Best Start Grant (Falkirk East)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 22 February 2024.

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Photo of Michelle Thomson Michelle Thomson Scottish National Party

3. To ask the Scottish Government what work is under way to ensure that eligible families across Falkirk East, and the wider country, are aware of and can apply for the best start grant before the deadline of 29 February. (S6O-03104)

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

We have made it easier for families to get the best start grant school age payment, with people in receipt of the Scottish child payment now paid the school age payment automatically. There is no need to apply separately.

Since November 2022, we have made more than 43,000 early learning and school age payments. Some people who do not get the Scottish child payment are still eligible, and Social Security Scotland is actively promoting the payment across different channels ahead of the application deadline.

Photo of Michelle Thomson Michelle Thomson Scottish National Party

The best start grant goes hand in hand with the best start food grant to benefit families most in need. The most up-to-date figures show that the pregnancy and baby payment and the best start food grant made up the majority of applications, at 59 per cent and 81 per cent respectively, while applications to other aspects of the best start grant, such as the early learning payment and the school age payment, remain at 23 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.

Can the minister confirm whether the early learning payment and the school age payment will continue to work through an automatic awards scheme if parents are in receipt of the Scottish child payment? What more can be done to raise awareness of those specific benefits?

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

T he member raises an important point about ensuring that everyone who is eligible and entitled to a benefit is encouraged and supported to apply, so that they can get what they are entitled to.

I can confirm that the auto awards scheme is in place. Early learning and school age payments are an important part of the work that we are doing on automation, which makes it easier for families to maximise their take-up. Some of the official statistics might be playing catch-up in showing that, but we are confident that the automated payments are working successfully in driving up take-up. Latest estimates of take-up rates indicate a significant impact from automation, with the take-up of the school age payment rising from 77 per cent in 2021-22 to 97 per cent in 2022-23.

Social Security Scotland continues to raise awareness, but I am happy to reassure the member that we are continuing to keep a close eye on that. I encourage all members to work with their constituents to ensure that we do everything that we can to raise awareness of the Scottish child payment and the associated family payments that are associated with and attached to it.