Scottish Child Payment

– in the Scottish Parliament on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

5. To ask the Scottish Government how many parents will cease to receive the Scottish child payment each year for a child who reaches 16 while still in full-time education. (S5O-03689)

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

Each year, around 20,000 families in receipt of the Scottish child payment could have a qualifying young person in education or approved training turn 16. Scotland has a range of support for young people that is not available elsewhere in the United Kingdom—for example, we have protected the education maintenance allowance, which was abolished in England. That provides financial support to 16 to 19-year-olds from low-income households who are attending non-advanced learning in school or college or fulfilling a learning agreement with their local authority.

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

In East Lothian, almost 600 young people who might be eligible for that payment will turn 16 in 2023. Virtually all of them will still be in school, but their families will lose that support.

Another 1,000 East Lothian children could lose entitlement in 2021 and 2022 simply because they will turn six years old and the Scottish Government cannot get the full scheme in place until 2022.

The Scottish Government is botching the design and implementation of that important benefit. My constituents were the first in Scotland to face the full impact of the volatility and cliff edges of universal credit, and they really do not need any more of the same, courtesy of the Scottish Government. At the very least, if the Scottish Government gets the data that it requires from the Department for Work and Pensions, will it guarantee that payments will continue for six-year-olds in 2021 and 2022?

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

That question underlines Iain Gray’s absolute lack of understanding of what the Scottish Government is delivering. We have committed to delivering the Scottish child payment, and we are doing so early. We are delivering the under-sixes payments even earlier than that.

Delivering a benefit in around 18 months is unprecedented not just in Scotland but in the rest of the UK.

We are developing it early because we are replicating the functionality of the best start grant. If Mr Gray is suggesting that we should do something more complex than what we can do under the best start grant, that would simply ensure that it would not be possible for us to deliver the Scottish child payment in the timeframe that we have.

Rather than blaming the Scottish Government, which is working within the powers that it has, perhaps we could work together to reflect on the fact that the Scottish Government currently does not have the data to allow us to be able to apply that to the over-sixes. Why do we not work together and ask the UK Government to get that data? If that is possible, we will have to consider whether things can be done within the timeframe so that there is not an impact on disability assistance.

We will work hard to get the data as quickly as possible. I have already asked the new secretary of state about that, and I will do so again when we meet, I hope, in a couple of weeks’ time. If that is possible, we have to be frank about whether things can be done in the timeframe that we have and whether there are other implications. I am sure that Mr Gray would not want any delay to disability assistance.

If Scottish Labour is genuinely interested in eradicating child poverty, it will work with the Scottish Government to ensure that we have the powers here to do that properly.