On 26 June 2019, Scottish Ministers announced their intention to introduce a brand new benefit to provide financial support for low income families, to tackle child poverty head on: the Scottish Child Payment.
As we have previously set out, the Scottish Child Payment will be administered by Social Security Scotland through an application-based process, and will be a payment for each eligible child in the family. There will be no cap on the number of eligible children a family may receive a payment for.
Assuming that we get the delivery support we need from the UK Government, the Scottish Child Payment will be introduced for all eligible children under 16 by the end of 2022. Once fully rolled out, it could support up to 410,000 children and young people – meaning that over a third of all children in Scotland will be eligible. We expect to invest around £180 million a year in the benefit, and reduce relative child poverty by three percentage points.
We also announced that the Scottish Child Payment will be introduced early 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 that the early years are key to improving long-term outcomes. These early payments could support around 170,000 eligible children in around 140,000 households, and we expect to invest around £71 million in 2021/22 (the first full year of payments to under 6s).
At the time the initial announcement was made, we expected these early payments to begin before the end of the current Parliamentary term in 2021. However, following further detailed work, and in recognition of the scale of the challenge on child poverty, we announced in the 2019 Programme for Government that this date would be brought forward and that the Scottish Child Payment will open for applications in autumn 2020, with the first payments reaching families by Christmas 2020 (again, this assumes that we will have the continued cooperation from the UK Government which we need to introduce the payment).
We have so far published two position papers on the Scottish Child Payment: the first in June, setting out the process of its development, and the second in October, setting out further developments undertaken over summer 2019.
This third position paper focuses on delivery aspects of the Scottish Child Payment, including the design and implementation decisions that we have taken in order to introduce this crucial financial support for families as quickly as possible, and manage the large volumes of applications that we hope and expect Social Security Scotland to receive for the new payment. Specifically it considers arrangements for the launch of the Scottish Child Payment, how and when initial payments will be made to families, and the work that we are undertaking to ensure that all supporting services required for Social Security Scotland to deliver the Scottish Child Payment (including appeals and redetermination, audit and financial processes) are further developed in time for the launch of this first high-volume recurring benefit. The paper also covers recent decisions on the regulations for the benefit and how these will affect its delivery in practice.