Report exposes desperate plight of families "on-the-brink"
Years of austerity, capped by the coronavirus crisis, have led Scots families to destitution, a new report warns.
It details how familes were already struggling with housing, food and basic esstnails before the pandemic struck, with this latest crisis making a bad situation worse.
Barnardos and NSPCC commissioned the research, comparing a study that was carried out in 2013 by comparing family support services then with those in 2019.
It found poverty has remained the "core issue" but that services were seeing more families experiencing destitution.
Destitution is when a person has lacked two or more of six essentials over the past month because they cannot afford them, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
This includes shelter, food, heating, lighting, clothing and footwear and basic toiletries.
Matt Forde, NSPCC Scotland head of service, said: "We know that adverse and traumatic experiences in childhood can have a profound impact on a person's life.
"And it is crucial this unacceptable situation, now compounded by the Covid-19 crisis, is addressed with a matter of urgency."
Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo's Scotland, said: "The coronavirus crisis provides a huge opportunity to make meaningful, sustainable, transformative change.
"The Independent Care Review's promise has given us a blueprint for family support and we must deliver on this without delay."
John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, added that the ‘harrowing’ impact of years of welfare benefit cuts on families has taken its toll.
“This report lays bare the devastating damage successive waves of welfare cuts have done to children and the degree to which poverty, and increasingly destitution, undermines the positive family support children’s charities provide.
“Government at every level needs to act to realise children’s right to social protection. At UK level the Chancellor needs to move fast to confirm he will retain the current £20 uplift to universal credit, but also go further and increase child benefit and the child element of universal credit.
“Here in Scotland we need to see further investment in our nascent Scottish social security system, especially in the Scottish child payment and the Scottish Welfare Fund. Only when families have enough money can all our children be supported to flourish, not just survive.”
The report said severe hardship has affected parents' mental health and family relationships while "different parts of the system inadvertently work to compound people's problems".
The report also said those now being referred to the charities have more complex difficulties and greater needs - and that too many families were coming to services already at crisis point.
Service managers told researchers welfare reform had "exacerbated" the poverty they had observed over the last few years.
"The rise of foodbanks here is massive," one said. "Families use them on a regular basis and you can see that, families who come to us and are really struggling."
The Scottish government welcomed the report, saying that it was "prioritising" the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment which will open for applications in November and begin payments in February.
A Scottish government spokesperson said: "We have continually called for action to reverse welfare cuts which are hitting harder than ever.
"We responded to challenges set out in the Independent Care Review's Promise report, by working with Fiona Duncan and her team to establish the Promise Partnership as a priority.
"Already we have invested £4m to the partnership to deliver holistic family support, in line with the key principles of our framework which have been shaped by the Covid-19 Children and Families Collective Leadership Group."