1.In its letter to the Department of 21st November 2018, the Committee requested a memorandum on the following points:
1. what “the claimant lives in England or Wales” means for the purposes of meeting the new residence condition created by article 3(4), and
2. whether there may be individuals who currently qualify for Sure Start Maternity Grants but would meet neither the “ordinarily resident in Scotland” test nor the “lives in England or Wales” test, and therefore not qualify for either SSMG or the equivalent benefit in Scotland.
2.The Department’s response to the Committee’s points is set out below.
3.With regard to the Committee’s first question, “the claimant lives in England or Wales” has a natural meaning and the Department considers that this is clear. The condition will be satisfied if the claimant lives at an address in England or Wales. This will be ascertained by the Department checking the claimant’s address and postcode at the time they make their claim for a Sure Start Maternity Grant (“SSMG”).
4.While the term “ordinarily resident” may be more commonly used elsewhere in social security legislation, it is the Department’s view that its use in article 3(4) would not deliver the policy intention in this instance.
5.Entitlement to a SSMG depends, in part, on the claimant having been awarded a qualifying benefit (being one of the benefits listed in regulation 5(2) of the Social Fund Maternity and Funeral Expenses (General) Regulations 2005). Each qualifying benefit has its own residence test and for this reason, a separate residence test has not previously applied to the SSMG scheme.
6.The purpose of the condition introduced by article 3(4), is only to ensure that the scheme is not available to persons for whom the Scottish Government is competent to make provision. The Department does not wish to introduce a “double test” for residence. For this reason, the wording “lives in England or Wales” was chosen because it has a natural meaning, which most closely fits the modification required to be made to the scheme, namely, that a person must live at an address in England or Wales at the time they make their claim.
7.It is not the Department’s policy intention to match the approach the Scottish Government has chosen to take on residence requirements for its Best Start Grant (“BSG”) scheme, which has different entitlement criteria and makes provision for a wider range of people. Divergence between the two schemes is to be expected as a natural consequence of devolution.
8.With regard to the Committee’s second question, the Department considers that everyone living in England or Wales who currently would qualify for a SSMG, will still qualify for a SSMG once the modifications made by the Order come into force, subject to the person making their claim within the prescribed time limits.
9.The Department is most grateful to Scottish Government officials for their assistance in providing the following explanation of the Early Years Assistance (Best Start Grants) (Scotland) Regulations 2018, which will introduce the BSG Pregnancy and Baby Grant.
10.Under the Regulations, Scottish Ministers will pay a BSG Pregnancy and Baby Grant to any person who meets the qualifying criteria and who is “ordinarily resident in Scotland”. The Regulations will extend entitlement to some persons who would not currently qualify for a SSMG, including those aged under 18 who are not in receipt of a qualifying benefit and those aged 18 and 19 who are dependants of a parent or carer.
11.Since the BSG scheme will be available to a small group who are not in receipt of a qualifying benefit and who will not already have passed a residence test, it is necessary for the Regulations to include a specific residence test of “ordinary residence”. This is the lowest threshold that Scottish Government considered it could introduce for residence, whilst minimising the risk of there being persons residing in Scotland who do not have a sufficient quality of residence.
12.Scottish Government expect that any person living in Scotland, who would previously have qualified for a SSMG, will qualify for a BSG Pregnancy and Baby Grant. The BSG scheme makes wider provision than the SSMG scheme it replaces.
Department for Work and Pensions
27 November 2018
Published: 7 December 2018