My submission about benefits takeup

The Scottish Parliament Social Security Committee has issued a call for evidence on the takeup of social security benefits.  I’ve done lots on this in the past, so I’ve dashed something off based on a paper I presented in Belgium a little time ago.  Here, for the truly dedicated,  is the submission.  The key points:

  • Arguments about takeup have often centred on means-tested benefits, but the problems are much more extensive. Non-means-tested benefits are just as vulnerable.
  • The main explanations for non-takeup conventionally include ignorance, the complexity of benefits, limited marginal benefit, and stigma. More detailed accounts consider perceived need, basic knowledge, perceived eligibility, perceived utility, beliefs and feelings, perceived stability of circumstances, and the process of making a claim.
  • The benefits with the best takeup – Child Benefit and State Pension – are simple to access, have few conditions and are delivered for the long term. The benefits with the worst (including e.g. Pension Credit and DLA/PIP) are complex, poorly understood and have several moving parts. While there is scope for greater automaticity, the key problem rests in the design of such benefits.
  • Takeup reflects the complex relationship between people and the public services, and consequently it can be enhanced by outreach and support; but the problems are more fundamental.
  • Benefits should be understood as part of an income package. The route to security is not the integration of complex systems, which implies more complexity still, but the delivery of smaller, simpler, stand-alone benefits with a common pay day.



One thought on “My submission about benefits takeup”

  1. Hi Paul. Given your vast knowledge on this topic, you have fulfilled my intentions by making a submission to the SSC inquiry. Hopefully they will have the sense and the grace to invite you to give direct evidence as that is usually more persuasive when it comes to the final outcome. I will have a look at your paper later. I am working on the assumption that the SSC is sincere about this inquiry as nobody else, and certainly not the DWP is going to do anything. I have yet to fully study the minutes of the SSC meeting of 5/9; however I am (yet again) “annoyed” by the attempt of Messrs Brown and Allan to “muddy the waters” in relation to take-up campaigns. Hopefully the Cabinet Secretary will clarify this in her response but I am not aware of any current restriction or financial penalty which the DWP would apply if Scot Gov funded take up campaigns for DWP benefits in Scotland. They might not be pleased at the extra workload and thus might exert some pressure on Scot Gov but that is not the same as saying there will be a financial penalty in terms of the agreed financial formula (which I understand as meaning that if Scot Gov significantly enhance the eligibility criteria or raise the rates of award for say “Scottish PIP” then they will be liable for the extra cost in uptake, not the DWP). However, everything now is political so it falls on folk like you to insert some academic objectivity in to these processes!

Leave a Reply