Best Start Grant

– in the Scottish Parliament on 27th March 2019.

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Photo of Mary Fee Mary Fee Labour

8. To ask the Scottish Government what progress it has made on delivering additional payments of the best start grant to help with early learning costs. (S5O-03067)

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

We are on track to deliver the early learning and school-age payments by summer 2019. On 6 March, Parliament approved the regulations that create the new payments. We continue to build the information technology systems that are needed to process applications and make payments to eligible individuals. Social Security Scotland is recruiting and training the staff who will provide operational support.

Photo of Mary Fee Mary Fee Labour

To ensure that the nursery and early learning payments deliver for children, how will the Scottish Government assess what the payments are being used for? How will they reach the most vulnerable children, such as the children of prisoners, black and minority ethnic children and Gypsy Traveller children?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

We do not assess or set any requirements for how people use their payments. It is for the individual to decide how to use them, as it is their entitlement.

However, Mary Fee raises an important point about getting the process right to ensure that all demographics and all parts of Scotland’s population are aware of the payments and that they get support to apply for them.

As we did with pregnancy and baby payments, we will take seriously our obligations to encourage take-up of the payments and we will ensure that they work not only for the majority of applicants, but for all demographics, for example the Gypsy Traveller or BME communities. We are determined to get that aspect right.

As I have said a number of times, I am more than happy to work with members on the issue, including with Mary Fee if there are particular communication aspects that she would like us to look at. It is important that we get the process right and are open to learning.