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Check if you can get the School Age Payment

This advice applies to Scotland

The Best Start Grant is a new Scottish benefit to help parents and carers on low incomes with the costs of looking after young children. It’s made up of three different payments, which you can apply for as your child gets older. 

The three payments are the Pregnancy and Baby Payment, the Early Learning Payment and the School Age Payment. 

This page is about who can get the School Age Payment.

If you want to know more about the Pregnancy and Baby Payment, read our page about who can get a Pregnancy and Baby Payment.

If you want to find out about the Early Learning Payment, read our page about who can get an Early Learning Payment.

You can get a School Age Payment if you:

  1. Apply within the time limit – check when you can apply
  2. Have a child who is around the age they might normally be starting school or has just started school - check if you are a person who can apply
  3. Are getting a qualifying benefit - check which benefits you need to be getting. Some young people don’t need to get any benefits
  4. Live in Scotland – check if you can get a payment if you’re not a UK citizen or if you’re a UK citizen who has been living abroad.

You can only get the payment once, although there's an exception if you've taken over caring for the child from someone else. Check if you can get a payment if someone else has already had one

When can I apply

When you can apply for a School Age Payment will depend on when your child was born.

For most children you can apply for a School Age Payment from 1 June before they start school until the end of February in the year after they’ve started school. The exception is for children whose birthday is in January and February and who decide to wait and start school when they are five years and eight months or five years and seven months old. For these children, you need to apply for a School Age Payment in the period between 1 June in the year that they turn four years old and the end of February the following year. 

Use the table below to work out 'the application window' for your child:

Child’s birth date 

When to apply for School Age Payment 

Children who were born:

Apply between:

From 1 March 2014 to 28 Feb
2015 inclusive 

From 3 June 2019 to 29 Feb
2020 inclusive

From 1 March 2015 to 29 Feb
2016 inclusive 

From 1 June 2020 to 28 Feb
2021 inclusive

From 1 March 2016 to 28 Feb
2017 inclusive 

From 1 June 2021 to 28 Feb
2022 inclusive

Your child doesn't need to take up a place at school and it doesn't matter if you defer your child's entry into school. You should still apply within the time limits - if you apply after it will be too late.

For example, if your child was born on 10 March 2014, they will start school in August 2019 when they are five years and five months old. You need to apply for a School Age Payment between 3 June 2019 and 29 February 2020.

If your child was born on 22 January 2015, you will have a choice of when they start school. They can either start school when they are four years and eight months old, in August 2019, or they can defer and start school when they are five years and eight months old, in August 2020. Regardless of when they start school, the application window for you to apply for a School Age Payment starts in the year that they turn four, so is the period between 3 June 2019 and 29 February 2020.

Can I make a late application

You may be able to make a late application for the School Age Payment if you weren’t able to apply earlier because you were waiting for a decision to be made about a qualifying benefit

If you’re awarded the qualifying benefit for at least one day in the 'application window', then you can apply for the School Age Payment. 

You must make sure that your late application is received by Social Security Scotland: 

  • not more than 20 working days after the last day of the application window - this means not more than 20 days after the end of February in the year your child turns four or five (the 'application window'), and 
  • within three months of you being told about the backdated award – you’ll need to apply within three months of the date that the authority made the decision, for example, the DWP or your local authority.

Who can apply

You can apply for the School Age Payment if you or your partner are responsible for the child on the day that you apply. You are responsible for the child:

  • if you get benefits for them - you get Child Tax Credit, Child Benefit, the child addition part of Pension Credit or the child element of Universal Credit for them
  • if you don’t get benefits for them but you are responsible for the child in some other way – for example, you have adopted a child, are the guardian of a child or are a kinship carer for the child. 

Child tax credit, Universal Credit and the two child limit

If you have more than two children, you may only get Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit for your two older children. This is because of the 'two child limit'. As long as your Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit award recognises that you’re responsible for the child that you’re applying for, it won’t matter if you’re not actually getting any benefit for them.

Find out more about the two child limit on our Child Tax Credit page and on our Universal Credit page.

If you've adopted a child 

You can get the School Age Payment if you've adopted a child. 

If you’re getting Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, the Pension Credit child addition or the child element of Universal Credit for the child, then you won’t need to give any evidence of the adoption to Social Security Scotland. 

If you aren’t getting Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, the Pension Credit child addition or the child element of Universal Credit for the child, then you may need to send Social Security Scotland a copy of the legal order that allows you to look after the child. 

You should send a copy of the legal order rather than the original.

You can ask Social Security Scotland to send you a pre-paid envelope to put the copy of the order in. You can phone them to request this. If you were sent a paper application form the pre-paid envelope should have been sent with the form. 

Social Security Scotland - Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods
PO Box 10300
Dundee
DD1 9FU

Tel: 0800 182 2222

Find out more about adoption

If you're a kinship carer

You may be able to get the School Age Payment if you're a kinship carer for a child.

This means that you’re looking after the child because a relative or close friend is unable to look after them. For example you may be looking after your grandchild, a niece or a nephew. 

