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Charities call for urgent financial boost for struggling families

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A coalition of 120 organisations has urged for the Scottish Child Payment to be doubled to £20 a week

A coalition of 120 anti-poverty organisations, children’s charities, community groups, think tanks, trade unions, faith leaders and academics have today written to the First Minister urging her to “do the right thing” and double the Scottish Child Payment.

They have said that doubling the £10 per week per child benefit for low income families in this year’s budget would offer immediate financial assistance to struggling families.

The letter – coordinated by members of the End Child Poverty coalition in Scotland – states that doubling the payment now would “signal that ending child poverty will be a defining priority for this Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament.” It has been sent after the Scottish Government – despite all of Scotland’s five main political parties committing to the move at May’s Holyrood elections – has so far failed to set a timescale for the doubling of the payment, stating only that it will take place by the end of the parliamentary term in 2026. 

Organisations supporting the letter include Church of Scotland, EIS, Unite, STUC, Scottish Refugee Council, Scottish Women’s Convention, Human Rights Consortium Scotland, Scottish Christian Alliance, Glasgow Disability Alliance, Scottish Association of Social Work, Citizens Advice Scotland, Shelter Scotland, Christians Against Poverty, and Scottish Women’s Aid. 

The coalition has issued the plea at a time of growing concern over the numbers of people across the country – particularly women, disabled people and black and minority ethnic people - being pulled into hardship and with analysis showing that, on current trends, the Scottish Government will fail to meet its child poverty reduction targets. The letter issues the stark warning that if Scottish ministers fail to double the payment now then “more and more children will be pulled into poverty and the opportunity to meet the interim child poverty targets will be missed.”

Polly Jones, head of Scotland, Trussell Trust, said: “Foodbank use has rocketed by 63% over the last five years because people can’t afford the basics. Over the last year, families have struggled more than most.  We have the powers and we have the cross-party consensus to double the Scottish Child Payment now. If Scottish ministers are serious about making ending child poverty a ‘national mission’ then we must not delay.”

Eilidh Dickson, of Engender, said:  “Child poverty and women’s poverty are inextricably linked. Women continue to provide the majority of care for children, are more likely to work in underpaid and undervalued roles, and to work part time or rely on precarious contracts. Women are also twice as likely as men to rely on social security for all or part of their income, even when aspects, for example the two-child limit, mean it fails to meet their needs. 

“Doubling the Scottish Child Payment is an urgently needed response to supporting children and their caregivers. The Scottish Government must implement this now as part of its mission to eradicate child poverty, while also looking to the gender pay gap action plan and other reforms to social security. The pandemic only adds further urgency to this call as inequality and poverty deepen.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, said: “The EIS unequivocally supports the call for the Scottish Government to act decisively against child poverty and double the Child Payment now rather than delaying when there is urgent need. Levels of poverty experienced by families in Scotland continue to be unacceptably high, worsened by the economic ravages of the pandemic. 

“The real risk that poverty poses to the educational outcomes and life chances of large numbers of children is one that Scotland as a country simply should not be taking as we look to emergence from the pandemic and education recovery.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Tackling child poverty is a national mission for this government. Tens of thousands of families are already benefitting from our Scottish Child Payment and we have committed to doubling the payment by the end of this parliamentary term. We will be extending to all under 16s by the end of next year subject to the necessary data being made available by DWP.

“Ahead of that roll out we have introduced bridging payments worth £520 a year in 2021 and 2022, to provide immediate support to around 145,000 children and young people of school age. Backed by £77 million of additional investment every year this means we are reaching as many low income families as possible almost two years ahead of the full roll out of the Scottish Child Payment.”