Campaigners in child poverty plea

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Families need help urgently and cannot wait till February for further support, two campaigners have warned 

26th August 2020 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Two leading campaigners have joined forces to call for urgent help for struggling families.

Bill Scott, chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission, and Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, have said the coronavirus pandemic has left many households facing serious financial insecurity and action is needed to help them back from the brink.

The Scottish Government confirmed its commitment to the Scottish Child Payment, which will provide £10 per week per child to all eligible families, last week. However the roll out of the payment has been delayed and won’t reach families until the end of February 2021.

In a joint statement, Adamson and Scott said more urgent action is needed.

“When fully rolled out, the Scottish Child Payment will lift tens of thousands of children out of poverty and will act as a lifeline. But for families struggling to put food on the table and to pay their bills right now, that lifeline feels like a lifetime away.

“Even before Covid-19, poverty represented the greatest human rights issue facing children in Scotland, with one in four growing up in its grip. Five months into the pandemic - with many parents and caregivers seeing their incomes cut and finding it even more difficult to get by – that grip of poverty has only tightened, while many more families have been swept into poverty for the first time.

“In its response to the pandemic, the Scottish Government committed to action aimed at reducing the impact on children, families and communities. The school holidays saw the continuation of free school meals, while community organisations have been financially supported to carry out their vital work.

“This action was welcome. But as the Children and Young People’s Commissioner and the chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission, we have a duty to speak out when the Scottish Government can do more to loosen the grip of poverty, and to protect children’s rights. And we believe not only that it can, but that it must do so urgently.”

The statement adds women have been particularly affected by the pandemic and says the ending of furlough will have a devastating impact for many.

It said: “Autumn sees the end of the furlough scheme and, with it, the risk of rising unemployment, debt and financial insecurity. Without this urgent Scottish Government action, the colder months will bring the cold blasts of economic hardship, with families facing even greater struggle before the Scottish Child Payment begins its roll-out. We simply cannot allow that to happen, and families need urgent financial support now to hold them steady amid the economic storm.

“We're a country that believes in protecting one another from harm, and that believes that every child should have every chance. Next week, the Scottish Government has the opportunity - and responsibility - to put those beliefs into action, and to pull families back from the brink. We urge the government to take that opportunity; action is needed now.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "This is why we are doing everything with the powers we have to tackle poverty, including child poverty – but the UK Government retains control of many of the key welfare policies – it must match our efforts by taking action to reverse welfare cuts which are hitting harder than ever - including the benefit cap, bedroom tax, and two child limit, as well as making fundamental alterations to Universal Credit.

"Our policies include the introduction of the new Scottish Child Payment which will tackle child poverty head-on, while in order to provide immediate support to families we have more than doubled the Scottish Welfare Fund, increased the budget for Discretionary Housing Payments by £5 million and invested over £110 million to tackle food insecurity caused by the crisis – including extending Free School Meal provision over the summer holidays.

"We are also taking action to support people into employment with a £100 million package to help those looking for work or at risk of redundancy, including a job guarantee for young people and a new national retraining scheme as well as a £2.35 million increase for our Parental Employability Support Fund."