Website crash shows importance of Scottish Child Payment- Sturgeonon November 14, 2022 at 1:39 pm

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“Exceptional demand” initially stopped people applying for the £25 weekly benefit which has been extended to under-16s.

childrenImage source, Getty Images

The first minister has said the “exceptional demand” which crashed the website for people applying for the new extended Scottish Child Payment highlights how important the scheme is.

Nearly half of all children in Scotland will benefit from the change to include children under 16.

The scheme has previously been available to low-income families with children under the age of six.

About 400,000 children are in families eligible for the £25 weekly payment.

Claimants were urged to apply online, but a huge surge on Monday morning meant people were temporarily unable to complete the application form.

The system was restored by 12:00.

Nicola Sturgeon said the “initial teething problems” were a clear sign of how many people would benefit.

The first minister added: “People will get access to this benefit which is not available anywhere else in the UK.

“It is being made available because the Scottish government is rightly, within really difficult financial circumstances, prioritising lifting children out of poverty.”

Social Security Scotland said all available staff were used to take phone applications until the online system was back up and running.

A spokesperson added: “The introduction or expansion of services is never without risks. We had staff on hand to monitor issues and to fix these quickly. This will continue throughout this week as we expect to see continued levels of high demand.”

The change to include under-16s, coupled with the payment increasing from £20 a week to £25, will see eligible families receive £1,300 a year per child.

‘I can stop worrying’

Emily, 11, Esme-Rose, 5 and Alyks, 12

Image source, Heather Searle

Single parent Heather Searle, a support worker for disabled children, applied first thing on Monday morning.

She had previously qualified for the child payment for her five year-old Esme-Rose but the extension of the benefit means she was able to add Emily, 11 and Alyxs, 12. She told the BBC the payment has taken a weight off her shoulders.

“I’m a single parent, financially doing it alone,” she said. “The cost of electricity, food shopping, fuel for getting to work, it is all beginning to hit hard. I have really felt it over the past six months.

“Everything is getting more expensive as the kids get older. And I can’t believe the cost of food.”

Heather Searle has applies to add her older children to the Scottish Child Payment

Image source, Heather Searle

“It made a massive difference with my youngest and this is going to really make a big difference with other two.

“Just for day-to-day living and not having to worry so much every week about bills.

“It lifts the stress off me. If I’m stressed about money and bills, it affects all of us.”

Heather is on a zero hours contract and works hours around her children, so she cannot always work more to meet rising bills.

She said: “I have to do that because paying for childcare is not a possibility.

“And that is me as a working parent. I can’t imagine how bad it is for those not working.”

‘Game-changing’

The Scottish government has described the move as a “game-changing, anti-poverty measure” which could lift as many as 50,000 children out of poverty.

Social security minister Ben Macpherson told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “It’s a huge amount of households and young people that are going to benefit from this really ambitious measure to help all of us tackle child poverty.

“That, of course, is an investment in building a better and fairer Scotland together.

“The uplift in the amount, going from £20 per child per week to £25, will immediately benefit over 100,000 children

“And then the extension to under-16s being able to apply for the benefit takes it to an estimated 400,00 children who will be able to get assistance from this game-changing, anti-poverty measure.”

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Who can apply?

People with children under 16 can now apply, whether they are in work or not, if they or their partner are getting one or more of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

Social Security Scotland will also accept claims from people named on one of the following benefits:

  • Pension Credit
  • Income Support
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

The government is urging people to apply online or by calling Social Security Scotland free on 0800 182 2222.

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The Scottish government announced in March that the Scottish Child Payment was to increase to £25 as part of its child poverty action plan.

At the time, it said it was also providing an extra £53m to employment services and creating a new £15m transitions fund to support parents into work.

Chris Birt, associate director for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation think tank, described the rollout of the child payment benefit as “a watershed moment for tackling poverty in Scotland” and the rest of the UK “should take note”.

He said: “At £1,300 per child, per year it will be a welcome boost to family budgets that are stretched to breaking point already.

“No child should live in poverty so there is clearly more to do, but the Scottish government should be commended for prioritising spend on this vital measure at this time.

“But this is not just a cost of living crisis measure, it is an enduring investment in our children.”

Vulnerable families

Sallyann Kelly, chief executive of the children’s charity Aberlour, welcomed the rollout, which she said “will be a real help to families who are struggling in Scotland”.

However, she called on the government to make sure the benefits continue to be felt in the long term.

She said: “We think that the Scottish government needs to keep a close eye on it and make sure the real value of the payment doesn’t fall.

“So we would be urging them to keep the payment increases in line with inflation, because the next couple of years are going to be very, very difficult for families in Scotland.”

Other charities have urged the UK government to follow the Scottish government’s move.

John Dickie, director of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said: “If the Scottish government can make this kind of serious investment in protecting our children from poverty then so too can the UK government.”

A UK government spokeswoman said: “Our priority will always be to support the most vulnerable and we recognise that people are struggling with rising prices, which is why we are protecting millions of those most in need with at least £1,200 of direct payments.

“In addition, vulnerable families are being supported by the government’s household support fund – which was boosted by £500m – to help pay for essentials and latest figures show that there were 200,000 fewer children in absolute poverty after housing costs compared to 2019/20.

“The UK government has also provided an extra £123m for the Scottish government to help vulnerable families at their discretion and this is in addition to the significant welfare powers they already have.”

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