Charities welcome ‘game changer’ as new Scottish benefit fast-tracked

A new Scottish benefit to tackle child poverty is to introduced a year early, it has been announced.

Aileen Campbell made the announcement.
Aileen Campbell made the announcement.

But a raft of fresh delays to new social security powers coming to Holyrood were also unveiled by Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell.

The Scottish Child Payment worth £10 a week for each child in low income families will be introduced in 2021, a year earlier than planned, in response to pressure from campaigners.

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But it has meant that Disability Assistance for Older People will now introduced in 2021, a year later than planned, while the Scottish Carer’s Allowance will be put back a few months to early 2022.

And the flagship transfer of benefit cases from DWP to Social Security Scotland is expected to be completed by 2025 rather than 2024.

Ms Campbell told MSPs “The Scottish Child Payment will not only help raise children out of poverty but is also designed to help prevent those just above the poverty threshold from sliding under.

“This is a real preventative measure that will tackle child poverty head on in Scotland and help mitigate against continuing UK Government austerity.”

The new benefit will cost £180 million in 2023-2024, lifting 30,000 children out of poverty and reducing the relative child poverty rate by 3%.

But she warned that introducing the benefit earlier than planned “means tough decisions and choices” on other areas of the budget.

“There will also be implications for the delivery of other aspects of our social security programme,” the minister added.

The SNP government has previously pledged the benefits would be fully devolved by the end of this Parliament in 2021. A three-year delay in February prompted claims of a “betrayal” from political opponents.

The announcement was welcomed by campaigners, who described the announcement as “an absolute game changer”.

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said: “This new payment is an absolute game changer in the fight to end child poverty. £10 a week for each child will make a real difference to families struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes and pay for the ordinary school trips, sport and other activities that are fundamental to a decent childhood.

“Today’s announcement is a landmark recognition of the role the Scottish social security system can play in ending child poverty.”

Although plans for introducing the income supplement have been moved forward by a year compared to the previous target, Ms Campbell said that it would not be fully rolled out until 2022, by which time more than one third of all children could be eligible for the payments.

By the time the benefit is rolled out to all eligible families across Scotland - those on benefits including Universal Credit, Jobseekers Allowance and Child Tax Credits - the government estimate that 410,000 children could be eligible for the income supplement.

Once introduced in 2021, the benefit will first be paid to families with younger children under six, a decision welcomed by Citizens Advice Scotland.

The organisation’s social justice spokeswoman Mhoraig Green said: “The new Scottish Child Payment is a step in the right direction and its fast-tracked introduction for children under six is a testament to the hard work of campaigners across Scotland.

“What is essential is that families who are entitled to this benefit claim it, and everything else that they are entitled to.”

Naomi Eisenstadt, the First Minister’s former Independent Advisor on Poverty and Inequality added: “The best way to help children out of poverty is to get money into parents’ pockets.”

The new payment will be administered by Social Security Scotland.