A group of poverty campaigners has welcomed the launch of the new Scottish Child Payment.
Almost 100,000 applications have been received for the new £10 a week benefit, which will be paid monthly, as it launched on Monday.
Families receiving other forms of welfare will be eligible for the support, which will currently be given to families for each child under six years old, but the Scottish Government has said it will be available for under-16s by 2022.
John Dickie, the director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), said: “Today marks a huge step forward in the challenge to end child poverty in Scotland as tens of thousands of children become eligible for extra cash support through the Scottish Child Payment.
“We know from our work just how big a difference an extra £10 a week can make – helping put food on the table, pay the bills and ensure children are able to fully participate at school and in their communities.
“We described the payment as a game changer when it was first announced by the Scottish Government, and for many families the change will soon become very real.”
Mr Dickie went on to urge both the Scottish and UK governments to build on support available to tackle child poverty.
“The Westminster government needs to work with the Scottish government to invest in our children’s futures – starting by retaining the £20 uplift to universal credit and restoring the value of UK child benefit,” he said.
“Here in Scotland, we need to see the value of the new payment doubled and the rollout extended to the over fives as soon as possible.
“Only by building on the new payment, as part of wider action to increase family incomes, will we meet our child poverty targets.”
Successful applicants will see their benefits backdated to the day they applied, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sought to reassure parents.
She also said the new payments “would be important at any time”, but were “especially important given the financial impact the pandemic is having on some families”.
Speaking at the coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, she said: “So far more than 77,000 applications have been received, it will take time to process all of them.
“So the first payments, which will be made every four weeks, will start to arrive with families from the end of this month.
“But I want to reassure parents even if you don’t receive your payment for a couple more weeks, the money that is due to you will be calculated from today onwards.”
Ms Sturgeon also stressed it was still possible to apply for the Scottish Child Payment
She added: “Many families have been really hard hit by the pandemic, so this is one way we can do more to help.”
But the Scottish Greens have called for an increase to the payment, agreeing with some poverty groups who have said it should be doubled.
“Even if all 77,000 applications received so far for the Scottish Child Payment are successful, that would be less than half of the 173,000 children now estimated to be eligible by the Scottish Fiscal Commission,” Green social security spokeswoman Alison Johnstone said.
“Scotland was already on track to miss child poverty targets before coronavirus arrived. The pandemic raises even more concerns because of its impact on families with low and insecure incomes.
“The Scottish Government needs to show more ambition to support the household incomes of those in most need, whether that means rent controls, expanding free public transport and school meals, investing to cut energy bills or providing the uplift on the Scottish Child Payment that anti-poverty charities have called for.”
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