Scottish Labour leader pledges to increase Child Benefit
Anti-poverty campaigners have welcomed Scottish Labour’s pledge to use new social security powers to top-up child benefit.
Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour leader, announced at the party conference on Saturday she would push for the new social security powers to be used to increase the rate of child benefit by £13 per month next year and by £20 per month in subsequent years.
Dugdale said the action could be achieved through amendment of the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill, which is currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament.
The Child Poverty Action Group - which has led the campaign to top up child benefit with support from the Children and Young Persons Commissioner, the Poverty Alliance, Children in Scotland, One Parents Families Scotland, trade unions and faith groups among others - says the announcement is part of a growing wave of support for the policy across the political spectrum and civil society.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, a leading group behind the call, said: “A significant increase in child benefit would make all the difference to hard pressed families.
“It could be the difference between a child going on a school trip or missing out, or the difference between a trip to the food bank and a trip to the supermarket.
“We urge all parties to do everything within their gift to ensure new powers are used to boost family incomes and make a defining impact on levels of child poverty.”
And Dickie added: “We know that topping up child benefit by just £5 a week could not only reduce child poverty by 14%, it would set Scotland on a different trajectory from the rest of the UK, which is facing a projected 50% rise in child poverty by 2020.”
In her keynote speech to Scottish Labour Conference, Dugdale said ther plan would increase Child Benefit by an extra £240 per year by 2021.
She said: “Charities, anti-poverty organisations and others across Scotland have called for an increase in child benefit. And I agree.
Our plan would see child benefit increase by £240 per year by the end of this parliament - Kezia Dugdale
"Using the new welfare powers in the Scottish Parliament, we will campaign to create a new Scottish Child Benefit.
“Our plan would see child benefit increase by £240 per year by the end of this parliament, increasing by £13 a month next year, before rising to £20 per month in 2020,” said Dugdale.
The announcement comes as targets for addressing child poverty in Scotland are to be scrutinised by Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee this week.
The bill puts in place measures which require the Scottish Government to meet certain targets for the reduction of child poverty.
These include seeing less than 10% of children in relative poverty and less than 5% of children in absolute poverty by 2030.
However, the committee has launched a call for views to find out if the measures in the bill are ambitious enough and what practical impact these targets will have on child poverty in Scotland.
Committee convener, Sandra White MSP said: “All of us can agree that there is no place for child poverty in a modern Scotland. The effects of growing up in poverty can last a lifetime and can impact on health and education long after the child has grown.
“The bill before us says it is ambitious, but our committee want to know whether these measures go far enough in addressing this problem.
“We also want to know what difference this bill will make to the lives of those children who are facing such hardship in Scotland right now.”