A coalition of 120 anti-poverty organisations, charities and others is calling on the Scottish Government to “do the right thing” and commit to doubling the payment made to needy parents in this year’s budget.
The group has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urging her to use the upcoming Programme for Government to commit to doubling the Scottish Child Payment – the £10 per week per child benefit for low-income families.
The letter, co-ordinated by the End Child Poverty coalition in Scotland, warns that if Scottish ministers fail to double the payment now then “more and more children will be pulled into poverty and the opportunity to meet the interim child poverty targets will be missed”.
It said that doubling the payment would provide a “lifeline to families who are struggling to stay afloat” and warned that the pandemic has “exacerbated existing inequalities and pulled many more people – particularly women, the disabled people, and black and minority ethnic people – into hardship”.
The Scottish Government has already introduced the £10 a week Scottish Child Payment to help low-income families with children, which is currently made to those with youngsters under the age of six.
Ministers plan to expand it to older children in 2022, and the SNP has pledged to double the payment to £20 a week in the Holyrood election campaign, but no date has yet been announced.
Signatories to the letter include the Poverty Alliance, Save the Children, Action for Children, the Moderator of the General Assembly of The Church of Scotland, Engender, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the Trussell Trust, Barnardo’s Scotland and Oxfam Scotland.
Polly Jones, head of Scotland at the Trussell Trust, said: “Food bank use has rocketed by 63% over the last five years because people can’t afford the basics.
“Over the last year, families have struggled more than most. We have the powers and we have the cross-party consensus to double the Scottish Child Payment now.
“If Scottish ministers are serious about making ending child poverty a ‘national mission’ then we must not delay.”
The letter urges the Scottish Government to “do the right thing, to capitalise on the cross-party consensus that already exists, and to commit to doubling the Scottish Child Payment in this year’s budget”.
Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, said: “Levels of poverty experienced by families in Scotland continue to be unacceptably high, worsened by the economic ravages of the pandemic.
“The real risk that poverty poses to the educational outcomes and life chances of large numbers of children is one that Scotland as a country simply should not be taking as we look to emergence from the pandemic and education recovery.”
The letter also calls on the UK Government to abandon its plan to end the £20 universal credit rise.
Universal Credit payments were increased amid the Covid-19 pandemic, but the UK Government plans to end this at the end of September.
The Scottish and UK Governments have been asked for comment.
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