The first payments of a new Scottish benefit for low income parents starting a family will be made before Christmas.
The Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payments will see £600 payments for a first child and £300 for all subsequent children, with no cap on the number of children it supports.
Social Security minister Shirley Anne Somerville confirmed yesterday that two additional early years payments will be introduced by next summer. The first £250 payment will be made around the time a child starts nursery, to help with the costs of early learning and a further £250 when they start school.
Ms Somerville said new benefits were being delivered earlier than originally planned.
She added: “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.
“With the Early Learning and School Age Payments this means that for a two child family, the Best Start Grant will provide £1400 - £1900 more than they would get under the UK legacy benefit. That’s a substantial investment to ensure our under 5s get the best possible start in life and reflects this government’s emphasis on the early years.
“Our focus on supporting people on low incomes, and the action we are taking stands in stark contrast to the UK Government, who last week was criticised by the UN Poverty Rapporteur for being in denial about the damage and misery that their welfare cuts were causing.”
The new Best Start benefit will be wholly delivered by Social Security Scotland and replaces the Sure Start Maternity Grant.
Parents and carers will be eligible if they are the mother of the child, her partner, or have a young mother dependent on them, and get certain qualifying benefits.
Labour MSP mark Griffin asked whether the cabinet secretary would consider making payments for children who are turning three and starting nursery over the next six months.
“That would take pressure off struggling families on low incomes,” Ms Griffin said.
Ms Somerville said she is keen to make sure eligibility is “as open and encouraging as possible.”
“If there are lessons to learn and issues that we need to take on board, I am happy to do that,” she said.