The number of applications received, decisions made, payments and expenditure for the best start grant, funeral support payment and young carer grant since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak has remained fairly consistent with the numbers seen prior to Covid-19. However, as the impact of the outbreak is already evidenced in increased universal credit claims, we therefore expect that there will be a corresponding increase in applications and subsequent expenditure for the low income benefits delivered by Social Security Scotland in the coming months.
As the cabinet secretary has said and knows quite well, being eligible for universal credit makes a claimant eligible for many Scottish benefits. There has been a huge rise in claims for universal credit. Can the cabinet secretary outline why there has not been a similar uptake of the benefits that are devolved to Scotland?
That simply comes down to a matter of timing and I am sure that we will see an increase in the number of claims in the next couple of months.
The Scottish Government has a responsibility, and we are taking it very seriously, to ensure that we are doing all that we can to raise the profile of the benefits that we are responsible for. We are very aware that there will be a number of people who may be using the welfare system for the first time and will be unaware of benefits that they may be eligible for, such as the best start grant or the additional funeral support payment, that were unavailable in the previous Department for Work and Pension scheme.
We are determined to raise the profile of those benefits and to do everything we can to work with stakeholders to ensure that the people they are working with know about the benefits that they might be entitled to. We are very aware of our responsibility of having to get the message out that if a member of the public is on universal credit now as a new claimant, they may be entitled to additional benefits through Social Security Scotland. I would encourage all members to ensure that their constituents are aware of that as well.