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Letter to UN Special Rapporteur Following Scotland Visit

Letter to UN Special Rapporteur Following Scotland Visit

The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, visited Scotland last week to inquire into rising levels of poverty and hardship across the UK. Poverty is the biggest human rights issue facing children in Scotland. Between 2014 and 2017, around 19% of Scotland’s population were living in relative poverty after housing costs.

Professor Alston met with OPFS and partner organisations including CPAG Scotland, Parenting Across Scotland, Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights), Children in Scotland and the Scottish Refugee Council to talk about child poverty in Scotland and the importance of incorporating the UNCRC to ensure a child rights-based approach to tackling it. Read the joint letter below.

Satwat Rehman, director of One Parent Families Scotland said: “There’s lots of very good work going on but we have yet to understand what the cumulative impact will be. For example, with efforts to get more parents into work, will the link be made with public transport availability and affordability and childcare that is also affordable, available locally and fits with the hours parents have to work? It’s that kind of joining up on a micro level that is needed. For families already sinking deeper into poverty because of ongoing welfare cuts and the effects of austerity, 2022 is too late.”

See the Together blog on the visit.

Letter to Special Rapporteur

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What does the autumn budget mean for you?

What does the autumn budget mean for you?

Universal Credit Changes

Two major announcements were made in the Autumn budget.

Firstly, the Government committed to additional protections for people transitioning to Universal Credit. These plans are yet to be finalised, and we will update this page when there is more news.

Secondly, the Work Allowance in universal credit will be increased by £1,000 per year from April 2019. This will make single parent families better off, as less of your earnings will be taken into account when working out how much universal credit you will receive.

From October 2019 claimants can repay universal credit over-payments and debts more slowly (from 40% of the standard allowance to 30%).

From October 2021 people will have longer to repay advances. This period will increase from 12 to 16 months.

Changes to other benefits

Jobseekers’ Allowance, ESA and Income Support will roll on for the first fortnight of a Universal Credit claim, where otherwise they would have stopped. This will be effective from July 2020, and benefit around 1.1 million claimants.

The Government is extending the 12 month grace period (the period before the Minimum Income Floor applies) to support all gainfully self-employed people. This will be introduced from July 2019 and implemented fully from September 2020.

Increased Tax Allowance

The personal tax allowance will be increased from £11,850 to £12,500 in April 2019. This means you will not have to pay tax on anything you earn under this figure.

Increased Minimum Wage

The Minimum Wage will increase from £7.83 to £8.21 in April 2019.

New Enterprise Allowance

The New Enterprise Allowance will be extended to offer training and allowances to help you start your own businesses to 2021.

See BBC budget calculator

Call or email the Lone Parent Helpline on 0808 801 0323 if you need advice.

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Benefits for children born after April 2017

Benefits for children born after April 2017

Not all benefits paid for children are affected by the 2 child limit. If you are not receiving child tax credit or the child element of universal credit for a third or subsequent child you may still be entitled to the following benefits for them:

  • child benefit
  • disability living allowance or personal independence payment
  • extra amounts added to child tax credit or universal credit for a child with a disability and these additions taken into account when calculating housing benefit
  • childcare costs

All of your children will be taken into account when calculating the size of home you need even if you do not get housing benefit for them all. Remember you can always ask your local council for discretionary housing payments if you are having difficulty paying your rent.

All children will also be counted when calculating your council tax reduction.

See Can you get help with childcare costs if you have more than 2 children

Call the Lone Parent Helpline on 0808 801 0323 if you need advice.

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Carer’s Allowance Supplement Scotland

Carer’s Allowance Supplement Scotland

The Scottish Government is paying a £442 per year supplement to people in receipt of carer’s allowance.

A new benefit to replace carer’s allowance, called Carer’s Assistance, will be introduced which pays the same amount as income support and jobseekers allowance.

Until this benefit is available carer’s will receive the supplement to top up their existing carer’s allowance.

If you are receiving carer’s allowance at the moment you do not need to claim the supplement. It will be paid automatically. It is paid in two equal amounts of £221.

The first payments were paid in September, and should have reached all eligible carer’s by the end of October.

The Scottish Government has confirmed that the second payment of carer’s allowance supplement will be made in December 2018.

This money will not affect any other benefit you are receiving.

See Carer’s Allowance Supplement for more information. You can call the Carer’s Allowance Supplement helpline on 0800 182 2222.

Call or email the Lone Parent Helpline on 0808 801 0323 if you would like to speak to an adviser. See related factsheets Disability Benefits for Single Parents and Money for Single Parents.

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Christmas Countdown

Christmas Countdown

The Christmas holiday is one many people look forward to. It can be a wonderful time but can also bring stress and worry. Preparing for Christmas in advance can help make it more manageable.

Below are a few ideas, suggestions and services that may be useful.

Budgeting

Set a budget and stick to it. Look at your finances and decided what you can afford to spend. Don’t forget to factor in the extra you may need for food, fuel, phones, social events and travel. It is very easy to get into debt but keep in mind this needs to be paid back in the new year so be realistic.

