Pandemic has exacerbated problems for Scots on low incomes
Scotland will fail to meet child poverty tragets unless urgent action is taken, campaigners warn.
Anti-poverty groups urged Holyrood ministers to take greater action to alleviate financial hardship on children after the pandemic with increasing stress being placed on families.
In a parliamentary statement yesterday, communities secretary Shona Robison warned that Covid-19 has made reducing poverty much harder.
Scottish Labour’s Pam Duncan-Glancy argued that Scotland is set to miss its own child poverty targets, and asked why Parliament is not mitigating this by using devolved powers – including an immediate doubling of the Scottish child payment.
In 2017 the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed legislation to reduce child poverty. The legislation sets interim targets to be met by March 2024 and then final targets to be met by Scottish ministers by 2030.
The Poverty and Inequality Commission has advised the Scottish Government that more action is needed on social security, employment and fair work, and childcare in order to meet the targets.
Commission chair, Bill Scott, said: “These latest statistics show that levels of child poverty in Scotland are, at best, stagnating and may actually be starting to increase.
“We appreciate the work the Scottish Government has done to address the impact of the pandemic and its intention to increase the Scottish Child Payment to £20 per week.
“However, this is not enough. Urgent action is still required to ensure we meet our child poverty targets.”
John Dickie, director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland said: “This report shows that important foundations have been laid and substantive action taken to tackle child poverty in Scotland.
“Most significantly struggling families are already benefiting from the use of Scottish social security powers to deliver best start grants and the new Scottish child payment.
“But this progress report is above all a stark and urgent reminder that far more investment is needed to meet Scotland’s child poverty targets.
“By 2023 around 80 000 children need to be lifted out of poverty to meet the interim target. To achieve this the immediate priority must be to increase the Scottish child payment.
“If we are serious about protecting our children and meeting our targets it must be doubled to £20 per week in the first year of this parliament as the first step.
“Adequate social security for hard up families is the foundation on which wider action to improve income from employment, improve access to childcare and ensure housing is genuinely affordable can be built.”
Claire Telfer, Save the Children’s head of Scotland said: “We urge the Scottish Government to take strong, bold action now to reverse the trend we’re seeing of increased child poverty in Scotland.
“It is simply unacceptable that one in four children in our wealthy, prosperous country are growing up experiencing poverty which will impact on them now and well into the future.
“It must be a national priority to tackle child poverty head on and turn lives around for those who have been hardest hit.
“As a first action, we must see the Scottish Child Payment doubled within a year”.