Measures to alleviate hardship were not brought forward
Scotland’s Programme for Government has failed the poorest families, a coalition has warned.
Anti-poverty organisations and children’s charities said that the decision not to bring forward an urgent cash boost to families living in poverty in the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government “fails to adequately respond” to rising levels of poverty that risk overwhelming Scotland’s communities in the coming months as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The End Child Poverty coalition is campaigning for urgent financial support to be delivered to families struggling to get by, in response to the economic hardship being faced by families across Scotland.
Claire Telfer, head of Scotland at Save the Children, said: “Even before Covid-19 hit, life was already tough for many families with almost one in four children in Scotland growing up in poverty. This pandemic has only served to pull more families into poverty for the first time and many other families into even deeper poverty.
“Immediate action is required to provide a financial lifeline for low-income families struggling to stay afloat, yet today’s Programme for Government fails to adequately respond to this most urgent need.”
Pointing to the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on low-paid women (particularly those who are single parents), BME families and families with a disabled parent or child – all groups that are already most likely to experience poverty – the coalition had urged the Scottish Government to use the Programme for Government to respond.
The Scottish Child Payment – which will provide £10 per week per child to families living on low incomes – has been welcomed by the coalition but, with it not due to begin its roll-out until February 2021, they have called for the equivalent financial support to be delivered immediately using payment mechanisms already in place.
This call was backed in a joint public intervention last week by Bruce Adamson (Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland) and Bill Scott (chair, Poverty and Inequality Commission) who said that “the tens of thousands of families across Scotland who are teetering on the edge of being unable to put food in their children’s mouths or to prevent them shivering through the winter cannot wait six months.”
But with the prgramme containing no additional short-term financial support for families on low incomes, the coalition has warned that the coming months – particularly following the end of the Job Retention Scheme – may bring greater hardship for children and families unless all levels of government urgently respond.
Telfer added: “Once fully rolled out, the Scottish Child Payment will lift tens of thousands of children out of poverty, but it will not begin to be delivered until next February. The new timeline must be met. Without alternative measures being brought forward by the Scottish Government or UK Government, families living in the grip of poverty in Scotland now face an autumn and winter of acute hardship, with progress against Scotland’s child poverty targets at serious risk of being blown critically off course.
“We continue to urge every level of government to take immediate action to help families weather this storm. Without it, families in Scotland are simply being left to sink.”