Further written evidence submitted by the Trussell Trust (WPS0024)


Welfare Policy in Scotland

  1. Have there been any knock-on costs to your services in response to the introduction of Universal Credit and the demand needs of service users? If so, what have these been, and how have you tackled them?


The Trussell Trust works with our food bank network and a range of advice sector partners to support people in crisis to access specialist income maximisation and wider social welfare law advice.  This can include:

New volunteers
Our UK-wide network has risen to meet growing demand through additional volunteers, with 10,000 additional people registering to become volunteers during the first six weeks of last year’s lockdown alone. The network also had support through partnerships, such as one with British Gas which saw 3,000 British Gas employees made available to support food banks across the network with parcel deliveries.


Strategic shift towards income maximisation
Evidence from food banks in our network has underpinned our strategic shift towards income maximisation. As the work we undertake shows, demand for emergency food is often driven by problems in the benefit system – such as payment levels which are too low, flawed decision-making and administrative errors.

Costs to services
There have been inevitable costs for the organisation, in staff, training, and support. We are also working on how we evaluate and look at impact, to learn lessons for our work and government policy for Scotland and the UK. But we have decided it is better we invest in this strategic shift - better to make efforts to ensure people have the money to pay for essentials - than continuing as we were in simply distributing emergency food.

 

  1. What challenges have you experienced in relation to collaborative working with the DWP and Social Security Scotland and other agencies involved in social security/benefit administration in Scotland?

 

 

  1. Is there a stigma around social security in Scotland?

 

Evidence from the 2019 longitudinal qualitative research conducted by the A Menu for Change project gives the most comprehensive current analysis of people’s experiences of food insecurity and the social security system in Scotland.

Full details can be found in Found Wanting (A Menu for Change, 2019): found-wanting-a-menu-for-change-final.pdf (wordpress.com).

The study found shame is a key barrier to those seeking help in a crisis, and the nature of support provided can make a significant difference to a person’s outcomes. Asking for help was often a source of shame for interviewees when struggling to afford to meet their basic needs. Some reported feeling undeserving of help and chose not to seek out support despite experiencing extreme need.

The findings in this study highlight the relevance of food insecurity to a wide range of services and the importance of a holistic, person-centred approach to service design and delivery to improve people’s outcomes. The study also suggests there is evidence of the new Social Security Scotland Agency adopting this approach, which considers people’s wider needs, and welcomes this. It goes on to make the case for a role for the Scottish Government, local authorities and other public bodies to:

 

  1. Further evidence on the Scottish Welfare Fund


The Committee is strongly encouraged to draw on the evidence in Strengthening the Safety Net – a study of best practice (A Menu for Change, September 19) to evaluate the efficacy of the Scottish Welfare Fund. Comprehensive analysis of its delivery in all 32 local authorities in Scotland lead to the following set of findings and recommendations to improve the accessibility, speed of decision-making and quality of decision-making.

In considering best practice in Scottish Welfare Fund delivery, this study identified that all local authorities should:

  1. When taking crisis grant applications by phone, have the same member of staff take the application and make the award decision;
  2. Not use an “eligibility checker” for online applications;
  3. Re-evaluate what evidence from applicants is deemed to be “essential” and reduce this, where appropriate;
  4. Make active referrals to advice and support services rather than simply signpost people in crisis;
  5. Pay all applicants in cash as opposed to vouchers;
  6. Give all applicants their decision over the phone initially, followed by a written decision.


In order to maximise the capacity of local authorities to deliver the best practice identified in this study, the Scottish Government should:

  1. Consult local authorities to determine the budget they need to administer the fund to a high standard, including implementing the above recommendations;
  2. Increase the SWF administrative budget based on the findings of this consultation process;
  3. Increase the overall SWF programme budget to meet increased demand;
  4. Provide opportunities for sharing best practice between SWF frontline staff;
  5. Review and revise statutory guidance on the SWF to reflect the recommendations in this report; and
  6. Review the existing monitoring and evaluation of the SWF to ensure an approach based on best practice is being delivered across Scotland and provide additional support to local authorities where required.

 

February 2021