At our February Care Leavers into Employment focus group, Staf members engaged in a Q&A session with a representative from The Scottish Government's Social Security Policy Division to discuss the consultation on the proposed Job Grant. For an overview of what the Job Grant will entail, check out our overview of the policy here.

We have written our consultation response based on the views of you, our members, which you can find below. 

Our next Care Leavers into Employment focus group will take place in Glasgow on 1st May 2019 and is free to attend for members (lunch included!). You can book your place here.

Job Grant Consultation: Staf organisational response

Who we are

Staf, formerly the Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum, was formed in 1998 and is Scotland’s national membership organisation for all of those involved in the lives of young people leaving care.

Staf is the only membership organisation for frontline workers and managers focused on throughcare and aftercare of young people from a care experienced background, with over 70 members including all 32 local authorities.

Key Messages

  • Extend the application window: access for all
  • Change the qualifying benefit criteria: don’t leave young care leavers out
  • Define ‘Care Leaver’ clearly in guidance: leave no room for confusion
  • Once is not enough: allow further grant applications for care leavers

Approach to consultation

We consulted our members on the Job Grant at our Care Leavers into Employment focus group at the start of February 2019 and subsequently through email correspondence for any additional feedback.

This included representatives of the following Staf members:

  • Argyll and Bute Council
  • Carolina House Trust
  • City of Edinburgh Council
  • East Renfrewshire Council
  • Falkirk Council
  • Glasgow City Council
  • LinkLiving
  • North Ayrshire Council
  • Perth and Kinross Council
  • Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)
  • Skills Development Scotland (SDS)
  • South Lanarkshire Council
  • West Lothian Council
  • Who Cares? Scotland

Our Response

Question 1: Are the eligibility criteria for the Job Grant clear? YES

Question 2: We have proposed applications for Job Grant can be made 14 days in advance of the employment start date and up to 14 days after employment has commenced. Do you think that the proposed application period for Job Grant is suitable? NO

Question 3: If no, please provide comments:

Extend the application window: access for all

The current window of 28 days (14 days either side of employment start date) is too short - particularly in the period after employment has commenced. We would recommend the window is amended to 42 days (14 days prior to employment start date, and 28 days after employment has commenced). As the eligibility criteria states that any job offered must be expected to last at least three months or more[1] to access the grant, extending the application period post-commencement of employment to 28 days would still ensure that the grant is being accessed within the initial period of employment – and, as such, fulfilling the policy intention of aiding a smooth transition into employment.

For many young people accessing the grant we know that entering into employment can be a stressful time in and of itself, and especially for those who will be moving into their first post. Staf members that attended our Care Leavers into Employment focus group in February – primarily comprising throughcare and aftercare workers – emphasised the need for an extension of this window:

  • ‘Proposed application period needs to be extended to allow more time to apply i.e. 28 days’
  • ‘Many care leavers may end up missing out by not applying within the first few weeks of employment as this is a stressful period’
  • ‘A longer time would be a better option – 28 days is too short. Young people get very excited about job offers but don’t realise they won’t get paid for a while’

It is of crucial importance that young people who are entitled to the Job Grant are able to access it, and the short period (particularly after the commencement of employment) could provide an unnecessary barrier to access. Communication of the grant’s availability is a further vital factor in ensuring access for all and we welcome The Scottish Government’s commitment to developing a communications strategy to this end[2]. The communications strategy should be robust and far-reaching and we welcome the suggestion that a stakeholder toolkit will be created to support the dissemination of information on the scheme.

Question 4: We have proposed that Job Grant consists of one payment of £250, or £400 for young people with children. Do you agree with the proposed format of the payment? YES

Question 6: Do you agree that the proposals for Job Grant set out in this consultation paper meet the policy intent to support a smooth transition into employment for young people on low incomes by helping to meet the initial costs of starting work? YES

Question 8: Can you identify any potential unintended consequences which we have not considered in these proposals? YES

Question 9: If yes, please provide details:

Change the qualifying benefit criteria: don’t leave young care leavers out
The current set of ‘qualifying benefits’ includes Jobseekers Allowance (JSA); Income Support (IS); Employment and Support Allowance (ESA); and Universal Credit (UC). As outlined within the consultation document, a care leaver must be on a qualifying benefit at the time of a job offer[3] in order to receive the grant.

16 and 17 year old care leavers are in many cases unable to access benefits[4][5], with local authorities instead providing financial support through, for example, maintenance payments[6]. These young care leavers that are not eligible for the qualifying benefits JSA, IS, and UC could consequently fall through the gaps in the criteria for the Job Grant. It is of course welcomed that the 6 month timescale for being out of work has been removed for care leavers, however this gap in eligible benefits could mean that young care leavers may be waiting up to two years to access the grant.

