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3 June 2019, 05:23
Low-income families are now able to apply for a new benefit to help cover the costs of sending a child to school.
Applications for the School Age Payment can be made from Monday for eligible families who have a child old enough to be starting school this August.
The payment will provide £250 per child, paid in the year the child starts school.
There will be no requirement to take up a place at school for families to be eligible for the payment.
The application process will be open until February 29 next year, while parents who have deferred school entry so that their child starts school in August 2020 are also encouraged to apply in the current window.
Following the introduction of the payment, the Scottish Government is now delivering four new benefits - the Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment, the Early Learning Payment, the School Age Payment and the Carer's Allowance Supplement.
The payment is part of the Best Start Grant, a package of three payments for families in receipt of eligible benefits - including Universal Credit, income support, housing benefit and tax credits - to help at key stages in a child's life.
The Best Start Grant package also includes the Pregnancy and Baby Payment, which has been open for applications since December 2018, and the Early Learning Payment, which launched in April.
Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: "Covering the costs of a child starting school puts pressure on family finances, and we have created this new payment to help ease that burden, putting more money into the pockets of families at a time when they need it most.
"We are committed to doing all we can to make sure Scotland is the best place for a child to grow up. We want to increase financial support to families, bringing equality to children by giving them help towards a fairer start.
"We also want to encourage everyone who is entitled to a payment to apply, so will be working with services to promote the benefit to ensure as many people as possible are aware they can access this new additional support."
Scottish Greens parliamentary co-leader and social security spokeswoman Alison Johnstone MSP encouraged all eligible families to apply for the grant.
"Hundreds of thousands of Scots every year miss out on social security payments because either they do not know they can claim, or aren't supported to do so. Over £1 billion goes unclaimed every year," said Ms Johnstone.
"As a new form of assistance, it is all the more important that the Scottish Government maximises the number of eligible families who are aware of what they can get and who apply successfully.
"That is why Greens have been calling for expansion of income maximisation schemes that raise awareness of social security entitlements and offer support to apply for them.
"One such scheme, Healthier, Wealthier Children, which is putting millions into the pockets of families when it would otherwise go unclaimed, is being rolled out across Scotland because of Green action.
"We should be building a new Scottish social security system that doesn't simply wait and hope people will apply, but actively reach out to make people aware of what support they are due and ensure that gets to them.
"Making families aware that children starting school can get this new help is an important part of that."