More than 323,000 children are receiving the Scottish Child Payment, new statistics from the Scottish Government show.

The figures from Social Security Scotland show that since it was brought in by Nicola Sturgeon in 2021, more than £458.5 million has been spent on the devolved benefit.

It was initially a £10 payment for children under six in low-income families but was hiked to £25 a week and extended to under 16s last year.

However, the publication of the statistics comes as more than 150 charities, faith groups, trade unions and community organisations have urged Humza Yousaf to use the upcoming Scottish budget to raise the payment from £25 to £30 a week.

They say this would be “a first step” to meet child poverty targets.

In an open letter, the groups say the payment has not been increased for 16 months despite eye-watering levels of inflation rates.

The Herald:

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At the time, the Scottish Fiscal Commission forecast that the average number of children receiving support in 2023/24 would be 309,000.

However, the new statistics revealed it was now reaching 323,315 children - an increase of more than 7,000 compared to 30 June 2023.

Of those, around 67% were aged six to 15 and the rest were aged under six.

The new figures also provide a breakdown by local authority, showing that the highest total value of payments made in the 2023/24 financial year to date was in Glasgow at £33.9 million, followed by Fife at £16.1 million and North Lanarkshire at £15.7 million.

There has also been a marked improvement in processing times, down from 13 working days in June 2023 to six working days in September 2023.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “As the First Minister has made clear, tackling child poverty is a key mission for the Scottish Government and these figures show we are reaching more of the children and young people who need our help. We’re doing it more quickly too.

“It is estimated that Scottish Child Payment will lift around 50,000 children out of poverty in the current financial year."

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The minister added: “Our work with this uniquely Scottish benefit is in stark contrast with the UK Government’s approach of continued austerity, further outlined in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement last week.

“Scottish Child Payment, Best Start Foods and our Best Start Grants provide a robust safety net and are among many actions we are taking in government to lift people out of poverty.

“However, I would continue to encourage people to spread the word as we want all eligible people to get the help they are entitled to.”