Angela Constance rejects calls for child benefit rise
Universal rise in child benefit not as effective as targeted support, argues Social Security Secretary Angela Constance
Angela Constance - Scottish Parliament
Social Security Secretary Angela Constance has confirmed the Scottish Government is set to reject calls to raise child benefit to tackle child poverty.
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Greens have called for a rise in the weekly benefit paid to families with children, claiming it could reduce the numbers of child poverty by up to 14 per cent.
The calls were reiterated last week when new figures revealed an increase in the amount of children living in poverty in Scotland.
But in response to a question in parliament, Constance said the Scottish Government would prefer a more targeted approach.
“If we are to be successful in turning round the child poverty situation in this country, we must ensure that we get more support to those in need,” she said
“The Labour Party’s proposal would cost £225 million each year, and £7 out of every £10 would be spent on children who are not living in poverty.
“As a Government, we have to proceed by getting more support to those children who are in most need, using the new powers that we have and working towards our very ambitious targets on affordable housing.”
Everyone responsible for a child under 16 is entitled to child benefit but families with an income over £50,000 must pay it back.
The Scottish Government's Child Poverty Bill will set a target to reduce the percentage of children living in poverty to ten per cent by 2030.
Speaking on the new poverty figures, CPAG director John Dickie said: “Legislation alone won’t end poverty and the Scottish Government must now act quickly to implement the kind of concrete, practical policies that would make a significant dent in these figures.”
Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Alex Rowley said: “The cabinet secretary might want to take a targeted approach to child poverty and has argued that the Child Poverty Action Group’s idea of £5 on child benefit would not do that.
“Nevertheless, there is an opportunity to look at increasing tax credits and at targeting funding through free school meals. There are a number of ways to target funding.”
Constance responded: “There is indeed more to be done. We should have a sense of urgency and of impetus. I remind Mr Rowley that, unfortunately, we do not have powers over tax credits.
“We will always look at what more we can do, but the reality is that with 15 per cent of welfare spend, we cannot make up for all the unfairness in the remaining 85 per cent.”
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