Scottish Government slammed for not immediately doubling Scottish Child Payment
The Scottish Government has been criticised for not bringing forward an immediate increase to the Scottish Child Payment in Tuesday’s programme for government.
Poverty campaigners warn the child poverty targets will not be met without the top-up.
The First Minister told the Scottish Parliament yesterday the government was “determined to end child poverty”.
A commitment to doubling the Scottish Child Payment was included in the SNP’s election manifesto.
Nicola Sturgeon said: “That commitment stands but I can confirm today our intention to deliver this as early within the life of this Parliament as possible. Given the scale of this commitment, it must be considered as part of the budget process.
“However, we will set out how and exactly when this commitment will be met when we publish the Budget Bill – our firm intention is to do this sooner rather than later.”
But the Child Poverty Action Group said the First Minister had “missed the opportunity” to announce an immediate doubling.
Director John Dickie said: “Commitments on childcare and tackling the costs of the school day are vital to ending child poverty but really must be accompanied by an increase in the direct cash support that families need to provide for their children.
“The £10 per week Scottish child payment provides vital support to thousands of children across Scotland.
“However there is no credible route to meeting the government’s own child poverty targets that does not involve at least doubling its value in the coming year.
“All eyes are now on the Scottish budget as the key opportunity for the First Minister to do the right thing and ensure investment matches the ‘national mission’ to end child poverty.”
The new benefit started in February this year, with families with children under six receiving £10 a week.
The intention is to ensure all families with children under 16 will be eligible for the payment once it is fully rolled out.
But anti-poverty groups had written to the government urging it to increase the payment in light of rising poverty levels as a result of the pandemic.
Claire Telfer, head of Save the Children Scotland said: “Whilst we wholly welcome and support the First Minister’s clear commitment to ending child poverty as a priority for this government and restating it as a ‘national mission’ – actions will always speak louder than words.
“Failure to act now to increase this essential payment leaves the government's interim child poverty targets at very real risk.”
And Chris Birt, associate director for Scotland at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “Time is running out on the targets. Families on low incomes across Scotland are experiencing growing financial pressure and uncertainty.”
Meanwhile, the STUC’s women’s committee criticised the government for not extending universal free school meals to secondary schools.
Sturgeon confirmed school meals would be provided to all primary school pupils year-round by the end of this parliament.
Brenda Carson, chair of the committee said: “It is disgraceful that the Scottish Government is failing to use every resource possible to eradicate the poverty experienced by thousands upon thousands of children and young people.
“The Scottish Government’s excuse that UFSM cannot be implemented to secondary school pupils because of capacity issues in kitchens and dining areas reflects a lack of innovation, creativity and a commitment to working with the whole school community and external experts to overcome barriers and implement policies that will support tackling poverty and hunger.”