Scottish child payment increase is ‘missed opportunity’, campaigners say

Child poverty campaigners criticised a decision to increase the Scottish child payment by less than £2 per week, saying it would provide “little comfort” to struggling families.

Finance Secretary Shona Robison confirmed the weekly payment would rise from £25 to £26.70 per week in line with September’s CPI inflation rate.

First Minister Humza Yousaf had pledged to increase the payment to £30 a week during his leadership campaign, although Save the Children Scotland said it needed to rise to £40 to help 240,000 children in poverty.

The £1.70 increase was described as a “missed opportunity” to tackle child poverty by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Save the Children Scotland, while the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) said it was “bitterly disappointing.”

In November, CPA sent a letter to Mr Yousaf with more than 150 signatories, urging for an increase.

The letter called on Mr Yousaf to ensure his first Budget provided significant additional investment to tackle child poverty.

Campaigners warned the Scottish Government risked “stalling” progress on child poverty and would “raise serious questions” on how it would be tackled by 2030.

The budget was criticised for giving wealthy families a council tax freeze while failing to deliver the additional £5 per week which was central to Mr Yousaf’s leadership bid.

Fiona King, senior policy and public affairs manager at Save the Children Scotland, said: “Today’s Scottish budget raises some serious questions about how we as a country are going to meet the 2030 child poverty reduction targets. We welcome some of the commitments and steps taken, but this does not amount to the bold action required to really “shift the dial” on poverty, and time is running out.

“We welcome the announcement that the Scottish Government will take steps to remove the burden of school meal debt, and the continued funding of the Scottish child payment – uprated in line with inflation – is vital in the fight to drive down child poverty.

“Analysis shows that the payment needs to be £40 per week to ensure child poverty falls in line with the Government’s own targets. Today, 240,000 children in Scotland remain locked in poverty with families struggling to put food on the table, pay the bills and invest in their children’s futures.

“Children cannot and must not be the collateral damage of a challenging fiscal environment. Underinvestment in tackling the root causes of low-income will harm children and families and will cost our whole society more in the long run.

“This parliament made a cross-party, legally-binding commitment to drive down child poverty – this budget was a missed opportunity to honour that commitment.”

Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, John Dickie (pictured), said: “The First Minister said during his leadership campaign that he wanted to see the Scottish child payment rise to £30 per week in his first budget.

“It is bitterly disappointing for struggling families that he has failed to deliver.

“Having chosen to fund a council tax freeze that financially benefits better-off households it is hard to understand why his Government couldn’t choose to boost the incomes of our hardest-up families.

“The reality is tens of thousands of our children remain locked in poverty and the Government’s own analysis shows that current policies are not adequate to meet legally binding child poverty targets.

“We needed to see this budget “shifting the dial” on child poverty as the First Minister promised.

“But it is hard to see the significant extra investment in childcare, housing, employment and social security that is so desperately needed. This budget looks like a hugely concerning stalling in the good progress made on child poverty by the Scottish Government in recent years.”

Chris Birt, associate director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “This Scottish Budget will have brought little comfort to families wondering how they will get through the worst of this winter.

“The Scottish Government have once again missed the opportunity to accelerate their efforts to meet their own child poverty targets.

“The First Minister committed to raising the Scottish child payment to £30 as part of his leadership campaign, and it’s disappointing that the reality has fallen short at this budget.

“Without the promised boost too many children and parents will suffer.

“Proposed investment in housing fails to meet the urgency or the scale of the burgeoning housing emergency. The freeze on council tax will offer little practical support for low-income families.

“Better targeted support could have made a real and tangible difference to the lives of children growing up in Scotland now.”

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