Child poverty has increased in all Scottish local authorities since 2015, according to a new study released today by the End Child Poverty coalition. The new data shows the scale of the challenge facing UK, Scottish and local authorities if commitments to end child poverty in Scotland are to be met.
Research conducted by Loughborough University, on behalf of the End Child Poverty coalition, shows that, even before the pandemic, child poverty levels in Scotland ranged from nearly one in six children in the Shetland Islands and across East Renfrewshire at nearly one in three in Glasgow. – once the accommodation costs have been taken into account.
Across the UK, the North East of England has seen the most dramatic increase in child poverty in the past five years, with child poverty increasing by more than a third – by 26% of all children to 37% – in five years.
Scotland has lower child poverty levels (24%) than England (30%) or Wales (31%). However, Scottish activists say there can be no room for complacency if statutory child poverty targets agreed upon by all parties to Holyrood are to be met.
The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act, passed unanimously by the last parliament, obliges the new Scottish government to ensure that less than 18% of children live in poverty by 2023/24, up from less by 10% by 2030. Boards and premises Boards of health are also required to publish annual action reports on child poverty at the local level outlining actions taken at the local level to combat child poverty. Activists to end child poverty are urging that local powers, including in economic development, housing and financial support, are all used to maximize family incomes and reduce costs faced by parents. They say the impact of COVID-19 on women’s employment in particular is now pushing many women and their children into greater poverty.
Speaking on behalf of the members of End Child Poverty, John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, responded to the new figures:
He said: âA solid foundation has been laid in Scotland for future progress on child poverty, including the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment and a growing focus on action at the local level. But the new data is a stark reminder that child poverty was still on the rise in all parts of Scotland, even before the pandemic struck. The challenge now is for government at all levels to use all the powers at its disposal to increase family incomes and reduce the costs facing parents in difficulty.
âScotland’s new parliament must deliver on its election promises and make tackling child poverty its top priority. The cross-party commitment to at least double the payment of Scottish children needs to be urgently implemented in order to help achieve the 2023/24 targets. But child poverty must also be a priority at the local level. Local authorities, including in matters of economic development, housing and social protection, must be used to the maximum to guarantee all families a disposable income which enables them to give children a decent start in life. “
The End Child Poverty coalition is also calling on the UK government to recognize the scale of the problem and its impact on children’s lives. They say a credible UK government plan is needed to end child poverty across the UK, including a pledge to increase UK child benefits. Given the extent to which families are already struggling, the Â£ 20 per week universal credit cut slated for October should also be revoked, they say, with support also being extended to those still receiving financial assistance from the old benefit system, called inherited benefits â, before moving to universal credit.
Mr. Dickie added: âThe numbers speak for themselves – the situation for children could not be worse. We all want to live in a society where children are supported to be the best they can be, but the reality is very different for too many. The UK government has no doubts about the challenge it faces if it is serious about âleveling outâ the parts of the country hardest hit by poverty. After the year we have all lived, they owe it to our children to come up with a plan to fight child poverty that includes an increase in child benefits. And they must abandon their plans to reduce universal credit, as parents and children are going through a rather difficult time. “
Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said: ‘Scotland was already on track to miss child poverty targets before the pandemic struck. It was already a crisis in Scotland, covid only made things worse.
âHalf a million low-income households will receive their first pandemic relief payment of Â£ 130 next month. This, along with two further payments of Â£ 100 in August and June for families entitled to free school meals, was secured by Green MSPs earlier this year, along with free school meals for an additional 7,651 Renfrewshire children. . In addition, our free bus transport program for those under 22 will begin this summer and free school meals for all primary school students will be introduced in the coming months. These measures will help all families, but much remains to be done.
âDuring the recent election campaign there was a multi-party agreement that the payment for Scottish children should be permanently doubled. All parties agreed that the fight against child poverty was a priority. We must now meet this priority, as quickly as possible. “