A new welfare payment aimed at helping poorer families after the birth of a child has paid out more than £2.7 million in less than two months.
The Scottish Government started taking applications for the Best Start grant – which provides eligible families with £600 after the birth of their first child and £300 after the birth of any later children – on December 10 last year.
Since then more than 7,000 low income families have been helped – with the payments totalling more than had been made under the the previous benefit in a year.
The new grant, introduced after the devolution of some welfare powers to Holyrood, replaces the Sure Start Maternity Grant north of the border.
Under that scheme the UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) paid out £2 million to families in 2017-18.
Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “The response we have had to the new Best Start Grant is absolutely exceptional and I am delighted that we have now issued over £2.7 million of payments since the benefit opened in December – more in just two months than the DWP paid over a year.”
She hailed the new payment as being a “substantial increase in support for expectant families and new babies”, and added that it “shows what can be achieved if we take a different approach to social security”.
Ms Somerville continued: “We have simplified the application process, promoted this new benefit and engaged health and childcare professionals to help us maximise take-up.
“Alongside increasing the financial support for eligible parents, we have removed the UK’s previous one child limit, reaching children who would have received nothing from the Sure Start Maternity Grant.
“This shows the difference we can make with our new social security powers.
“The Pregnancy and Baby Payment is helping give children the best possible start in life, and demonstrates our commitment to making Scotland the best place for a child to grow up.”
The Scottish Government is already set to expand the Best Start grant scheme, by introducing an additional payment of £250 for children when they reach the age of two or three, with the same amount also to be paid out when children reach school age.