Monday was a real watershed moment for families across the country as the Scottish Child Payment, a payment unique to Scotland within the UK, was raised from £20 to £25 and extended to include eligible children up to age 16.
These changes could be a turning point for Orkney families and indeed families across Scotland, with the payments, introduced for children under the age of six in 2021, mean 265 Orkney families can benefit. This will mean a boost of £1,300 a year per child for household budgets and, unlike Universal Credit, with no limit on the number of children who will benefit.
Analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that if the Scottish Child Payment were extended to England, Wales and Northern Ireland a further 5.3 million children would be eligible for this crucial support.
We have already heard from anti-poverty charities how the payment has been ‘game-changing’ for families with children under six, and now as the support is extended to families with children under-16 more will have extra cash in their pockets to get through this Tory-made cost of living crisis.
The payment is only available in Scotland and demonstrates how the SNP Scottish Government is building a social security system based on fairness, dignity and respect.
However, the Scottish Government continues to work with one hand tied behind its back by a UK government that is preparing to inflict austerity 2.0 on families across Scotland.
Although we are tempted to speak about child poverty in terms of targets to reduce its prevalence, alongside food poverty and fuel poverty it is fundamentally a case of folk having to make increasingly difficult choices with their money.
As such, it is unsurprising, but extremely concerning, to see new figures on foodbank use, which has risen dramatically since the Tories came to power in 2010, showing usage in Scotland has risen dramatically recently.
The figures from the Trussell Trust reveal that 116,000 emergency food parcels were distributed in Scotland in the six months from April to September – an increase of 34% compared to the same period last year, and 65% compared to five years ago. Of these parcels, 40,000 went to children.
Whilst the SNP Scottish Government has been doing what it can with its limited powers to tackle poverty and inequality – including this week’s Scottish Child Payment extension – Westminster policies continue to undermine our hard work.
There is only one way we can escape the chaos of Westminster and build a fairer, more equal Scotland and that is by becoming an independent country.
On a personal level, I am very proud to have been appointed Deputy Convener of the Social Security and Social Justice Committee alongside my SNP colleague Natalie Don as the new Convener.
In the current economic climate, the committee’s work in scrutinising the Scottish Government’s policies on welfare, poverty, and the social security system in Scotland is more important than ever, and I look forward to continuing to support the committee in my new role.
This is a regular column by SNP MSP Emma Roddick. All Highlands and Islands Regional MSPs have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their personal views.