On 26 June 2019, the Scottish Government announced our intention to introduce a new benefit to provide additional support for low income families, and help tackle child poverty – the Scottish Child Payment. This payment will provide the equivalent of £10 a week per child to families with eligible children who are in receipt of existing low income benefits.
Early payments of the Scottish Child Payment will be made to families with children under the age of 6 – recognising that, of all children in poverty, almost 60% live in a household where the youngest child is aged under 6, and the early years are key to improving long-term outcomes. The latest Scottish Fiscal Commission (SFC) forecast suggests that the Scottish Child Payment could support up to 194,000 children this year – a significant investment in our children and families and an increase of 14% since last year’s Scottish Government’s forecast. This increase is due to increased numbers receiving Universal Credit as a result of the pandemic. Forecast costs for the first full year of the Scottish Child Payment’s roll-out to under 6s stands at £77 million in 2021/22 compared to £65 million in the previous SFC forecast of February 2020.
We have so far published three position papers on the Scottish Child Payment: the first in June 2019, setting out the process of its development; the second in October 2019, setting out further developments undertaken over summer 2019; and the third in January 2020, setting out delivery aspects of the payment.
Since the last position paper was published, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to make difficult decisions in all areas of government. Social Security Scotland, too, are continuing to work and plan in a context of ongoing uncertainty. With staff still working from home in line with Scottish Government guidelines, this continues to have an impact on our service delivery. Despite significant challenges, delivery of the Scottish Child Payment will only be 2 months later than originally planned – opening to applications for under 6s in November, with the first payments made to eligible families from the end of February 2021. Even with this slight delay, the pace of development – from announcement to implementation – has been unprecedented.
We are committed to maximising the take-up of all Scottish benefits. This is a moral imperative, and a fundamental priority, which feeds into our wider commitments around tackling poverty and inequalities in all forms. The Scottish Government’s first Benefit Take-up Strategy – published in October 2019 – set out our commitment and approach to maximising the take-up of all Scottish benefits. This position paper shows how we plan to maximise the take-up of the Scottish Child Payment.