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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 01 October 2019

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 (Post-legislative Scrutiny), Committee Announcement, Decision Time, Citizens Advice Services in Scotland (80th Year)


Committee Announcement

The next item of business is a committee announcement. I call Bob Doris, the convener of the Social Security Committee, to make an announcement on the committee’s inquiry into benefit take-up.


As convener of the Social Security Committee, I am pleased to announce that we have launched an inquiry into benefit take-up. Statistics from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions estimate that, in 2016-17, only 31 per cent of families without children who were eligible for working tax credit and only 60 per cent of those eligible for pension credit claimed the benefits that they were entitled to.

Because of the difficulties in estimating eligibility, the full number of benefits that go unclaimed is unknown, but we want to explore how take-up rates for the reserved and devolved social security benefits can be improved. The committee will investigate some of the reasons why people do not claim and whether it is to do with stigma associated with benefits, a general lack of awareness around entitlement or the complexity of the application process. We want to investigate what can be done to address the issue, so we will look at previous efforts to promote take-up and investigate, for example, how technology can be used to automate some benefits.

Later this month, the Scottish Government will publish its benefit take-up strategy, which will set out how the Government intends to promote take-up of the new Scottish social security benefits. As entitlement to some of those benefits is linked to being in receipt of a United Kingdom benefit, we will explore what impact that promotion work could have on the take-up of those UK benefits.

To inform our views, we are engaging with stakeholders, organisations and individuals to answer nine key questions, which I will set out. What do we know about how much is unclaimed and why? What are the gaps in knowledge and research and how can those gaps be reduced? How can the administration of benefits be improved to maximise take-up? How can technology be used as far as possible to create a more automated system that uses information that is gathered for other reasons to award benefits automatically, and what would be the advantages and disadvantages of that greater automation? What can we learn from previous campaigns to increase take-up? Are different approaches required for different benefits and client groups? What kinds of eligibility criteria ensure better take-up? How might the development of Scottish social security impact on the take-up of reserved and devolved benefits? Are there other questions that the stakeholders or MSPs think that we should consider as part of the inquiry?

As well as taking written and oral evidence, the committee wants to hear from people with lived experience of the benefits system. In the run-up to challenge poverty week, which starts next Monday, some members of the committee will visit the Glasgow North West Citizens Advice Bureau to hear from advice workers and their clients about some of the reasons why people do not claim the benefits that they are entitled to.

We look forward to reporting back to the Parliament with our findings and recommendations in the new year.

Thank you, Presiding Officer, for the opportunity to make the announcement.