] as it started to deliver new benefits: carer’s allowance supplement and best start grant.

Below are initial Early Warning System findings on these first Social Security Scotland payments. We’ll continue to build the evidence-base on these, as well as further benefits that are to be delivered, in the coming months and years. Our case evidence is shared with the Scottish Government and Social Security Scotland to inform continuous improvement of the new social security system.

Carer’s allowance supplement

Carer’s allowance supplement is paid twice a year to people in Scotland who are receiving carer’s allowance. The first payment of £226.20 went out in December 2018.

Carer’s allowance is deducted pound for pound from universal credit. Early Warning System evidence highlighted that people were not claiming carer’s allowance alongside universal credit as they believed there was no financial benefit. In some cases it appeared that this was on the advice of DWP staff. After the issue was raised via the Early Warning System, however, it looks as though this is no longer happening.

It is vital people claim carer’s allowance alongside universal credit in order to receive the carer’s allowance supplement.

Client stopped work to care for her mother and claimed universal credit including the carer’s element (an additional amount paid in universal credit) but did not realise she could also claim carer’s allowance which would subsequently entitle her to carer’s allowance supplement and national insurance contributions that could count towards her state retirement pension.


Best Start Grant

There are 3 separate payments available:

  • Pregnancy and baby payment - £600 for the first child, £300 for second and subsequent children (applications opened 10th December 2018)
  • Early learning payment - £250 (applications opened 29th April 2019)
  • School age payment - £250 (applications opened 3rd June 2019).


Entitlement to best start grants

Early Warning System evidence highlights that there are some low income families who are not entitled to the best start grant because they are not receiving a qualifying benefit.[2] In particular we found this affected:

  • students who receive the care experienced bursary
  • people who are having difficulty with the qualifying benefits
  • lone parents who are receiving maternity allowance with one child and no housing costs.
An 18 year old student, with no housing costs, does not receive universal credit because her income is too high after she receives the care-experienced grant. She is therefore not entitled to a best start grant.


A family who were claiming universal credit, were incorrectly advised to claim tax credits after their third child was born. Tax credits were paid in error, stopped and had to be repaid by the clients. However, their subsequent claim for universal credit was not backdated, which meant that they were not receiving a qualifying benefit during the application window for the best start grant.


An adviser has two clients who are both pregnant with their first child and have no housing costs. The client who is receiving maternity allowance is not entitled to universal credit (and therefore a best start grant) because her maternity allowance is taken into account in full in the universal credit calculation. The client who is receiving statutory maternity pay is entitled to universal credit because although statutory maternity pay is paid at the same rate as maximum maternity allowance, statutory maternity pay is treated as earnings and therefore only partially taken into account in the universal credit calculation.


Maternity allowance is paid to people who have not worked for long enough, or earned enough, to satisfy the conditions for statutory maternity pay, so parents with less stable employment and lower earnings will not be able to access assistance from the best start grant. We hope in time, as the best start grant is reviewed, that consideration will be given to expanding eligibility to include these low-income families who are currently missing out on this valuable source of support.

Valuable source of support

Early Warning System evidence also highlights that the best start grant is a welcome source of support to families who are seeing their incomes reduced by changes in UK social security e.g. by the two child limit or benefit cap. The best start grant for second and subsequent children is particularly welcome as the impact of restricting the sure start maternity grant (now replaced by the best start grant in Scotland) for first children in the family had been widely noted by the Early Warning System.

Couple’s third child has just been born at the same time as husband has been redundant. The two child limit will apply, so they will not be entitled to an additional amount for the new baby in their tax credits or housing benefit, but they will be entitled to the best start grant of £300.


A system based on dignity and respect?

Compared with case evidence on UK benefits, we have considerably less in relation to the new Scottish benefits, however notable by their absence are case studies about misinformation and administrative error. There is one case about a best start grant application that appeared to go missing after it was made. The rest of cases are around entitlement rather than about the claims process or delivery. Will we continue to see this trend as benefits that involve assessments and continuous payment, such as disability assistance are introduced? I hope so.


What do you think?

Does the Early Warning System case evidence reflect your experience with Social Security Scotland? We will be continuing to monitor the case evidence and report emerging issues to Social Security Scotland to inform their training and administrative processes. If there are any case studies that you think would be of interest, please contact

Kirsty McKechnie (welfare rights officer – Early Warning System)

[email protected]




[1] As these benefits are new, the Early Warning System has not just monitored the impact of the benefits but also the queries received to CPAG in Scotland’s second tier advice line to identify any gaps in information

[2] To be entitled to the best start grant, claimants over 18 must be receiving universal credit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, pension credit, housing benefit, child tax credit or working tax credit.