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Double bridging payments, Scottish Government told

The payments should be doubled from £130 to £260 (Ian West/PA)
The payments should be doubled from £130 to £260 (Ian West/PA)

More than 120 charities, academics, trade unions and religious groups have urged the Scottish Government to double a benefit aimed at Scotland’s poorest families.

In 2022, bridging payments were slated to provide four payouts of £130, with two remaining to be paid this year to families with children eligible for free school meals.

In the wake of rising inflation and energy prices, the group has sent a letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, praising the doubling of the Scottish Child Payment, but urging her to do the same for bridging payments – which reach more households.

The child payment will rise to £25 per week and be available to families with children under 16 by the end of the year, under Scottish Government plans.

Among those who signed the letter was the Child Poverty Action Group, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Barnardo’s Scotland, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner, STUC general secretary Roz Foyer and Reverend Karen Hendry, the acting convener of the Church of Scotland’s faith impact forum.

“Your government has been doing the right thing by investing in financial support for families, not least through the Scottish Child Payment,” the letter said.

“This is already making a big difference, as the recent initial evaluation on its impact lays out, and which the families we talk to make clear.

“The doubling of the payment since April has been especially timely in providing additional support to families with children under six at a time of soaring food and energy prices.”

Bridging payments were introduced to support families until they could receive the child payment when eligibility is expanded, but has not been doubled in line with the benefit.

Nicola Sturgeon
The group addressed the letter to the First Minister (Jane Barlow/PA)

It added: “However, as you know, families with older children are yet to benefit. The roll-out of the payment to eligible over fives and the further increase to £25 a week are not due until the end of the year.

“Bridging payments, originally introduced to provide ‘equivalent’ support to the child payment for at least some of those older children, have not been doubled.

“At a time when further massive increases to household bills are looming, this is leaving a significant gap in the cash support available to families across Scotland.

“We are therefore writing to urge your government to help bridge that gap and, at the very least, double the October and Christmas bridging payments from £130 to £260.”

Increasing the bridging payments, the signatories said, would be a “straightforward and effective” way to support struggling households during the cost of living crisis, and would “help keep families afloat until the child payment itself is increased and fully rolled out”.

The letter said people had told the charities they were going without food so their children could eat, as well as dreading expected rises in household bills over the winter and reported feeling ashamed they were not able to provide for their children.

The Scottish Government last week announced it would carry out an emergency review of its budget to see if cash can be freed up to provide more support.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The First Minister has committed to an emergency budget review to assess all opportunities to target additional resources to those most in need during this cost-of-living crisis.

“At the same time, we will continue to do everything within our resources and powers to help those most affected.

“This includes increasing the Scottish Child Payment to £25 per eligible child per week when we extend it to under 16s by the end of the year – with its increase to £20 in April, this represents a 150% increase within 9 months.

“We are the only nation in the UK offering this vital anti-poverty benefit, as well as bridging payments worth £520 annually to support over 148,000 school age children backed by investment £150 million last year and this.

“We will also continue to press the UK Government to use all the levers at its disposal to tackle this emergency on the scale required – these include access to borrowing, providing benefits and support to households, VAT on fuel, taxation of windfall profits and regulation of the energy market.”