Increase benefits to combat child poverty, report recommends
The Scottish Government must take “immediate action” to improve two major benefits designed to tackle child poverty or the looming cost-of-living increase risks people “being swept into poverty or pulled deeper underwater”, a new report has warned.
The report, from thinktank IPPR Scotland, recommends the doubling of the Scottish Child Payment (SCP) to £40 per week and called for the Scottish Welfare Fund total to increase.
The SCP is set to increase from £10 to £20 per week in April but the report estimates this will still mean the Scottish Government falls 30,000 children short of the interim child poverty target in 2023/24.
On the Scottish Welfare Fund, researchers found an increasing number of people were having to apply for cash because social security payments were inadequate.
They said the government must explicitly state the fund can be used to mitigate “pernicious elements of Universal Credit”, including the wait before first award and sanctions.
The report was commissioned by Save the Children and the Trussell Trust.
Claire Telfer, head of Scotland at Save the Children, said: “Now is the moment to release the potential of key policy levers to fight child poverty and support families in crisis and prevent destitution.
“We already have the right tools in our toolbox to help families facing financial crisis and living through poverty. Our report shows how we can supercharge the Scottish Child Payment and Scottish Welfare Fund to deliver on their potential and provide a fairer future for families.”
Other recommendations for the SCP include delivering a public awareness campaign to promote maximum uptake, ensuring it can act as a passport to other support, and creating a “triple lock” on the payment so it increases by inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent.
The Scottish Government is to consider next steps for the payment as part of its Child Poverty Delivery Plan, due to be published this month.
Social justice secretary Shona Robison said the government "will go further" on steps to tackle poverty as part of that plan.
It is also reviewing the Scottish Welfare Fund. The report calls for this review to look ahead to the cost-of-living increase so it can appropriate respond in the future.
Polly Jones, head of Scotland at the Trussell Trust, said: “The cost-of-living crisis means that families in Scotland on the very lowest incomes will continue to be hit the hardest over the coming months, and beyond… This is a vital opportunity to strengthen our social security system and help prevent parents from having to turn to charity to feed their families.”
Scottish Labour has said the Scottish Government’s current plans fall short of what is needed.
Social justice spokesperson Pam Duncan-Glancy said: “We need to use every lever we have to tackle poverty in Scotland, including by doubling the Scottish Child Payment and rolling it out to all eligible children, uprating best start grants and strengthening the Scottish Welfare Fund.”