Tackling Child Poverty in Scotland

The Scottish Child Payment is to be increased from £20 to £25 when the benefit is extended to under 16s by the end of this year.

It is part of a range of measures the Scottish Government has put in place to mitigate the cost of living crisis which is hitting millions of Scots.

Earlier this week Chancellor of the UK Rishi Sunak announced his Spring Budget.

After decades of austerity measures put in place by successive Tory Governments which included the horrendous Bedroom Tax introduced by the LibDem/Tory Coalition Government, there are very few households who have not been impacted.

In September, inflation was running at 3.1%. By February it was 6.2%. It is forecast to average 7.4% in 2022 (peaking at 8.7%). This means big real terms cuts for benefits in 2022, potentially followed by a big upswing in 2023, as uprating catches up with reality.

Fraser of Allander institute

This means all those on low and middle incomes are hit the hardest as the basics become more expensive: food, energy and household bills. Many councils in Scotland, including Orkney, have agreed to increase Council Tax. Islanders will have received in the same envelope as the new Council Tax Bill notification of the £150 Cost of Living Award. This payment from the Scottish Government is made as a deduction from the Council Tax Bill.

The rise in National Insurance payments will also hit low and middle earners disproportionately. This measure by the UK Government was said to pay for the increasing costs of health and social care – all of which was supposed to be a Brexit benefit as we all saw on the Big Red Brexit Bus.

What Brexit has done has caused huge delays at ports for importing and exporting, increased paperwork for UK companies and tariffs on goods where once there was Free Trade, adding to the rise in prices and the shortage in materials happening since the UK exited the EU. Into all of this is the effect of a global pandemic which has hit the most deprived Scots the worst.

Rate of Positive Covid Cases by Deprivation

The increase in the Scottish Child Payment is part of a range of measures in the second Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan produced by the Scottish Government.  Social Justice Secretary in the Scottish Government, Shona Robison announced investment of almost £113 million on top of funding already allocated to ongoing programmes. The focus will be on supporting employment opportunities, strengthening social security and reducing household costs.

Shona Robison said:

“Our package of five family benefits for low income families, including the increased Scottish Child Payment, will be worth over £10,000 by the time a family’s first child turns 6, and £9,700 for second and subsequent children.

“That is a difference of more than £8,200 for every eligible child born in Scotland in comparison to England and Wales – highlighting the unparalleled support offered by this government to children across the early years.”

Whilst these measures are welcome it is shocking that in a country as resource rich as Scotland with a well educated population, 24% of our children are living in poverty. Many families do not claim the benefits they are entitled to.

Although Scotland has been developing its own social security system, the main payments are still delivered through the UK’s Department of Work and Payments. Low pay means that thousands of people in work have to go to Foodbanks just to get by on a daily basis.

The child poverty ‘system’ – that is, the range of factors that influence child poverty – is highly complex. Every household in poverty will have to navigate this system on some level, and the many organisations, public, private and third sector, that play a role in supporting families in poverty.

Best Start, Bright Futures Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2022-2026 – Annex 6

According to the latest modelling more than 60,000 fewer children could be living in relative poverty in 2023 compared to 2017.

Best Start, Bright Futures ?

The big question is: Why are there children living in poverty in 21st century Scotland, a land so rich in resources, skills and creativity?

Halfpenny dinners for poor children in East London Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Fiona Grahame

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