The new Scottish Child Payment should be doubled to try and stem a “rising tide of child poverty”, according to a coalition of charities.
The £10 per week payment for eligible families is being introduced from next month as part of the Scottish Government’s efforts to tackle child poverty.
Parents and carers who receive other welfare support such as Universal Credit or unemployment benefits are able to apply for the payment for each child under the age of six, with the benefit being rolled out for all qualifying under-16s by 2022.
But the Scottish End Child Poverty Coalition is calling for the payment to be increased to £20 per week, arguing it could help lift another 20,000 children out of poverty.
The group of 14 charities in Scotland has published a manifesto of demands ahead of the May’s Holyrood election, amid concerns the Government’s current policies are not enough to meet poverty reduction targets.
Launching the manifesto, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland director John Dickie said: “Even before Covid-19, almost one in four children in Scotland were growing up in the grip of poverty.
“The pandemic has pulled families even deeper into poverty, while many more have been swept into poverty for the first time.
“A rising tide of child poverty now threatens to overwhelm many in our communities.
“That’s why we have set out this range of measures that would help to stem that tide, by putting much-needed cash into the pockets of families who are struggling to stay afloat.
“We urge all political parties to commit to the action we’ve set out, and to use the next Scottish Parliament to loosen the grip of poverty on the lives of Scotland’s children.”
The coalition of charities is also calling for a range of other financial support across the social security sector, including increases to the value of Best Start Grants, School Clothing Grants and more funding for crisis support through the Scottish Welfare Fund.
A “child poverty-focused labour market policy” is also required, with specific actions to tackle the gender pay gap, according to the manifesto.
Anna Ritchie Allan, executive director of the Close the Gap charity, said: “The existing inequalities women face in the labour market means they’ve been hardest hit by Covid-19 job disruption.
“The pandemic has starkly illuminated the link between women’s in-work poverty and child poverty. Women who were already struggling are now under enormous financial pressure as they and their families are pushed into further and deeper poverty.
“The End Child Poverty Coalition manifesto calls on Scotland’s political parties to commit to bold action to reduce child poverty.
“Close the Gap welcomes the focus on substantive action to address women’s inequality in the labour market including tackling women’s low pay and boosting the provision of funded childcare.
“Ensuring economic recovery policymaking prioritises measures to build a labour market that works for women is a necessary step in tackling the growing child poverty crisis.”
Responding to the manifesto launch, Scottish Liberal Democrat social security spokeswoman Rosemary Bruce said: “Scotland should be the best place in the world for young people to grow up but the pandemic has only widened the gap between rich and poor in our society.
“It’s unconscionable that some children will grow up deprived of safety, security and opportunity.
“The best way to lift people out of poverty and reduce inequality is through investing in their talents and wellbeing, from education to mental health.
“But the cracks are all too apparent, so Scottish Liberal Democrats have also argued the principles of universal basic income can help everyone through this crisis.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We continue to provide support to people who need it most and tackle poverty and inequality head on.
“In 2019-20 we invested nearly £2 billion in support for low-income households and have committed over £500 million to support people and communities impacted by the Covid pandemic.
“This investment includes over £130 million to tackle food insecurity, with free school meal provision continued during school holidays up to Easter 2021, and a £100 Covid Winter Hardship Payment for children who receive free school meals on the basis of low income.
“From next month we will commence payments of the new Scottish Child Payment for children from low-income households under six – worth £10 per child per week.
“This new payment, together with the support offered through Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods, offers around £5,000 of financial support by the time a child turns six – and is available for each and every child in a household.
“The UK Government must make tackling poverty a priority, starting with maintaining the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and matching our ambitions by introducing a benefit similar to our flagship Scottish Child Payment to lift people out of poverty.”
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