SOCIAL Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville was in Kelty to hear about the benefits of a Scottish Government grant initiative.

Almost £13 million has been paid out to poorer families in seven months under the Best Start grant scheme and the Dunfermline MSP visited Kelty Community Centre to speak to some of the families who have benefitted.

Best Start has seen a healthy uptake from families in the Cowdenbeath-Lochgelly area.

Mum Lisa Cameron said the payments were making a "massive difference" to her and her family.

"I have a two-year-old daughter with learning difficulties and was able to use the Early Learning Payment to buy sensory equipment for her to use in the garden," she said.

"And with another wee one on the way, I will shortly be able to apply for a £300 Pregnancy and Baby Payment that I wouldn't have been entitled to under the old system."

Ms Somerville hailed the "exceptional" response to the scheme, which pays out grants to families in receipt of some benefits, to help with the expenses of pregnancy and having a baby.

Further payments are also made when children start nursery and when they go to school for the first time.

"The response we have had to the new Best Start Grant is absolutely exceptional and I am delighted we have made almost £13m in payments," she said.

"What this means is that, in just seven months, we have provided low-income families with over £10m of additional support that would not have been available to them under the old DWP system in a whole year.

"Alongside increasing the financial support for eligible parents, we have removed the UK's previous one child limit, reaching children who would have received nothing from the Sure Start Maternity Grant.

"And we have created two new payments to support families during key stages of a child's life.

"For a two-child family, the Best Start Grant package will provide total support of £1,900, which is £1,400 more than they would get under the previous UK system.

"This shows the direct difference we are making to families across Scotland with our new powers over social security."

Citizens Advice Scotland policy manager Nina Ballantyne added: "It's fantastic to see so many people claiming this payment, as it can make a really positive difference for low-income families.

"It is vital that people who haven't applied yet understand that accessing the Best Start grant doesn't affect your entitlement to other benefits.

"This is additional money to help families across Scotland."