Families ‘better off’ in Scotland but incomes remain ‘well below’ what is needed, report finds
Low-income families in Scotland are “significantly better off” than those in England thanks to decisions by the Scottish Government – but benefit levels “remain well below what families need”, a report has said.
The paper from the Centre of Research on Social Policy at Loughborough University said it was “encouraging” that devolved powers had “made a substantial and not a negligible difference”.
It found that the combined value of Scottish benefits meant the cost of bringing up a child in Scotland was 31 per cent lower than elsewhere in the UK.
But the income of the average two child family in Scotland on out-of-work benefits still falls about 30 per cent short of meeting their needs, compared to 40 per cent in the rest of the UK.
Professor Donald Hirsh, author of the report, said: “The rising cost of raising a child and the failure in recent years to match this with improvements in help from the state has left many families in the UK struggling to make ends meet.
“This report shows however that in Scotland, families are significantly better off in this regard, as a result of Scottish Government policies seeking to address the problem, and also childcare costs that have not risen as fast as in England.
“Benefit levels still remain well below what families need but it is encouraging to see policies at the Scottish level that make a substantial difference for families.”
Major differences between Scottish and UK government policy include free school meals for children in P4-P7, free bus travel for under 22s, the Scottish child payment, best start grants and the school clothing grant.
The benefits of such policies is somewhat reduced for lone parent families, those not in receipt of Universal Credit or affected by the two-child limit, and those living in expensive urban areas or remote regions.
The report was commissioned by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).
John Dickie, director of CPAG Scotland, said: “This new analysis shows just how big a difference long campaigned for policies like the doubling of the Scottish child payment and roll out of universal free school meals will make. But it’s absolutely vital Holyrood Ministers press ahead to ensure they are all delivered this year and that all families are able to take up the extra support they are eligible for.
“Scotland really is making progress tackling child poverty, but as the cost of living soars families need extra help now if they are to stay afloat this year. That means every level of government must step up to the plate.”