Investing in young children and their future
School Age Payment Launched
It is projected that by 2030, one in three children could be living in poverty in Scotland as a result of UK Government welfare cuts. This is not acceptable in the 21st century.
The cruel cuts that are being enforced through Universal Credit and wider UK government welfare changes will reduce social security spend in Scotland by £3.7 billion by 2020-21 – placing families and in particular children at greater risk of deeper and sustained poverty.
This Government has a different vision and is taking a different approach.
We are putting more money into the pockets of low income families with the Best Start Grant. A package of three payments that will support over 40,000 families this year – with a total investment of around £21m this financial year.
Two of these payments are already available. Our Pregnancy and Baby Payment launched in December, replacing the UK Government’s Sure Start Maternity Grant increasing funding to families with a new baby. The Early Learning Payment started taking applications in April.
And now eligible families can apply for the new School Age Payment.
The £250 School Age Payment is for low income families with a child old enough to start Primary One this year.
Like the Early Learning Payment, it is a completely new payment that does not exist in the UK benefits system. Covering the costs of a child starting school puts pressure on family finances, and this money will help ease that burden. It can be used for anything from paying school clubs, helping travel costs, days out or buying a warm coat.
We want to use our social security powers to invest in young children and their future. The entire Best Start Grant package will provide total support of £1900 to eligible families – that’s £1400 more than they would get under the previous UK system. And in contrast to Universal Credit and Sure Start, every child in a qualifying family will get a payment.
I have seen for myself the difference this money is making. I recently met families in Midlothian who have had a number of Best Start Grant payments. Some were parents to young babies, while others had children in nursery or about to start school. It was lovely to hear how one mum was using her payment to buy “a big boy bed” for her son, while another family were going to buy a sandpit and a balance bike. These key transitions in a child’s life can put real financial pressure on families and I am proud of the difference we are making with these payments.
Meeting these families and hearing their stories shows what can be achieved when we do things differently. By simplifying the application process, providing a range of channels for people to apply and working with frontline service staff who are promoting payments we are able to ensure as many people as possible are aware they can access this support.
Tackling – and ultimately eradicating – child poverty in Scotland is one of this Government’s top priorities. And I am determined that our new benefits system plays its part in achieving this.
By building our new public service with people at its heart we can maximise the income available to low income families and ensure Scotland is the best place for a child to grow up.