Save The Children says urgent action must be taken by both the Scottish and UK governments
Over 30,000 more families with children in Scotland have had to claim Universal Credit (UC) since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
New UK Government figures show a total of 123,605 families are now claiming the benefit - a huge 32% increase since March.
The biggest increase was among couples with children, with the number taking UC having almost doubled since March. The take up amongst single parent families was already high, although has also risen during the pandemic.
Around 70% of parents on UC or Child Tax Credit (CTC) in Scotland surveyed by Save the Children and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in May and June said they didn’t receive enough to cover food and other essentials.
A further six in 10 families on UC reported that they have been forced to borrow money since the start of the crisis.
Save the Children is warning or a child poverty crisis unless there is urgent action by both the Scottish and UK governments.
The charity is calling for Westminster to introduce a £20-a-week boost to the child element of UC and CTC to protect children from the long-term impacts of the crisis. The Scottish Government should also make full use of the levers at its disposal, including a commitment to action in the Programme for Government in September to provide direct and immediate financial support to low-income families.
Claire Telfer, head of Scotland at Save the Children, said: “For families reliant on Universal Credit, every day can be a struggle to keep your head above water. Parents are telling us they’re having to make impossible choices - cutting back on food and other essentials or forced to borrow money to get by.
“The huge rise in families with children now dependent on UC highlights how acutely this crisis is being felt by many. Shocks to family incomes, job losses and rising costs due to coronavirus are piling pressures onto families who can least afford it.”
She said many children and families were slipping through the safety net before the Covid crisis on the back of a decade of austerity – and the pandemic has made things worse.
Telfer added: “Urgent action must be taken at both UK and Scotland level to provide direct, financial support to families. An uplift of £20 per week to families claiming Universal Credit or Child Tax Credits would provide a lifeline for children. We are also calling for Scottish Government to introduce support equivalent to the Scottish Child Payment as soon as possible. Providing urgent support could protect a generation of children and ensure that children don’t pay the price for this crisis.”