Low-income families in Falkirk district with children aged between two and three-and-a-half can apply for a new benefit from today (Monday, April 29).

The £250 Early Learning Payment can be used for anything from children’s clothing and shoes to toys, books or days out.

The payment is part of the Scottish Government’s Best Start Grant package and is aimed at offering families additional financial support around the time when a child starts nursery – although children don’t need to take up a nursery place to receive the payment.

The Best Start Grant is for families in receipt of eligible benefits, such as Universal Credit, Income Support and Housing Benefit, helping them at key stages in a child’s life.

The first part, the Pregnancy and Baby Payment of £600 for a first child and £300 for subsequent children, was launched in December. The £250 School Age Payment will open for applications on June 3.

Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson said: “The launch of the Early Learning Payment will be welcome news for local families with children of nursery age, putting some extra money in their pockets at a vital stage in their child’s development.

“In the first two months after applications opened for the Pregnancy and Baby Payment, Social Security Scotland helped more than 7,000 low-income families across the country – and it is estimated that the Best Start Grant package will support up to 40,000 families this year to the tune of £12million.

“That’s £10million more than the support the UK Government’s equivalent benefits provided to low-income families before these welfare powers were devolved to Holyrood and demonstrates the Scottish Government’s commitment to doing all it can to help give every child a fair chance in life.”

Applications for the Early Learning Payment can be made online, over the phone or by post. Find out more at mygov.scot/benefits or by calling 0800 182 2222.