New data provides stark warning for decision makers
Child poverty has risen in nearly every Scottish local authority and Westminster constituency since 2014/15, according to research published today by the End Child Poverty coalition.
Campaigners say the data shows the scale of the challenge faced by UK, Scottish and local government if commitments to end child poverty in Scotland are to be met and the promise to level up opportunities for children across the UK realised.
The research by Loughborough University shows that, even before the pandemic, levels of child poverty in Scotland ranged from one in seven children in the Shetland Islands to nearly one in three in Glasgow, once housing costs are taken into account. The varying impact of housing costs on levels of child poverty in different parts of the country is highlighted.
London boroughs and parts of Birmingham dominating the list of UK local authorities where child poverty is highest.
However the campaigners say that there can be no room for complacency in Scotland. They highlight that the impact of poverty on children is well documented with children from low income families more likely to experience worse physical and mental health; do less well in school; and have fewer opportunities in the future.
Speaking on behalf of members of End Child Poverty in Scotland, John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “The prime minister must urgently face up to the true extent of child poverty across the UK rather than resorting to his own inaccurate statistics. An ambitious plan to put this shameful situation right would be transformational for millions of children in Scotland and across the UK.
“As a matter of urgency we are calling on the chancellor not to go ahead with planned cuts to Universal Credit which would see families lose out on £1000 a year. Given today’s data, this cut is unconscionable.”
The coalition is calling on the UK government to recognise the scale of the problem and its impact on children’s lives. They are urging UK ministers to set out an ambitious plan to use Westminster powers to tackle child poverty across the UK, and are asking the Holyrood government to build on the Scottish child poverty delivery plan already in place.
They welcome the new Scottish child payment which will see eligible children under six entitled to £10 per week additional support from February 2021, with all under 16s benefitting by the end of 2022. However they say that just to stop child poverty rising will require a doubling in the value of the new payment, and that families need urgent cash support now to bridge the gap until it’s roll out.
The report is based on data published by the Department for Work and Pensions in March 2020, and on estimates of the effect of housing costs on poverty rates produced by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, based on survey evidence. Earlier this year, Boris Johnson was rebuked by the statistics watchdog for his repeated misuse of child poverty statistics. The Statistics Authority upheld a complaint from the End Child Poverty coalition judging that on three separate occasions his statements on child poverty were ‘incorrect’.
Dickie also called for more action from government in Scotland. “Here in Scotland the Holyrood government’s child poverty delivery plan and prioritisation of the new Scottish child payment are hugely welcome,” he said. “But these new figures highlight the importance of keeping housing costs affordable, the importance of reviewing the value of the Scottish child payment and the urgent need to use existing payment mechanisms, like local authority school clothing grants, to provide extra financial support to families right now.”
End Child Poverty members in Scotland include Aberlour, Action for Children, Barnardo’s Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, Children 1st Close the Gap, Engender, One Parent Families Scotland, Oxfam Scotland, Poverty Alliance, and Save the Children.