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Wednesday, 21 November 2018

New pregnancy and baby grant to support low-income families opens in Scotland next month

Written by The Press Association

Families on low incomes can apply for a new pregnancy and baby grant from December 10, the Scottish Government has announced.

The first payments for the new Best Start Grant will be made before Christmas and eligible applicants will be given £600 to help with their first child.

It is £100 more than would have been paid under the UK Government’s Sure Start Maternity Grant, which the new payment replaces in Scotland.

The Best Start Grant also increases the current UK Government support from £500 to £1,100 for a first child and from zero to £800 for the second and all subsequent children.

The payments are split into a £600 birth payment for the first child and £300 for the second and all subsequent children.

In all cases these are followed by two payments of £250 – one when the youngster can access a nursery place and another when he or she starts primary school.

In a statement at Holyrood, Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said these later payments would be introduced from summer next year.

She said around 39,000 payments are expected to be made annually at a total cost of £12.1 million by 2020.

Ms Somerville told MSPs: “That’s a substantial investment to ensure that our under-fives get the best possible start in life and reflects this government’s emphasis on the early years.

“I’m delighted to be able to deliver the baby and pregnancy payments for the Best Start Grant six months early, which of course means paying families on lower incomes more money more quickly – vital help at a time when they are seeking support for the UK Government social security spending drastically reducing.”

She added: “I am particularly pleased that by not capping children, babies born in the last six months who already have a big brother or sister and had no support from the UK Government because they were not the first child will be eligible to get their payment.”

Labour’s Mark Griffin asked if consideration would be given to bringing forward the £250 payments for three-year-olds starting nursery in the next six months to help families under pressure, which the minister said is something she would look at.

Conservative Alison Harris questioned if children starting nursery in 2019 would be eligible for the £250 payments or if this would be backdated, to which Ms Somerville said the government wanted the eligibility to be as open as possible.

Those eligible for the new grant include people in receipt of certain benefits, including Universal Credit and Housing Benefit, parents under 18 and those aged 18 or 19 still in full-time education and dependent on a parent or carer.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire.