New devolved welfare powers should be used to increase Child Benefit MSPs have been told
Civil society leaders have united to urge the Scottish Government to top-up child benefit by £5 a week.
The coalition, which includes the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland, the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Women’s Convention and Wheatley housing group, sent a briefing to all MSPs ahead of today's budget debate highlighting that a £5 top-up to child benefit could reduce child poverty in Scotland by a substantial 14%, lifting 30,000 children out of poverty.
Campaigners say that unless decisive action is taken, child poverty in Scotland will get much worse, with modelling from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) forecasting a 50% increase in child poverty across the UK by 2020.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, a leading group behind the call, said: “Five pounds a week might not seem like much for many of us but for hard-pressed families it would make all the difference. It could be the difference between a child going on a school trip or missing out, or the difference between a trip to the foodbank and a trip to the supermarket."
It would set Scotland on a different trajectory from the rest of the UK - John Dickie
“We urge MSPs of all parties to make sure the Scottish Government uses this budget – and the new social security powers at its disposal – to invest in family incomes and make a defining impact on levels of child poverty.”
“The Scottish Government commitment to eradicate child poverty in Scotland by 2030 is hugely welcome as are the commitments already made to introduce Best Start grants, but the new power to top up benefits provides an opportunity to take an even greater step towards achieving that goal.
"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.”
The call comes just a week after the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health reported poverty to be the “biggest cause of poor health”. It highlighted that children living in poverty are much more likely to be in poor health, overweight or obese, experience mental health problems and die early.