THIS week has seen the first payments made from the Scottish Child Payment – £10 every week, per child, for low income families.

I asked the Scottish Government how many households in the Clackmannanshire local authority area it anticipates will receive the £10 Child Supplement and the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security confirmed to me that the most recent analysis estimates that that there could be around 1200 local families receiving the Scottish Child Payment this year.

And I don't want a single one of those 1200 families to miss out.

You can apply by phone, by post or online and I would urge anyone caring for a child under six and in receipt of any kind of income related benefits to check whether they should be applying for this new payment, described as "game-changing" by children's charities.

If you have access to the internet, go to Alternatively you can call Social Security Scotland free on 0800 182 2222 and answer the questions over the phone or get sent a pre-paid envelope to send your documents in by post.

Along with the Best Start Grant and other benefits rolled out by Social Security Scotland, the Scottish Child Payment is forming part of a benefits system built on dignity, fairness and respect, working for the people of Scotland, not against them.

New research published recently showed that 1.3million children under five in the UK are now living in poverty.

Dame Louise Casey, a former homelessness adviser to the UK government, has again warned the Tory government against its plans to cut Universal Credit in April after research from the charity Little Village and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation revealed that 34% of families with children under five live below the poverty line. Two in five of these families have seen a reduction in their earnings as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The former UK government adviser said that maintaining the £20 increase is "the least we could do" and not doing so would be "unthinkable".

She added that with regards to poverty, "the numbers are just too big to ignore" and the UK government must "thing big and think long" to properly tackle the growing issue.

In December, I led a Members Debate in the Scottish Parliament, urging the Chancellor to make the £20 Universal Credit increase permanent and to extend this vital safety net to those on legacy benefits, to avoid more people being forced into hardship by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The increase has been a lifeline to over 470,000 people in Scotland, which includes over 5300 people in Clackmannanshire who are currently claiming universal credit – a staggering 80% increase in claimants since March.

The SNP has repeatedly called on the UK government to go beyond increasing Universal Credit and other legacy benefits and strengthen all welfare protections after the Tories spent a decade dismantling the social security net. But they have consistently and repeatedly refused to do so.

Westminster is forcing families and children into poverty and it is keeping them there.

By contrast, the Scottish Government is determined to give all of our young people the best start in life that they can have.