We would recommend that the ‘qualifying benefits’ list is amended to include 16 and 17 year old care leavers receiving maintenance payments in lieu of benefits.

Define ‘Care Leaver’ clearly in guidance: leave no room for confusion
While the eligibility criteria is broadly clear (and thus why we opted for a positive answer in Question 1 of the consultation given the lack of option for further comment), our members have stated the need for a more explicit definition on ‘care leaver’ entitlement due to the possibility of the terms ‘Care Leaver’ and ‘Care Experienced’ being conflated in service delivery.

It is worth noting that language within the sector is moving towards ‘care experience’ as a term that more fully encapsulates how young people feel they should be rhetorically represented. However, the current lack of legal definition for this term causes practice issues for service providers in the immediate and short-term. This should be considered within any accompanying guidance issued regarding the Job Grant for stakeholders. In order to ensure entitlement is clear for the workforce who may be supporting care leavers in making their application to the Job Grant it should be explicitly stated that it is entitled to care leavers as defined within the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014[7].

Question 10: Are you aware of any impacts on groups who share protected characteristics we have not identified here? NO

Question 12: Are you aware of any impacts on children's rights and wellbeing which are not identified here? YES

Question 13: If yes, please provide details:

Once is not enough: allow further grant applications for care leavers
We agree with the format of the Job Grant insofar as it is a single cash sum – this is essential in providing young people with autonomy and flexibility in supporting the costs of entering employment. However, the current proposal only permits access of the grant once for care leavers (and indeed, all eligible young people).

Young people are already more likely to be in precarious or short-term work compared to their older peers. Indeed, a 2017 report by the IPPR found that young people are more likely to be in part-time or temporary work and these young people are more likely to have poor mental health than those in full-time work[8]. As The Scottish Government has acknowledged, care leavers face even greater barriers to entering and sustaining employment.

While the eligibility criteria states a job must be expected to last at least three months, in part to support young people into more sustainable employment, those on temporary contracts (be that for three months, six months or a year etc.) may quickly find themselves in a similar financial situation as prior to securing employment and subsequently accessing the grant.

The Consultation document (Section 3 – Objectives of the Job Grant) astutely notes that outcomes for young people are worse than outcomes for their peers:

‘We have made an exemption for this group as outcomes for young people leaving care are worse than outcomes for young people as a whole. Young people leaving the care system are twice as likely to not end up in education, training or employment by the age of 19. Care leavers face significant barriers to entering employment – Employability in Scotland reports the experience of being in care significantly impacts an individual’s well-being and life chances, making the transition from care difficult. Care Leavers are over-represented in statistics relating to the prison population, teenage pregnancy, mental health issues, depression, expulsion, drug misuse, homelessness and those leaving school with no qualification’[9].

With this in mind, it seems remiss of The Scottish Government to permit only one application for the Job Grant from care leavers. The magnitude of additional barriers faced by care leavers in accessing and maintaining employment in comparison to their peers should warrant greater support – through, for example, a minimum of two applications being made available for care leavers should they continue to meet the eligibility criteria at different stages within their employment journey.

Further, for those in more secure work (i.e. on a permanent contract) there is an unlikely – albeit hugely impactful – possibility they may be made redundant as a result of, for example, a company collapse. The one-time access limit does not consider necessary support for young people who face unexpected redundancy out-with their control. Such a situation would also dispropriantely impact care leavers who may not have access to familial financial support available to many of their peers.

As such, it may be beneficial for The Scottish Government to consider exemptions for the one-time application limit. We would recommend these exemptions are made for all care leavers, and for any eligible young people facing exceptional circumstances – such as unexpected redundancy from their previous post.

Question 14: Are you aware of any impacts on businesses which are not identified here?

Question 16:
Are you aware of any impacts on island communities which are not identified here?

[1] Scottish Government (2019) Consultation on Job Grant p.15

[2] Ibid p.23

[3] Ibid p.11

[4] Scottish Government (2004) Supporting Young People Leaving Care in Scotland: Regulations and Guidance on Services for Young People Ceasing to be Looked After by Local Authorities p.21

[5] HM Government (2000) Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000

[6] Child Poverty Action Group & Staf (2018) Care leavers and benefits: giving good advice

[7] Scottish Government (2014) Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014

[8] IPPR (2017) Flexibility for who? Millennials and mental health in the modern labour market

[9] Scottish Government (2019) Consultation on Job Grant p.9