Scottish Government announces £10 child benefit top-up for poorest families
Nicola Sturgeon and children at North Edinburgh Childcare - Image credit: First Minister of Scotland's Flickr
The Scottish Government has announced a new £10 per week child benefit supplement for the poorest families, in addition to the current child benefit.
The Scottish Child Payment will be introduced for children under six starting in early 2021 and for families with children under 16 by the end of 2022, with no cap on the number of children.
Eligibility will be based on receipt of other income-related benefits: Child Tax Credit, Universal Credit, Income Support, Pension Credit, Working Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
When delivered in full, over a third of all children in Scotland – 410,000 children – could be eligible for the supplement.
It is estimated it will lift 30,000 children out of relative poverty by 2023-24 and reduce the relative child poverty rate in Scotland by three percentage points
For a family with two children under the age of 16 the new payment would mean additional support of more than £1,000 a year.
Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said: “Scotland is facing a spike in child poverty as a result of welfare cuts imposed by the UK Government.
“We will not stand by and simply watch that happen. We will act.
“We will help families with £10 per week for every eligible child under 16 years old in Scotland, with over a third of all children benefitting.
“That can make a massive difference to thousands of children across Scotland – and tackle child poverty head on. It will mean more families are able to make ends meet.
“Almost 60 per cent of all children in poverty live in a family where a child is under six years old, which is why we will deliver the payment for this group first.
“The Scottish Child Payment will not only help raise children out of poverty but is also designed to help prevent those just above the poverty threshold from sliding under.
“This is a real preventative measure that will tackle child poverty head on in Scotland and help mitigate against continuing UK Government austerity.”
Naomi Eisenstadt, the First Minister’s former Independent Advisor on Poverty and Inequality said: “The best way to help children out of poverty is to get money into parents’ pockets so I am absolutely delighted that the Scottish Government is introducing the Scottish Child Payment.
“It’s great to see the Scottish Government taking such ambitious and direct action to shift the curve on child poverty.”
The announcement has been welcomed by child poverty campaigners, who have been urging the Scottish Government to top-up child benefit by at least £5 to lift children out of poverty.
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) called the new payment “an absolute game changer” in the fight to end poverty.
CPAG Scotland director John Dickie said: “£10 a week for each child will make a real difference to families struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes and pay for the ordinary school trips, sport and other activities that are fundamental to a decent childhood.
“Today's announcement is a landmark recognition of the role the Scottish social security system can play in ending child poverty.
“It's now vital that the UK government follows suit and starts to use its powers in an equally positive way and scraps the universal credit two child limit and the UK benefit freeze, so that government at every level works together to protect children from poverty."
Citizens Advice Scotland’s Social Justice spokesperson Mhoraig Green said: “The new Scottish Child Payment is a step in the right direction and its fast-tracked introduction for children under six is a testament to the hard work of campaigners across Scotland.
“We are also pleased that the Scottish Government has pledged to avoid capping this new benefit for larger families.
“What is essential is that families who are entitled to this benefit claim it, and everything else that they are entitled to.
Jim McCormick, associate director for Scotland at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “We have heard from people across Scotland that the introduction of this new payment will be a lifeline for families currently trapped in poverty.
“Today’s statement will be welcome news for hundreds of thousands of children. £10 for a child in poverty can mean being able to buy fresher food, or go on a school trip, or have enough warm clothes.
“Fast-tracking the introduction of this new payment is absolutely the right thing to do and is a golden opportunity to make meaningful progress in solving child poverty in Scotland.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government as well as families to design a system that works for them, and which offers the certainty needed to enable every family in Scotland to achieve a better life.”
However, Save the Children also called for more to be done.
Claire Telfer, head of Save the Children in Scotland said: “The new Scottish Child Payment presents a golden opportunity to lift as many children out of poverty as possible, as soon as possible.
“We are delighted that the proposed payment will be made first to children under the age of six by March 2021.
“We know that a third of families in Scotland, where the youngest child is one or under, are in the grip of poverty and this injustice has a profound impact on their learning and development.
“By focusing first on the youngest children, the payment will be a welcome support to families in the crucial early years.
“We are also pleased to see that one year on, progress has been made across all three key drivers of child poverty.
“The Best Start Grant payments have had a high uptake, helping families buy essentials for their little ones, and the recent roll-out of the Financial Health Check service is also promising.
“But more needs to be done to stem the tide of poverty.
“Progress must be sustained so that child poverty can be reduced and ultimately eradicated for good.”
The Scottish Child Payment will be administered by Social Security Scotland alongside the existing programme of devolved social security benefits.
The new benefit will delay the introduction of certain other benefits through Social Security Scotland.
Disability Assistance for Older People will now be introduced in 2021, rather than winter 2020, and Scottish Carer’s Allowance will be put back a few months to early 2022, while the final transfer of all benefit cases from DWP to Social Security Scotland is now expected to be completed by 2025 rather than 2024.
Aileen Campbell explained: “We understand this may have an impact on the timetable for the delivery of devolved social security benefits.
“But we believe it is worth it to introduce a visionary new benefit that will make such a big difference to so many lives.”