If you’re not getting Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, the child addition part of Pension Credit or the child element of Universal Credit for the child, then you’ll need to send Social Security Scotland proof that you’re a kinship carer. This could be a copy of the legal order that allows you to look after the child or the agreement that you have with the local authority.

If you're not sure if the local authority recognises you as a kinship carer, you can check this. For example, you can write to the local authority or get help from the kinship care helpline. 

You should send a copy of the legal order rather than the original. You can ask Social Security Scotland to send you a pre-paid envelope. You can phone them to request this. If you were sent a paper application form the pre-paid envelope should have been sent with the form. 

Social Security Scotland - Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods
PO Box 10300
Dundee
DD1 9FU

Tel: 0800 182 2222

Read more about kinship care, including details of help available for kinship carers, on our kinship care page

What benefits do I need to be getting

You or your partner usually need to be getting one of the following benefits: 

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Universal Credit.

You or your partner usually need to be getting one of these benefits on the day that you apply for the School Age Payment.

There are exceptions if you’re under 18 or if you're an 18 or 19 year old mother and still in some types of education or training.

If you think you might be able to get one of these benefits

If you’re not getting one of these benefits but think you might be entitled to one, you should check this out. 

You'll need to act quickly if your child is close to the end of the application window. This is either the end of February in the year that your child turns four or in the year that they turn five, depending on when their birthday falls. 

Use an online benefit calculator to see if you might be entitled to anything. You can find benefit calculators on the Turn2Us website or the Entitledto website.  

For help applying get advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau.

If you’ve applied for a benefit but not had a decision yet 

If you’ve applied for one of these benefits but not yet had a decision, you can still apply for the School Age Payment. 

If you’re waiting for a decision about a claim for Universal Credit, your claim for a School Age Payment will be held until the end of the first Universal Credit assessment period. A School Age Payment decision can then be made at this point. This is called a 'determination'. 

If you’re waiting for a decision about a claim for any benefit other than Universal Credit, the claim will be held for ten days in case a decision is made in that time. If so, then a determination about the School Age Payment can be made. If not, you’ll need to re-apply for the School Age Payment once your other benefit claim is decided. 

If you’ve missed the application window for the School Age Payment, for example, it’s now March in the year after your child started school, but you’ve now been awarded a qualifying benefit, you might be able to make a late claim for a payment. This will only be possible if you’ve been awarded the benefit for a date that did fall within the application window. Find out if you can make a late claim for a payment

If you’re unsure about whether you can apply, check how you can get advice from a Citizen Advice Bureau on our get advice page.

If you or your partner are getting Universal Credit

If you or your partner are getting Universal Credit, you might not get some Universal Credit every month if your income goes up and down. 

Check that you got an award of Universal Credit in the month before you apply for the School Age Payment as this is what will be checked first. It won't matter if you don't get any Universal Credit in the month in which you apply, as long as you got some for the month before you applied. 

If your Universal Credit is reduced because deductions are being made, for example for a sanction or for money you owe, this won't matter. Social Security Scotland will look at the amount of your Universal Credit before any deductions are made. 

Read more about how Universal Credit is paid on our page How Universal Credit is paid.

If you're under 18 

If you are under 18 you don’t need to be getting any of the qualifying benefits in order to get a School Age Payment. 

If you're an 18 or 19 year old mother 

If you're an 18 or 19 year old mother, you don’t need to be getting any benefits as long as someone else is getting Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, the child addition of Pension Credit or the child element of Universal Credit for you. For example, your parent or carer might be getting one of these benefits for you because you’re still at school or college. 

When you apply, you’ll need to give your parent or carer's name, date of birth and national insurance number if they have one. Social Security Scotland will use this information to check that they are getting benefits for you.

More information about Child Benefit, Child Tax Credits, Pension credit child addition and the Universal Credit child element

Read more about when you can get Child Benefit for someone aged 16 or over and under 20 on our Child Benefit page

Read more about when you can get Child Tax Credits for someone aged 16 or over and under 20 on our Check if you can get Child Tax Credits page

Find out about Pension Credit and what you can get it for on our Check if you can get Pension Credit page.

Read more about when you can get Universal Credit for a child aged 16 or over and under 20 on our page about how much Universal Credit you could get.

Rules about living in Scotland

In most cases you’ll be able to get a School Age Payment if you normally live in Scotland and you meet the other conditions for getting the payment.

You do need to be getting one of a list of benefits in order to be eligible for the grant (although there is an exception for some young people aged under 18 and some mothers aged 18 or 19).

If you’re not a UK citizen or if you’re a UK citizen who has been living abroad you may not be able to get any of these benefits. So you may not be able to get a School Age Payment (although there is an exception for some young people aged under 18 and some mothers aged 18 or 19).

Get advice if you’re not sure whether you are able to get a School Age Payment because of residence issues. Read our page about how to get immigration advice. 

Can you get a payment if one has already been made for a child

You can’t usually get a School Age Payment if someone else has already had a payment for the child.

The only time that a second School Age Payment can be made for the same child is if you’ve taken over responsibility for the child. For example, you’ve adopted the child or you are a kinship carer.

You still need to apply in the application window.

Next steps

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