The first of three benefits to be offered to parents under Scotland's new Best Start Grant will cost £5.6 million in 2019-20, says the Scottish Fiscal Commission. This is an increase of £3.1 million over the forecast expenditure on the UK benefit it replaces - the Sure Start Maternity Grant.
The Commission estimates that 13,000 Pregnancy and Baby Grants will be made in Scotland in 2019-20. This is higher than the current number and expenditure will increase. Sure Start Maternity Grant is a £500 payment to individuals who meet certain eligibility criteria, to help towards the cost of having their first child. Under the new Best Start Grant, this payment rises to £600 and a £300 payment can also be claimed at the births of second or subsequent children.
The Scottish Government plans to introduce two further elements of the Best Start Grant: payments for children starting nursery and then school. The Commission will produce forecasts of these benefits when the Scottish Government introduces further secondary legislation.
Commission chair Dame Susan Rice said:
Best Start Grant is one of the first benefits to be administered by Social Security Scotland. We estimate that the Baby and Pregnancy Best Start Grant will more than double the number of payments made, compared to the current UK Government policy.
We will monitor how the take-up of Best Start Grant compares to our estimates and will use this information to inform our future judgements on other benefits to be devolved.
Today's publication is our first supplementary costing to support the secondary legislation for social security payments. It is the Scottish Governments intention to use secondary legislation to set out detailed information such as eligibility criteria and rates of payment. We play an important role in this process, providing independent forecasts to assist the Scottish Parliament and the public in understanding the Scottish Government's policy.
2. The Commission estimates that 13,000 Pregnancy and Baby Grants will be made in 2019-20, compared to an estimated 5,000 payments under the current Sure Start Maternity Grant policy.
3. The Commission has published two sets of social security forecasts (in December 2017 and May 2018) since it became Scotland's official, independent forecaster in April last year.
4. Dame Susan Rice is chair of the Scottish Fiscal Commission; she and Professor Alasdair Smith are Commissioners.
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