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Automatic awards to make accessing family benefits simpler

Minister of Social Security Ben Macpherson meets children at FARE community nursey in Glasgow

Plans have been announced to automatically pay the Best Start Grant Early Learning and School Age Payments to parents and carers who already receive Scottish Child Payment when their children become eligible.

The change will be introduced later this year when Scottish Child Payment is extended to under-16s and increased to £25 per child, per week.

This builds on extensive work already done to make applying for the Scottish Government’s five family payments as straightforward as possible. It includes the ability to apply for all children in a household on a single form. The form can be completed online, by phone or on paper. Parents and carers contributed to the design of the form to make sure the language was clear and easy to navigate.

As set out in the recent Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan ‘Best Start, Bright Futures’, the introduction of automatic awards will remove the need for eligible families receiving Scottish Child Payment to reapply when their child becomes eligible for the Early Learning and School Age Payments. This will mean less paperwork for tens of thousands of families and ensure that families automatically receive the support to which they’re entitled.

On a visit to FARE Scotland in Glasgow, Minister for Social Security, Ben Macpherson said:

"Tackling child poverty is a key mission for the Scottish Government and automating payments, where we already have all of the information we need to do so, will mean parents and carers automatically getting the financial support they are eligible for paid directly to them.

“Since launching Best Start Grant in December 2018, we've made more than 177,000 payments, totalling £55.3 million in support, families who need it most. Automating payments, where we can, will enable us to help even more families.

“We are committed to making sure that receiving our five family payments is as straightforward as possible. Automatic awards, increasing Scottish Child Payment to £20, and again to £25 by the end of the year, and uprating eight Scottish benefits by 6% are some of the ways we are using our limited social security powers and resources to help families in need.”

Jimmy Wilson, Chief Executive of FARE Scotland, said:

“There are families who aren’t aware of all the benefits to which they’re entitled so anything that can be done to make the process simpler is to be welcomed.

“It’s more important than ever that people understand the help which is there for them.

“The advantages in having automatic awards could be significant. We hope this move has a positive impact on take up rates which could help to reduce and prevent child poverty and support family wellbeing.”


  • Best Start Grant Early Learning Payment and Best Start Grant School Age Payment are part of a package of Five Family Payments. This package also includes Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment, Best Start Foods and Scottish Child Payment. By the end of 2022, the Scottish Government’s package of Five Family Payments for low-income families will be worth up to a maximum of over £10,000 by the time a family’s first child turns 6, and £9,700 for second and subsequent children
  • The Early Learning Payment opened for applications on 29 April 2019 and provides £267.65 per child to support child development, for example travel costs, changes of clothes for messy play, trips out and toys for home learning
  • The long application window, from 2-3½, captures the 2 common ages for starting nursery, depending on whether parents qualify for a free nursery place when the child is 2 or 3. There is no requirement to take up a place at nursery to qualify for a payment
  • The School Age Payment opened for applications on 3 June 2019 and provides £267.65 per child to help with the costs of preparing for school, for example educational toys or after school activities. Eligibility is based on the child’s age and relates to when a child is first old enough to start school. The application window runs from 1 June in that year until the last day in February the following year. There is no requirement to take up a place at school to qualify for a payment
  • Between launching on 10 December 2018 and 28 February 2022, more than 177,000 Best Start Grant payments had been authorised. This figure does not include Best Start Foods
  • In 2022-23 we expect 52,000 households will receive £18 million of support through Best Start Grant (Scottish Fiscal Commission report published 9 December 2021). With projected take up rates of 76% for Pregnancy and Baby first births, 77% for Pregnancy and Baby subsequent births, 82% for Early Learning Payment and 80% for School Age Payment
  • The Scottish Fiscal Commission (report published 9 December 2021) has forecast that 20,000 people will receive the Early Learning Payment and 22,000 people will receive the School Age Payment during the 2022-23 financial year
  • Eligible families, and carers can find out more and apply at or by calling Social Security Scotland free on 0800 182 2222

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