Our ambition is for Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up. Here are just nine ways we are delivering on this ambition.
1. Free, high quality childcare increased to 16 hours a week for all 3 and 4 year olds – up from 12.5 hours in 2007 – and extended to 2 year olds who are looked after, in kinship care or from low income households too. By the end of this Parliament, we’ll increase entitlement to 30 hours a week, doubling spending to £840 million per year.
2. Every baby in Scotland is entitled to receive a Baby Box. Based on the Finnish model, the box includes essential items for a baby’s first weeks and months and aims to tackle deprivation, improve health and support parents. Since they were launched two months ago, 10,000 baby boxes have been delivered.
3. We will introduce a new Best Start Grant, to support families at key stages of their child’s life. Low income families will receive a one-off grant of £600 for the first child in low income families, £300 for subsequent children and two payments of £250 each during a child’s early years. The first Best Start Grant payments before Christmas – 6 months earlier than planned.
4. We continue to provide a healthy school meal for all children in primaries 1 to 3 – around 135,000 pupils – helping improve their health and ability to learn, and saving parents £320 per child per year. And by 2021 we will provide free meals to all 2, 3 and 4 year olds who benefit from increased nursery provision.
5. We’ve extended free vitamins to all pregnant women, helping improve the health of mothers and babies.
6. We are recruiting an extra 500 health visitors by 2018 so that every child benefits from a health development check at 30 months. And we’re extending access to the Family Nurse Partnership to provide professional support throughout those critical early months and years of a child’s life.
7. We will introduce a national allowance for kinship and foster care families, so everyone receives the same amount to care for their children, no matter where they live in Scotland.
8. We have expanded access to IVF so that it is now the most generous in the UK. Patients referred for IVF treatment on the NHS in Scotland may now be eligible for three full cycles rather than two, increasing their chances of conceiving a baby. Families who have children in the home but where one parent has no biological children are now be eligible too.
9. We will use new social security powers to explore a new Income Supplement to lift more children out of poverty.