Low income households are to receive a £100 direct payment before Christmas as part of a multi-million pound winter fund to help those struggling during the coronavirus crisis.
The extra cash, which will go to those families whose children are currently eligible for free school meals, will be announced by Nicola Sturgeon on the final day of the SNP’s virtual conference.
I am announcing today a £100 million package to bridge that gap, and help others struggling most with the impact of Covid over the winter months. It will include money to help people pay their fuel bills and make sure children don’t go hungry….And most importantly of all, it will provide a cash grant of £100 for every family with children in receipt of free school meals.”
A preview of Nicola Sturgeon’s speech to SNP conference
In her keynote speech, the first minister will outline her plans to help those most in need with some of the £100 million fund also going on helping with fuel bills and tackling loneliness this winter.
Ms Sturgeon will warn the Covid crisis has laid down a challenge of “no longer accepting problems as inevitable or insoluble” – such as deep-seated poverty and inequality.
The creation of the fund follows the SNP’s promise to make every Scottish primary pupil eligible for free breakfast and lunch next year, if Ms Sturgeon’s party is re-elected in May.
Ms Sturgeon will also claim that Holyrood has one hand tied behind its back when it comes to tackling poverty because Westminster and Boris Johnson have control over the bulk of Scotland’s social security system.
But the Scottish Conservatives argued that the UK Government had provided more than £9 billion to help Scotland through the coronavirus crisis.
Ms Sturgeon is expected to say: “To make sure the country we rebuild is the one we want it to be, with kindness, compassion, fairness, equality and enterprise at its heart – and not one made in the image of Boris Johnson and his band of Brexiteers – we must make sure we are working to the right plan, with all the tools we need to do the job.”
She will add that the Scottish Government “won’t wait to be independent to start doing the right things now”.
Bridging the gap
In her speech, Ms Sturgeon will make reference to her government’s plans for a Scottish Child Payment before announcing the £100m winter fund.
“The money will be paid before Christmas and families can use it for whatever will help them through the winter. That could be food, new shoes or a winter coat for the kids. Families will know best what they need. That’s not for government to decide.”
She will say: “We will shortly become the only part of the UK to give low income families an extra £10 per week for every child – initially for children up to age 6 and then for every child up to age 16. This has been described as a game-changer in the fight to end child poverty.
“The first payments will be made in February. But I know that for families struggling now, February is still a long way off.
“So I am announcing today a £100 million package to bridge that gap, and help others struggling most with the impact of Covid over the winter months.
“It will include money to help people pay their fuel bills and make sure children don’t go hungry.
“It will offer additional help for the homeless, and fund an initiative to get older people online and connected.
“And, most importantly of all, it will provide a cash grant of £100 for every family with children in receipt of free school meals.
“The money will be paid before Christmas and families can use it for whatever will help them through the winter. That could be food, new shoes or a winter coat for the kids.
“Families will know best what they need. That’s not for government to decide.
“Initiatives like this are not just about providing practical help to those who need it most – they are an expression of our values and of the kind of country we are seeking to build.”
‘The most vulnerable families should get help through the pandemic’
Conservative MSP Annie Wells said she welcomed that UK Government cash was being passed on to the most vulnerable.
Ms Wells said: “Up to this point, the UK Government has provided an extra £9.5 billion for Scotland to fight Covid.
“So, I would welcome any indication the SNP are now passing some of that on.
“The most vulnerable families should get help through the pandemic – that’s what the Treasury assistance is meant for.
“The SNP have a poor track record on delivering benefits, however.
“And they seem to have nothing to say about protecting jobs or the Scottish economy.
“According to the Fraser of Allander Institute, the Nationalists are hoarding £1bn of UK money. There is still a mountain of cash available for the places it’s needed most.”