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North East MSP presses SNP on delivering devolved support payment

By Kirsty Brown

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The SNP government must ensure Scotland’s benefits agency delivers on a “long-awaited” pledge to support lower-income families by the end of this year, a North East MSP has said.

During a portfolio question session at Holyrood, North East MSP Tom Mason asked the Minister responsible for the Scottish Child Payment whether families could expect movement on it this year.

The payment is intended to be £10 a week per child for applicants in receipt of other benefits such as Working Tax Credits.

A year to the day of its announcement (June 26, 2019), Shirley-Anne Somerville admitted the delivery has been delayed.

Scottish Conservative Mr Mason said: “I want to ask specifically about the Scottish child payment, as that is the Scottish Government’s priority in social security.

“Can the cabinet secretary guarantee that it will be delivered before the end of the year?

“Is she confident that all necessary staff and training are in place to get early delivery right?”

Tom Mason, NE MSP
Tom Mason, NE MSP

Responding Ms Somerville said: “At the moment we do not have the required number of staff in the agency to deliver the Scottish child payment, which is why we have had to delay its introduction.

"There is a recruitment freeze at present, but we will begin to end it when it is possible to do so, following Scottish Government guidance.

“We absolutely recognise the need to get it delivered as quickly as possible, given the circumstances that many people are in.”

Speaking later, Mr Mason said: “Especially now, some families will appreciate an increase in benefits, which the SNP have had to ask the DWP for help in administering.

“Meanwhile, the Treasury has increased the rates for Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits by £1,000 a year, beyond the obvious support for working families through the furlough scheme and self-employed income support scheme.

“This is a long-awaited pledge from the SNP government and one year later, the pandemic can’t be blamed for dragging their feet on delivery.”

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