ELIGIBLE parents in the Cowdenbeath-Lochgelly area of children aged four and five are being encouraged to apply for financial support worth £250.

The one-off £250 payment is currently open to eligible families with a child who was born between 1 March 2015 and 29 February 2016, and who is old enough to start primary one this year. Parents or carers have until the closing date on February 28 2021 to apply.

The payment can be used for anything from a new pair of shoes to books or arts and crafts materials.

Parents who have deferred their child’s entry to school from August 2020 to August 2021, or those who are home schooling, should still apply before the closing date on February 28 2021. If an application is made after this time it will be too late.

The payment is part of the Best Start Grant, a package of three payments for families in receipt of eligible benefits - including Universal Credit, Income Support, Housing Benefit and tax credits - to help at key stages in a child’s life.

Scottish Government Social Security Secretary, Shirley-Anne Somerville, said: “Covering the costs of a child starting school can put pressure on family finances and during these unprecedented times, many more families may be struggling with household costs.

“The School Age Payment is for families of children who are now old enough to start school to help with this important development stage in their kids’ lives. I’d like to remind all parents who may be eligible that they should apply now even if they are deferring or home schooling. The money can be used for anything your kids need at this time".

Ms Somerville added: “I’d also encourage parents at this particularly difficult time to check what other financial support they may be eligible for, such as a school clothing grant or free school meals. "Whilst coronavirus is affecting how we work, it is not stopping ensuring much needed support reaches people.”

Satwat Rehman, Director, One Parent Families Scotland, said: “Through our work, we know that the earliest years of life are vital to a child’s development and affect inequalities in health, education and employment opportunities later in life. "Single-parent families are excessively affected by child poverty and the Best Start Grant payments are often a crucial aspect in keeping their heads above water.

“We have supported parents to take part in the development of the Best Start Grant from its inception and are pleased to have helped hundreds of parents to access the grant and reduce money-related stress."

Visit mygov.scot or call 0800 182 2222 to find out more or apply.