IN THIS ISSUE
The Best Start grant school age payment of £252.50 is now available for children who can start school in August of this year (they are still eligible if not actually starting school). An application can be made at any time from 1 June 2021 to 28 February 2022. The school age payment is payable if the applicant is:
- responsible for a child born between 1 March 2016 and 28 February 2017 (inclusive); and
- entitled to a qualifying benefit (any amount of universal credit, tax credits, pension credit, income-based JSA, income-related ESA, income support or housing benefit).
Only one payment is made per child, unless there is a change in responsibility for the child.
See more information on Best Start grant school age payment.
From 1 August 2021, the value of the Best Start foods credit is to increase from £4.25 a week to £4.50 a week. The earnings/income limits are also to increase. Best Start foods are payable if the applicant is:
- pregnant or responsible for a child aged under 3 and
- entitled to a qualifying benefit, with earnings/income below limit:
- universal credit with monthly earnings no more than £610 a month (£625 from 1 August)
- working tax credit with annual income no more than £7,320 (£7,500 from 1 August)
- child tax credit (no entitlement to working tax credit) with annual income no more than £16,190 (£16,480 from 1 August);
- housing benefit, weekly income no more than £311 (£317 from 1 August); or
- pension credit, income support, income-related employment and support allowance or income-based jobseeker’s allowance.
Young people under 20 can also qualify without getting a qualifying benefit. See more information on Best Start foods.
From 1 August 2021, the earnings/income limits for free school meals are to increase. A child is entitled to free school meals if the parent/carer is entitled to:
- universal credit with monthly earnings no more than £610 a month (£625 from 1 August);
- working tax credit with annual income no more than £7,330 (£7,500 from 1 August);
- child tax credit (no entitlement to working tax credit) with annual income no more than £16,480; or
- income support, income-related employment and support allowance or income-based jobseeker’s allowance.
It is also intended that the universal free school meals provision in P1-3 will be extended to P1-4 from the start of the August term.
See more information on free school meals.
School clothing grants are also available for children on low incomes, usually those who qualify for free school meals, but local authorities have discretion. The minimum amount, as set by the Scottish Government, has increased to:
- £120 for primary school children
- £150 for secondary school children
Most councils accept applications from July until the end of March.
See more information on school clothing grant.
Low Income Pandemic Payment is a one-off payment of £130 for households who receive council tax reduction in April 2021. It is also paid to people who do not pay council tax for one of the following reasons:
- in temporary accommodation, including a refuge
- home is unoccupied because providing or receiving care
- all members of the household are care leavers, are under 18 or are severely mentally impaired
The payment is also made if there is a backdated council tax reduction award which covers any day in April 2021. The payment is made by the local council into the claimant’s bank account, via a payment card such as PayPoint, or as a credit to the council tax account.
Family Pandemic payment (formerly known as the winter hardship payment and spring hardship payment) comprises two further payments of £100 for each child who gets free school meals because of low income.
The Scottish government says it may also be paid to families experiencing financial hardship, and gives examples of waiting for first Universal Credit payment, or excluded from benefits due to immigration status.
Families should apply for free school meals to get the payment if their child gets universal free school meals in primary 1 to 3 (extending to primary 4 from August 2021).
The first payment should be made automatically by the end of July 2021 and the second payment will be made by 16 January 2022.
Pandemic payments do not count as income for tax credits and do not affect universal credit or other benefits.
Tax credits remain a key source of support for millions of families in the UK, and act as a passport to Scottish benefits for children. Existing claimants can continue to renew their claims (as long as they have not claimed universal credit), and renewal packs for 2021/22 have been sent out to all claimants. Some claimants may have their awards automatically renewed, and others are required to make a declaration of income. In either case it is important to check income and details of the claim are correct. Renewals can be completed online at gov.uk/manage-your-tax-credits.
HMRC has issued a warning about scams by e-mail, text and telephone concerning tax credits renewals. If claimants cannot verify the identity of a contact or caller, HMRC recommends that they do not speak to them. Check GOV.UK for HMRC’s scams checklist to find out how to report tax scams and for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact.