Bringing a baby into the world is wonderful but can also put a strain on your finances. Now, a new scheme that links the council’s birth registration process to benefit entitlement ensures that no new parent, that meets the eligibility criteria, leaves council offices, without being given the opportunity to make an application.
So far more than 200 families in the city have been helped to apply for the Best Start Grant (BSG) and staff expect to be assisting around 30 families per week, some of whom were unaware of the grant, to apply for the payment they are entitled to.
The changes mean the council can support new parents, sometimes with a host of other things on their mind, to apply for BSG. They also provide digital support, where needed, with the online application process.
Best Start Grants provide lower-income families with financial support during the key early years of a child’s life. They replace and expand on the UK Government’s Sure Start Maternity Grant by providing entitled families with £600 on the birth of their first child and £300 on the birth of any subsequent children.
The council’s new system is held up as an example of best practice in a local authority by Social Security Scotland. It includes a number of questions being asked when people make an appointment to register the birth of their child, which must be done within 21 days in Scotland.
These answers allow staff to determine at the appointment stage if the parents meet the qualifying criteria for the first stage of the BSG, the pregnancy and baby payment, or if they have already applied.
Confirmation messages then tell them what they need to bring to their appointment for the registration and additional information for the online BSG application.
On the day, once seen by the registrars, customer service agents can help to complete the online application form.
Applicants need to be receiving one or more benefits including Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Universal Credit, Income Support, Pension Credit, Working Tax Credit, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) to qualify.
City Treasurer, Councillor Allan Gow, said: “By changing the way we work and linking our internal processes we are able to identify parents that are eligible for this payment, but may have been unaware of it.
“When you have a new baby finding out about benefit entitlement, filling in forms and applications and remembering documentation is probably at the bottom of the ‘To Do’ list! For some, completing an online form can also be a daunting prospect. Our staff help simplify things and overcome the barriers to making an application, making sure parents get what they are entitled to and that can help get things off to a good start.”
Council officers are now also looking at how they can increase the uptake of other BSG payments as this summer the Scottish Government are looking to introduce two additional payments of £250, per child, to help with the costs of early learning and when they start school.