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Thousands apply for new benefit to cover school costs

The School Age Payment launched on Monday last week with more than 9000 applications made.

School: A grant has been created.
School: A grant has been created. PA

Thousands of applications have been made to receive a new benefit aimed at helping cover the costs of sending a child to school.

The School Age Payment launched on Monday last week and more than 9000 applications have now been made. It is part of the new Best Start Grant - a package of benefits being rolled out by the Scottish Government to provide help at key stages in a child's life.

As part of the School Age Payment, £250 per child is provided to eligible families, with the benefit paid in the year the youngster starts school.

The payment is open to those who live in Scotland, have responsibility for a child, and receive certain benefits such as universal credit, child tax credit or working tax credit.

Families should apply in the year their child is old enough to start school - although their child doesn't actually need to be taking up a school place to receive it, for example if they're home-schooled.

Also included in the Best Start Grant package is the Pregnancy and Baby Payment, which has been open for applications since December 2018, and the Early Learning Payment, which launched in April.

Parents could receive up to £1100 for their first child from their birth to when they start school if they apply for all three.

A total of 14,000 applications have been made for the Best Start Grant since last week.

Social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the response to the grant has been "exceptional".

"The Best Start Grant will help give children the best possible start in life, and demonstrates our commitment to making Scotland the best place for a child to grow up," she said.

"The response we have had with claims is absolutely exceptional and reflects the difference we can make with our new social security powers.

"Covering the costs of a child starting school puts pressure on family finances, and the new School Age Payment will help ease that burden.

"It can be used for anything from paying school clubs, helping with travel costs, days out or buying a warm coat. 

"It was lovely to meet parents and children who have benefited from our new payment to see the difference it is making to their families."

'The response we have had with claims is absolutely exceptional and reflects the difference we can make with our new social security powers.'
Social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville

David Wallace, chief executive of Social Security Scotland, said: "This has been a phenomenal response to the launch of a new payment and shows the scale of demand for our new public service.

"A lot of hard work has gone in with clients and stakeholders to encourage take-up of these payments by simplifying the application process and providing a range of channels for people to apply.

"We will not be complacent though and will continue to promote Best Start Grant through communications and marketing to make sure that everyone who is entitled to this support knows about it and applies.

"The Scottish Government sees social security as people's human right and it is part of our responsibility to deliver a service that enables people to access and exercise this right."

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