MORE than 28,000 requests for the “game-changing” Scottish child payment were received in the first two days of applications, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Parents and carers who receive other welfare support such as Universal Credit or unemployment benefits can now apply for the £10 per week payment for each child under the age of six.
The payment is part of the Scottish Government’s efforts to reduce child poverty, and it should be rolled out for all qualifying children aged under 16 by 2022.
When the payment was first announced last year, John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said the payment was “an absolute game-changer in the fight to end child poverty”.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament during First Minister’s Questions today, Sturgeon said: “The Scottish child payment opened for applications on Monday.
READ MORE: Scottish Child Payment: How to get £10 per child, per week free as scheme launched
“Initial management information indicates that by the end of Tuesday, over 28,000 applications have been received.”
If all applicants are eligible, they would account for more than 14% of the estimated 194,000 young children who qualify.
Sturgeon added: “This payment is intended to tackle child poverty and with the economic impact of the pandemic meaning more households are reliant on benefits, we need to make sure that reaches all eligible families.
“The plans we have to promote the Scottish child payment have been set out publicly and include carrying out an extensive advertising campaign, but also making information available through a number of routes including midwives and health visitor packs, the baby box and nursery and school enrolment packs.
“I would encourage all parents and carers of the 194,000 children that could be eligible to make sure they apply for this new benefit.”
The benefit was due to be operational by the end of this year but was delayed because of coronavirus, with the payments now starting from February.
The Scottish Fiscal Commission has predicted the benefit will be claimed for 155,000 children of the 194,000 who are believed to be eligible, with 39,000 families missing out.
READ MORE: Scots urged to apply for ‘game-changing’ support ahead of new benefit launch
The forecast prompted calls from the Scottish Greens for more to be done to help struggling families claim the new payment.
The party’s co-leader at Holyrood, Alison Johnstone, said: “It is good to see the application process for this badly-needed support open, but we should be seriously concerned that there are still a fifth of families who may not claim this because they are not aware of it.
“That figure doesn’t even include those who don’t claim qualifying benefits like Universal Credit, who will also miss out.
“Nearly one in four children in Scotland were growing up in poverty before this crisis hit, but now the need is more urgent than ever.
“Covid-19 presents a serious threat to Scotland’s ambitions on child poverty. Now, more than ever, we need to be ensuring that we plug the holes in the UK’s broken social security net.”