Christmas 2019 may be the last thing on your mind at the moment but it’s a good idea to start to saving now for next year.

Useful contacts

  • If you do find your struggling over the holidays you can get help from your local food bank. You may have to be referred by your local Jobcentre Plus or Citizens Advice Bureau but contact the foodbank directly for more details.
  • Each local council has a Scottish Welfare Fund who can give you grant to buy food and fuel in a crisis. You are normally limited to 3 grants per year but circumstances should be taken into consideration so it’s worth asking.
  • Debt and money advice may not be of use during a crisis but it can help to sort things out and prevent further problems in the future. Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or National Debtline
  • The Money Saving Expert website has tips on how to spend less at Christmas as well as offering information on best buy fuel and phone services.
  • If you are waiting for benefits to be paid contact Jobcentre Plus or call the universal credit helpline for an advance payment.
  • If you become homeless over the holiday period contact your local council who will provide emergency accommodation. You will find out of hours emergency contact numbers on the council website.

 

Childcare arrangements

Arrange any extra childcare needed for over the holiday period well in advance. If your childcare cost will rise significantly over this period you may be entitled to extra working tax or universal credit. Contact HMRC report this change for tax credits or, if you get universal credit, report it on your on-line account.

Useful contacts

 

Travel

Public transport is disrupted over the holiday period, and roads may be busier, so check and alter your arrangements if need be.

Useful contacts

  • Travelline Scotland
  • Consult the ‘Ready Scotland’ Twitter list for alerts from key accounts during severe weather in Scotland. Ready Scotland is an official channel from the Scottish Government’s Resilience Division.

 

Health

If you or your children need to see a doctor or re-order prescriptions do so in plenty of time. Casualty and Emergency departments are likely to be busy so be prepared.

Useful contacts

 

Wellbeing

The joy and stress of Christmas can heighten both good and bad emotions. You may find this time difficult if you have recently separated from your partner or you do not have friends or family around you. It is worth remembering that, for many people, the holidays can be difficult.

It can be a good idea to arrange to meet friends or do something you enjoy especially when your children are not with you.

Useful contacts

  • If you are, or have been, affected by domestic abuse you may find it useful to talk to someone from Scottish Women’s Aid. If you are in immediate danger call the police.
  • The Samaritans Scotland are not just for people considering suicide they also provide a listening ear if you’re feeling down and need to talk to someone and Breathing Space offer a telephone counselling service throughout the night
  • If you’d like to contact other parents you could join in the online conversations on Netmums or Mumsnet.

 

Arrangements for children

Finding time to visit friends and family is hard enough but it can require more planning when parents live apart. Talk to your ex well before the holidays so you both have time to consider where the kids will be spending the holidays. If you can arrange a time when you can all be together that’s even better (and cheaper).

Useful contacts

Relationships Scotland offer a mediation service to help you and your ex arrange the time you each spend with your children. There is a charge for this service but it is much less than going to court and less intimidating.

If you are concerned that your child may not be returned to you after a visit inform the police and contact a service like Reunite International for advice on what to do.

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Twelve Weans of Christmas Appeal

Twelve Weans of Christmas Appeal

Help make this Christmas special for children and families. Spread some cheer and make a difference this year.

Your donations of new toys, clothes and non-perishable foods will make a real difference to children who would otherwise receive very little this Christmas.

We are hoping that you could possibly help us with donations of toys and /or warm clothing for children 0-16 years (please note that due to Health & Safety we can only accept toys that are new and in packaging).

We also distribute food parcels to families in need to make sure that children have hot meals over the festive period when school meals are not available. For this we would welcome any non-perishable food donations and toiletries. We are hoping to distribute all gifts and food on the week beginning 11th December.

Thank you in advance for your support, it is greatly appreciated by OPFS staff and the many single parent families we support.

Download Poster

Donate online

To donate online visit our donation page. Please use ‘Christmas Appeal’ in the message.

Drop off points

OPFS branches are accepting your kind donations for local families. Click the link for directions.

One Parent Families Scotland
2 York Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3EP
Tel: (0131) 556 3899
Email: info@opfs.org.uk

OPFS Falkirk
68/70 Forgie Crescent
Maddiston FK2 0LZ
Tel: (01324) 711271
Email: falkirk@opfs.org.uk

OPFS Glasgow
Waterloo Chambers,
4th Floor, 19 Waterloo Street
Glasgow G2 6AY

Tel: (0141) 847 0444
Email: glasgow@opfs.org.uk

OPFS Lanarkshire
42 Civic Square
Motherwell ML1 1TP

Tel: (01698) 239961
Email: lanarkshire@opfs.org.uk

OPFS Aberdeenshire
2 High Street, Kemnay, Inverurie
Aberdeenshire AB51 5NB

Tel: (01467) 641000
Email: childcare.aberdeenshire@opfs.org.uk

OPFS Dundee
Families’ House,
20 Grampian Gardens
Dundee DD4 9QZ

Tel: (01382) 502 504
Email: childcare.dundee@opfs.org.uk or familysupport.dundee@opfs.org.

