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Study gives stark poverty warning

 

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has said more action is needed to meet child poverty targets, with Covid-19 exacerbating inequalities

Scotland must show more ambition in the fight against child poverty, a new report has asserted.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has said the Scottish Government must do more if it is to hit its targets of reducing child poverty.

The Poverty In Scotland 2020 report shows that poverty has been on the rise in Scotland in recent years and interim poverty targets will not be hit over the next three years.

The report warns that Scotland risks seeing a rising tide of poverty due to the economic impact of coronavirus unless political parties commit to bold action on job training, affordable housing and income support for families at next year’s Holyrood election.

Around a quarter (24%) of children are growing up in poverty and the target is to reduce this figure to 18% by March 2024.

The report warned of the impact of ending the furlough scheme at the end of this month, coupled with the withdrawal of temporary higher benefits payments in April, saying it was "clear" this will make poverty higher.

It said: "This is because unemployment will be higher, working hours and earnings may be falling, benefits would be reduced back to pre-coronavirus levels while housing costs will be no lower.

"Such a situation would be deeply worrying, not just in the context of interim child poverty targets three years away, but in the daily lives of people who face being swept further and deeper into poverty."

The JRF’s Jim McCormick said: "The decisions we make will determine whether we reach our ambitious child poverty targets by the middle of the next parliament.

"As the shape of our economy changes, it is vital to do all we can to protect people's jobs, homes and living standards, so more families are not pulled into poverty."

The Scottish Government said the first Scottish Child Payments, worth £10 per eligible child per week, would be made from the end of February.

"Together wi

th Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods this will provide over £5,200 of financial support for eligible families by the time their first child turns six, around £4,000 more than elsewhere in the UK," a spokesman said.

"The Scottish Government has delivered almost 96,000 affordable homes since 2007 and has outlined plans to invest over £2.8 billion in capital, over five years, to deliver more affordable and social homes across Scotland.”

The government has also highlighted the parental employability support fund, helping parents enter and progress in work, and a £100m package to help people look for work or at risk of redundancy.

John Dickie, director of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said:“This report must act as a wake-up call at every level. The economic impact of the pandemic is squeezing the already inadequate incomes of more and more families, and the risks of child poverty are becoming more acute than ever. Action to protect parent’s jobs and earnings is absolutely vital, as is the need for access to decent quality affordable housing. But our social security system at UK and Scotland level needs to plays its full role too.

"The UK government needs to retain the Chancellor’s £20 uplift to the universal credit standard allowance as a matter of utmost priority, but must go further and increase children’s benefits to support families through the crisis. Here in Scotland the forthcoming £10 a week Scottish Child Payment is an income lifeline that has the potential to be a game changer in the fight against poverty, but the impact of coronavirus highlights the need for Scotland’s politicians to commit to increasing its value as we head into the 2021 Holyrood elections. Even pre-Covid, modelling suggested that just to stop child poverty rising would require a doubling in the value of the payment. And with roll out of the payment to school age children not currently due until 2022 it is vital that existing payment mechanisms, such as school clothing grants, are used to bridge the gap and stop families being swept into poverty in the meantime.

"If we are serious about protecting families, meeting child poverty targets and preventing another generation of our children from facing hardship and lost opportunity we now need action on an ambitious scale.”

 

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