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by Louise Wilson
15 May 2024
John Swinney must look child poverty ‘square in the face’ says foodbank charity

Over 100,000 Scots have used a food bank in the last year | Alamy

John Swinney must look child poverty ‘square in the face’ says foodbank charity

The new first minister must look child poverty “square in the face” and stop passing the buck to the UK Government, a charity has said.

The call comes after a Fraser of Allander Institute paper, commissioned by the Trussell Trust, found a small positive impact of the Scottish Child Payment (SCP).

But at the same time, figures from the foodbank operator revealed the number of parcels provided to families with children exceeded 150,000 in the last year.

Polly Jones, head of Scotland at the Trussell Trust, said the Scottish Government must take responsibility for its own child poverty targets.

While acknowledging political action must be taken across all levels of government in Scotland, she said the Scottish Government must do more to tackle the deepest poverty.

Jones said: “Often we hear political leaders in Scotland saying ‘well, we've done everything we can, really, everything else rests with Westminster’.

“But it was the Scottish Government that committed to these targets to reduce child poverty, it was the Scottish Government who took a bold step to implement the Scottish Child Payment, and therefore the Scottish Government needs to take some responsibility for making sure that it meets its targets and that the Scottish child payment not only supports families who are living just around the poverty line, but families in the deepest poverty as well.”

The Fraser of Allander Institute analysis of the impact of the SCP found there has been a reduction in food parcels delivered with households with children aged 5-16 since its full rollout in November 2022.

There was also a benefit for single-parent households with children under four and larger households with under fours, who have been eligible for the payment since February 2021.

But the impact is moderate, ranging between a one and two percentage point reduction in the share of food parcels delivered to the families.

There was little evidence to suggest it had benefited other types of families eligible for the SCP.

The Trussell Trust is calling for the payment to be increased from the current £26 per week to £40, though Jones said this was still unlikely to be enough to lift those facing destitution out of poverty.

She added: “Not only do we need to the Scottish Child Payment to be more, we really need to be looking at how we make a difference to those children and their families who are living in the deepest poverty. That’s going to be a wider question as well around housing, jobs, and access to advice and support.”

The Scottish Government has set a target in 2017 to have fewer than 10 per cent of children living in poverty by 2030. The latest figures show a quarter of Scottish children are in poverty.

Jones said: “We're always talking about urgent actions, but we need our elected politicians - particularly the new first minister – to look at it square in the face, with clear steps to action to make a dent on this before it gets any worse.”

The Trust handed out 262,400 emergency food parcels in the last 12 months to 101,900 people in Scotland.

Of those, 156,200 parcels were to families with children, while there was also a 22 per cent increase in the number of parcels given to pension-age households compared to the year before.

Jones said food banks were “feeling stretched beyond where they thought was possible” and the Trust was seeing managers and volunteers stepping down due to exhaustion.

Commenting on the food parcel figures, the SNP’s social justice spokesperson at Westminster David Linden said: “It is clear that Westminster is failing the people of Scotland.

“The Westminster-made cost of living crisis, coupled with the UK government's austerity agenda and cruel benefit sanctions, have left Scotland's most vulnerable seeking food parcels from charities and food banks. This is simply unforgivable.”

But Scottish Labour said the figures highlighted the “cost of our two governments’ failure”. Paul O’Kane MSP added: “It is a disgrace that so many Scots are struggling to put food on the table, as Scotland struggles to meet its child poverty reduction targets after years of SNP inaction.”

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