Scottish Government ensures young asylum seekers can apply for child benefit

The immigration status of young asylum seekers in Scotland will not be jeopardised if they apply to receive financial support for the birth of their children, it has been announced.

An agreement was reached between the Scottish Government and the UK Government to ensure that asylum seekers under the age of 18 will not be barred from receiving the new pregnancy and baby payment – part of a number of new social security benefits being delivered from Holyrood.

The benefit, launched in December last year, provides £600 for the first child and £300 for each subsequent child.

The Scottish Government had sought to exclude the payment from a UK list of restricted public funds for asylum seekers.

A restriction is in place because asylum seekers are among a group of people termed as having no recourse to public funds.

It means there are certain UK benefits that individuals subject to immigration control are legally barred from receiving – including most of the major UK benefits, such as Universal Credit and income-based jobseeker’s allowance.

The Scottish Government wanted to ensure that the relatively small number of eligible under-18s would be able to receive the payment without jeopardising their immigration status.

For applicants over the age of 18, their immigration status must be resolved during the process of establishing eligibility for the qualifying benefit.

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “When we launched the pregnancy and baby payment, I said it would help give all children in Scotland the best possible start in life and I meant that for all babies born in Scotland.

“While the number of births to young people seeking asylum in Scotland is estimated to be small, this sends a big message about the type of country we want to be – inclusive, progressive and fair.

“It shows the difference we can make with our new social security powers. By expanding the eligibility and making it easier to apply we are delivering substantive improvements on the DWP system.”