Low-income families across Scotland will receive a cash boost of £260 in the run-up to Christmas, after the Scottish Government announced it was doubling the final instalment of a key benefit.
Addressing SNP delegates at the party’s conference in Aberdeen, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the payments would be made in the next few weeks.
The bridging payments are available for children who receive free school meals because of low income.
Sturgeon told the conference she hoped the investment of almost £20m “will bring a bit of Christmas cheer to those who need it most”.
The First Minister said: “As part of our help to the poorest families over the last year, we have made quarterly ‘bridging payments’ of £130.
“These have gone to children and young people in receipt of free school meals, but who don’t qualify for the Child Payment.
“Today I can announce that the final instalment – ahead of the extension of the Child Payment and due in the next few weeks – will not be £130.
“We will double it to £260.
“That will help put food on the Christmas table for families of 145,000 children and young people. I don’t pretend it will make all of their worries go away – no government with our limited powers can ever do that.
“But I hope this investment of almost £20m will bring a bit of Christmas cheer to those who need it most.
Sturgeon said she was proud of the work the Scottish Government is doing to tackle child poverty.
The Scottish Child Payment will increase to £25 per week from November 14 and extended to those under the age of 16.
Around 400,000 children in Scotland will be eligible for the payment, which was doubled from £10 to £20 in April.
Child poverty campaigners welcomed Sturgeon’s commitment to double the bridging payments.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “This is really good news for thousands of families of school aged children who are struggling to make ends meet in the face of soaring food and fuel prices.
“An extra £130 makes a real difference when cupboards are bare, debts are mounting and children’s wellbeing is suffering.
“More support will inevitably be needed in the coming months from every level of government, but the First Minister has heard the calls, listened to the evidence and acted in the face of extraordinary cost of living pressures.
“On top of her confirmation of the roll out of the Scottish child payment to all under 16s next month, and increase in its value to £25, this all provides at least some comfort to hard up families across Scotland.”