UNISON Scotland has today joined over 100 charities, faith groups, trade unions, civic organisations and academics in sending an open letter to Scotland’s Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, urging her to “do the right thing” and use the upcoming Scottish Budget to double the Scottish Child Payment immediately.
The call follows September’s commitment by the First Minister to double the payment “as early within the life of this Parliament as possible”. The payment currently provides £10 per week to children in lower income families. Each one of Scotland’s five main political parties pledged to double the payment during the Holyrood elections. Those behind the letter say the payment is welcome but – to capitalise on the cross-party support and respond to a rising tide of child poverty – needs to be doubled to £20 a week as “a matter of utmost urgency” to protect hard up families from a “perfect storm of financial uncertainty”.
Signatories to the letter – including the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the General Secretary of the STUC and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner – say the UK government’s universal credit cut, rising energy prices and the wider rise in the cost of living mean that family incomes can’t stretch any further. They also say early action is essential if the Scottish government is to meet its interim statutory child poverty target – to reduce the proportion of children living in poverty to less than 18% by 2023/24.
The letter has also been signed by teaching unions, women’s organisations, disabled peoples organisations, leading charities Oxfam Scotland and Save the Children, as well as community groups from across Scotland. Delay in doubling the payment will, they say in the letter “leave thousands of children in Scotland in poverty and jeopardise the chance of meeting the child poverty targets”.
John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, a leading member of the End Child Poverty coalition in Scotland which co-ordinated the letter, said:
“Doubling the Scottish Child Payment is the single most impactful thing the Scottish Government can do right now to protect families and give Scotland a chance to meet our child poverty targets. Families really cannot wait any longer for this financial support.”
Bruce Adamson, Scotland’s Children and Young People’s Commissioner, who has signed the letter, added;
“Poverty was the biggest human rights issue facing children before the pandemic, now it is worse. Children have the right to an adequate standard of living and to benefit from social security. The government has a duty to use its resources to the maximum extent possible and that includes doubling the Scottish Child Payment now.”
Dr Mairi Stark of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, another signatory to the letter added;
“Without an adequate income families struggle to afford the nutritious foods their children need, with serious consequences for their health and wellbeing as well as widening inequalities. And we too often see children living in cold damp conditions exacerbating medical conditions like asthma and making it very difficult for children to study and do their homework. Doubling the child payment now is an essential step toward ensuring all families are able to provide a healthy start for their children.”
Dr Marsha Scott, Chief Executive of Scottish Women’s Aid also signed the open letter and said;
“As frustrating as it may be to have to respond to harmful decisions made elsewhere about universal credit, it is essential that Scotland move quickly to support households squarely in the path of the tsunami of economic challenges headed toward them. Doubling the Scottish child payment is an immediate and critical need that should be supported and surrounded by the promised “transformation” of economic policy to reflect the care economy, occupational segregation in the labour market, the need for need-based provision of early learning and childcare services, and safe and affordable housing, especially for children and women living with domestic abuse. Children’s poverty is, to a great extent, women’s poverty, and only system-level change will do.”
A full copy of the letter and all signatories can be found here
- The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 requires Scottish Ministers to ensure less than 18% of children are living in poverty by 2023/24 and less than 10% of children are living in poverty by 2030. The latest official statistics show between 2017 and 2020 that 24% of children (240 000 children) were living in poverty in Scotland. 68% of those children are living in working families.
- Fraser of Allander analysis concludes “The good news is that, based on the assumption of broad economic recovery over the next few years, our analysis shows that meeting these targets is possible with the powers that the Scottish Government currently hold. However, it will require substantial investment to make it a reality.”
- The Scottish child payment is currently paid at £10 per week for each child under six in families in receipt of a qualifying benefit such as universal credit. Scottish Government has committed to roll out to all under 16s by the end of 2022. Bridging payments for school aged children entitled to free school meals are paid in the meantime.