For more information, please call Linda Pople on 07789 995 214 or email: weans@opfs.org.uk.

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Best Start Scotland

Best Start Scotland

Best Start Grant first payments due December 2018

The Scottish Government is replacing the Sure Start Maternity Grant with the new Best Start Grant. The first payments are currently due to begin in December 2018. We will update this page when more details are announced.

If you are expecting a baby now, or had a baby since 25 June 2018, and have not yet applied for a Sure Start Maternity Grant, it may be worth waiting to apply for a Best Start Grant instead, as it is worth £100 more. You should make sure you apply for one of them within six months of the baby’s birth.

The Best Start Grant will include 3 different grants:

  • the pregnancy and baby grant- to help with the costs of pregnancy or having a new baby. Qualifying families will receive £600 from 25th week of pregnancy to 6 months after the birth of their first child and £300 on the birth of any following children.
  • the early learning grant– A payment of £250 when your child starts nursery.
  • the school age grant– A further payment of £250 to help with the additional costs when your child start school.

The early learning grant and the school age grant are expected to be paid from summer 2019.

Who can get it?

You’ll be eligible for best start grant if you get any of the following benefits:

  • Universal credit
  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Pension credit
  • Housing benefit
  • Child tax credit
  • Working tax credit

If you’re under 19 and someone else is claiming child benefit, child tax credit or universal credit for you, you’ll be eligible for best start grant regardless of income.

People who have adopted a baby or who have started looking after a baby as a kinship carer can also apply for the grant. They will have until the end of the day before the child’s first birthday to apply.

If you have twins or a multiple birth £600 is payable per child, if you have no other children living with you. If there are other children living with you, it is £300 per child in a multiple birth, plus one supplement of £300.

How to claim

Apply to the Scottish Government. Scottish Government Best Start Grant.

Best Start Foods 

Healthy Start vouchers will become known as Best Start Foods by summer 2019.  The paper vouchers will be replaced by prepaid digital smartcards. The weekly allowance will rise from the current £3.10 to £4.25. These can be used for milk, fruit, vegetables and vitamins for pregnant women and eligible families.

Find out if you qualify for Healthy Start Vouchers.

Baby Box

All new-born babies in Scotland are entitled to a baby box. The box contains useful items and can also be used as a safe place to sleep. When you’re about 20-24 weeks pregnant your midwife will fill in a baby box registration card with you. The box will be delivered to you 4 weeks before your baby’s due date. Scotland’s Baby Box. 

See our Maternity Rights factsheet for income and benefits for single parents in Scotland.

Call or email the Lone Parent Helpline on 0808 801 0323 if you need advice.

 

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Can you get help with childcare costs if you have more than 2 children?

Can you get help with childcare costs if you have more than 2 children?

Yes, you can get help to pay for childcare for all qualifying children even if you only get child tax credit, universal credit and help with housing costs for two.

If you are affected by the ‘2 child limit’ you can still claim for help to pay for childcare for your third or subsequent children.

You can claim from working tax credit, as long as you work an average of 16 hours per week or more, or from universal credit no matter how many hours you work.

Qualifying children are those you are responsible for up to the age of 15, or 16 if you get a disabled child element for them in child tax credit or universal credit. The childcare provider must be registered with the Care Inspectorate.

The amount of help towards childcare costs is affected by your earnings and is capped. The maximum amount you can get is:

Working tax credit

  • 70% of £175 (£122.50) per week for one child
  • 70% of £300 (£210) per week for 2 or more children

Universal credit

  • 85% of £760 (£646.35) per month for one child
  • 85% of £1300 (£1,108.04) per month for 2 or more children

See Benefits for children born after April 2017

See the Money If You Are Working factsheet for more childcare information or call our lone parent helpline on 0808 801 0323.

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Scottish government consultation on fraud in the social security system – OPFS Response

Scottish government consultation on fraud in the social security system – OPFS Response

OPFS welcomes the commitment that the Scottish Social Security Agency will treat those who use the service with dignity, respect and fairness. The process of developing the suite of early years benefits – Best Start Grants in particular – has been the first trial of that assurance. OPFS has supported single parents to participate in the co-production of the development of these benefits including design of the delivery model and application process. We would argue that the same co-design principles should be committed to in the introduction of regulations dealing with allegations or suspicion of fraud. We must have safeguards to ensure genuine errors and mistakes will not be criminalised and that the regulations are in enough detail to be future-proofed to protect our most vulnerable citizens.

Download full submission

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OPFS is Recruiting Four Posts

OPFS is Recruiting Four Posts

At OPFS we currently recruiting for four posts, one each in our Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and North Lanarkshire offices.

For full details, closing dates and information on how to apply please see the jobs page.

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0131 556 3899

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