Research by the IPPR Scotland think-tank recommends rising both the Scottish Child Payment and Scottish Welfare Fund.
Charities and policy experts have said ministers in Scotland must do more to reduce child poverty by maximising the Scottish Child Payment and Scottish Welfare Fund.
A report, written by think-tank the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) Scotland for charities the Trussell Trust and Save the Children, has said the Scottish Government must take further action to help provide a much stronger safety net for families.
The research, Tackling Child Poverty and Destitution, considers whether Scotland’s two boldest welfare policies are doing enough and what more can be done to maximise their potential.
Rachel Statham, associate director at IPPR Scotland, said: “Urgent work is needed to meet Scotland's interim child poverty targets, and now rising food and fuel prices are putting additional strain on families’ finances.
“The Scottish government must act quickly to protect people from the coming storm and get back on track to drastically reduce child poverty by 2030.
“This should start with commitments in this month’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan to make sure the Scottish Child Payment is going further, faster to protect families from being swept into poverty or pulled deeper underwater, alongside an urgent review of crisis support offered through the Scottish Welfare Fund.
“Now is the time for action that meets the scale of parliament's ambitions.”
The findings stress that The Scottish Child Payment and Scottish Welfare Fund make a tangible difference to those struggling on a low income and putting money into people’s pockets is the most effective solution.
However, the report claims the evidence is clear that the Scottish Government is currently not on track to meet its own statutory child poverty targets and both policies must do more to meet growing needs and the deepening cost of living crisis.
The findings show that the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment is a “gamechanger” in getting money directly to families in need, but warned that without further action, the payment simply doesn’t go far enough to meet the Scottish Government’s target to reduce child poverty.
The charities are calling for ambitious action to double the payment to £40 to boost stretched incomes and increase uptake of the payment to coincide with full roll out in 2022.
Claire Telfer, Save the Children’s head of Scotland said: “Families on the lowest incomes are already making impossible decisions to meet their basic needs. Families face even stronger headwinds in the months ahead as the cost of living spirals. As it currently stands, there is a real risk that more and more parents and children’s basic needs won’t be met.
“The Scottish Government’s Child Poverty Delivery Plan, due to be published this month, is an opportunity to take bold steps – like increasing the Scottish Child Payment to £40 a week - to ensure every family has enough money to provide for their family.
“Now is the moment to release the potential of key policy levers to fight child poverty and support families in crisis and prevent destitution. We already have the right tools in our toolbox to help families facing financial crisis and living through poverty.
“Our report shows how we can supercharge the Scottish Child Payment and Scottish Welfare Fund to deliver on their potential and provide a fairer future for families.”
The charities also said the Scottish Welfare Fund is a vital policy tool that can support families struggling with escalating financial pressure - but it could do more to prevent hardship and destitution.
The IPPR report calls for an urgent review of crisis support offered through the Scottish Welfare Fund, and the value of the fund to be increased to meet higher levels of need.
The research on Wednesday comes ahead of the publication of this month’s Scottish Government’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.
Polly Jones, head of Scotland at the Trussell Trust said: “The cost of living crisis means that families in Scotland on the very lowest incomes will continue to be hit the hardest over the coming months, and beyond. Everyone should be able to afford the essentials in life – but food banks in our network see far too many people facing impossible decisions, like whether to put food on the table or heat their homes. This isn’t right.
“Our new research shows the vital role the Scottish Child Payment and the Scottish Welfare Fund play in getting support to people who are struggling to make ends meet. But if we are serious about ending the need for food banks, the Scottish Government must ensure the Scottish Welfare Fund is properly resourced and raise the Scottish Child Payment to £40 a week.
"This is a vital opportunity to strengthen our social security system and help prevent parents from having to turn to charity to feed their families.”
Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said: “Tackling child poverty is a national mission for the Scottish Government. In 2020-21 we invested around £2.5 billion to support low income households, including nearly £1 billion to directly support children, and we are taking a range of actions to support families.
“As this report acknowledges, our ambitious measures are already delivering considerable support to families compared with other parts of the UK - for example, through free childcare and employment support, maximising incomes and affordable housing and, of course, social security. It is this sort of action that another recent report showed was reducing costs for families by a third.
“We are the only part of the UK to have five family benefits including the Scottish Child Payment, which was designed to tackle child poverty head on and will double to £20 in just over a fortnight and be extended to under 16s by the end of the year. In 2022/2023 we will invest over £360m in social security over and above what we receive in the block grant to support people in need.
“In addition, our £290 million cost of living support package will reach 73% of households, providing £150 to those receiving Council Tax Reduction and those in bands A-D. This builds on our £41 million Winter Support Fund and continued investment in the Scottish Welfare Fund as well as other measures across government.
“We will go further and next week we will publish our next Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan which will outline the next steps we will take alongside our delivery partners to break the cycle of child poverty.”