As set out in this year’s budget, we are committing £3.5 billion to social security payments, which will reach more than 800,000 people. That money will go directly to the people in Scotland who need it most.
The latest Scottish Fiscal Commission forecast, which was published in August 2021, estimates that annual social security spending will rise to £5.2 billion in 2026-27, totalling £23 billion over the next five years.
The Scottish Government views social security as an investment in the people of Scotland and a fundamental human right, and we are committed to ensuring that everyone can access the financial support to which they are entitled.
I welcome the introduction of new benefits such as the Scottish child payment, which, since February, has helped more than 2,000 families that need it most in South Ayrshire alone.
This morning, I received an email from my daughter’s school, advising parents of food shortages and saying that the local school was unable to provide the school lunches that were on the menu. We are living in the aftermath of a reckless Tory Brexit, which was forced through during a global pandemic. With food and energy prices rising—
With the powers that we have, the Scottish Government has taken unprecedented action to tackle child poverty by investing nearly £1 billion in 2020-21 to support families with children. That includes our game-changing Scottish child payment, which we will double to £20 in the lifetime of this parliamentary session, together with the best start grant and best start foods. That will provide more than £5,300 of financial support for families by the time their first child turns six.
I completely agree that our anti-poverty efforts are seriously undermined by United Kingdom Government decisions and its unjustified assault on social security in too many cases. I take the opportunity to once again call on UK Government ministers to do the right thing by reversing its planned £20 cut to universal credit, to avoid pushing a further 20,000 children in Scotland into poverty.
The pandemic has demonstrated the negative impact of coping with bereavement, with families limited to how many people can attend funerals, and people not being able to say a proper goodbye to their loved ones in care homes and hospitals. In particular, it has impacted those who provide care for a loved one.
When does the Scottish Government plan to introduce the extension of carers allowance for six months after a bereavement?
As Mr Briggs will know, the delivery of devolved social security benefits has taken place over the past three years. One of the first measures that we took, which was stipulated in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018, was to deliver the carers allowance supplement. This year, as we did last year, we intend to give an additional supplement.
As I set out to the Social Justice and Social Security Committee last week, we are undergoing the process of appropriate stakeholder engagement and consultation on how we bring forward Scottish carers assistance. We are looking at a range of different measures around eligibility, and considering the experience of carers to make sure that we work collectively with other parties, and as a Parliament as a whole, to ensure that Scottish carers assistance helps the unpaid carers whom we all value and appreciate, and for whom, in due course, we want to deliver an enhanced benefit.