Accessing Scottish social security benefits debate MSPs briefing | CPAG

Accessing Scottish social security benefits debate MSPs briefing

Post date: 
17 November 2021
Written by: 

Ed Pybus

Policy and Parliamentary Officer

Accessing Scottish Social Security Benefits debate briefing For MSPs

3rd November 2021


The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland works for the one in four children in Scotland growing up in poverty. We collect evidence from families living in poverty and campaign for solutions to bring about a society where children have a fair chance in life free from hardship. We provide training, advice and information on social security to frontline workers to make sure families get the financial support they need.

Scottish Child Payment

The introduction of the Scottish child payment has been a 'game changer' in the fight against child poverty. However its success rest on both sufficient investment and high levels of take up. Scotland can only meet its legally binding child poverty targets[1] with further investment in social security – doubling the Scottish child payment in the coming Budget must be a top priority.

However, further investment in Scottish child payment will only help the families who claim it. Data published by the Scottish Government estimates that 77% of eligible households are getting this payment. This means that 23% of eligible families are missing out. The Scottish government’s policy objective for the new payment assumed 83% take-up to take 30,000 children out of relative poverty by 2023-24 (a three percentage point reduction)[2].

It is important to ensure all those families that need the support are getting the payment. Social Security Scotland must have sufficient resources to collect and analyse data on applications to understand  who is, and who is not, claiming the help they are entitled to. This must include information on  protected characteristics, but also data on the groups we know are more likely to be in poverty and socio-economic data.  This data can then drive the Scottish government’s take-up strategy.



Access to reserved benefits

Scottish child payment is only payable to households that receive a qualifying benefit[3] - and we know many households in poverty are missing out on these qualifying benefits. The take up figure of 77% only covers the families that claim a qualifying benefit, and we know there are many barriers to claiming these qualifying benefits. The true number of households missing out is even higher. In order to lift families in Scotland out of poverty the Scottish government must do all it can to maximise take-up of all social security payments, including reserved benefits.

In our Programme for Government we called for this parliament to maintain and enhance investment in welfare rights work, including in schools and health settings, to ensure all families can access the financial support they are entitled to.

Disability benefits

CPAG have been pleased to use our social security expertise to work with the Scottish parliament and Scottish Government officials as the legislation and processes required to deliver social security have developed, including through our membership of the Scottish Government’s stakeholder groups and the Disability and Cares Benefits Expert Advisory Group.

Through our work with Scottish Campaign on Rights to Social Security coalition we were pleased that the social security principles, which were developed with input from the coalition, have been enshrined in legislation[4]. The intention is that these high-level principles make a real difference to everyone accessing the Scottish social security system. These principles have directly influenced the development of policy and processes but the test will be how easily individuals are able to access social security.

We welcome the forecast by the Scottish Fiscal Commission, which expects that changes the Scottish Government have made to the application process for adult disability payment will mean an 10% increase in successful applications. This will means that more disabled people will be able to get the support they need, and provide an additional investment of £164m a year in disability benefits by 2026[5].

We know that there is a strong link between disability and poverty[6], so we welcome this additional investment. However, parliament now needs to make sure that this aspiration to increase access to disability benefits is met and that the social security system in Scotland has sufficient resources to meet this additional investment at the same time ensuring there is sufficient additional investment in the Scottish child payment to ensure Scotland meets its child poverty targets.

CONTACT : Ed Pybus | Policy and Parliamentary Officer

Mobile: 07903 638 226 |Main: 0141 552 3303 | Email: [email protected]


[1] The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 requires Scottish Ministers to ensure less than 18% of children are living in poverty by 2023/24 and less than 10% of children are living in poverty by 2030. The latest figures show that one in four are in poverty.

[3] A household must be getting universal credit, tax credits, income support, pension credits, income-based jobseekers allowance or income-relayed employment and support allowance to be eligible for Scottish child payment

[4] Sec 1, Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018

[5] The Scottish Fiscal Commission expected that additional successful applications will mean spending £164m on top of what social security spending would have been if personal independence payment had continued unchanged

[6] UK Poverty 2019/20, JRF 2020