“It is utterly dismaying to see thousands more children across Scotland had been locked in poverty even before the pandemic struck".
Child poverty levels were increasing in Scotland – even before the pandemic hit.
New statistics published today by the Scottish and UK governments reveal rising child destitution across the country.
And that was before the devastating effects of Covid were felt.
In Scotland 260 000 children were living in poverty in 2019/20 (26% of all children), an increase from 23% (230 000) children in 2018/19.
The rolling three year average number of children in poverty was up from 23% (230,000 children) to 24% (240 000) between 2016-19 and 2017-20. 16% of all children experienced persistent poverty, having lived in poverty in three or more of the four years 2015-19 (up from 15%). Across the UK 31% of all children were still locked in poverty.
Responding to the latest statistics, which cover the period just before the current pandemic, John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said: “It is utterly dismaying to see thousands more children across Scotland had been locked in poverty even before the pandemic struck. That so many more children face the daily stress of seeing their parents fret over paying bills, buying food or getting into debt should be a source of national shame. Behind these statistics are children whose health is being undermined, education diminished and life chances cut short.”
All of Holyrood’s political parties backed the 2017 Child Poverty (Scotland) Act which set targets to reduce child poverty to less than 18% by 2023/24 and less than 10% by 2030.
A new Scottish child payment of £10 per week for each child in families receiving Universal Credit or equivalent legacy benefits was introduced from February this year for children under six. It is to be rolled out to all eligible under 16s by the end of 2022.
The Scottish Government forecasts this will reduce child poverty by three percentage points, lifting around 30 000 children out of poverty by 2023/24.
Dickie continued: “The good news on a day of dismaying statistics is that here in Scotland many families are now already benefiting from the Scottish government’s new £10 a week Scottish child payment. These new figures demonstrate forcefully why the payment needs to be at the very least doubled as the next vital and urgent step toward meeting the child poverty targets agreed by all the Holyrood parties.
“We need every level of government working together to end the scandal of child poverty in a rich country. This rise in child poverty has been driven by eye-watering cuts to UK family benefits over recent years. Action to increase child benefit, end the two child limit and make the Universal Credit uplift permanent must now also be an absolute priority for UK ministers”.
Claire Telfer, Save the Children’s head of Scotland said: “It is deeply disheartening that the number of children experiencing poverty in Scotland was rising before the pandemic, and that over one in three homes with babies under one live with poverty. It will be another year before we understand the true impact of Covid on poverty. But we know from our work with families that the last year has seen many families struggling with hardship.
“Behind the statistics, there are too many families who struggle financially, day in and day out, with far reaching consequences for their children.”
She said that over the past year, Save the Children supported over 1000 Scottish families with young children with emergency grants to help cover essentials and that nearly nine out of ten families spent their grants on food.
She added: “History will judge how we handled this pandemic for our children. It has been an overwhelming and stressful time for families already struggling on a low income, and we cannot risk plunging even more families into poverty. These latest figures should be the catalyst for further action.”