Faith leaders have urged the Scottish Government to do the “just and compassionate thing” and commit to doubling the payment made to needy parents now.
In a joint statement, they said the levels of poverty in communities across Scotland “go against everything we stand for as a society” and must be put right.
They said it is a “moral imperative” for the Scottish Government to do all it can to lift children out of poverty in next week’s Programme for Government for 2021/22, and called on it to commit to doubling the Scottish Child Payment – the £10 per week per child benefit for low-income families.
Signatories of the statement include Jim Wallace, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Bishop William Nolan of the Scottish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and Imam Dr Muhammad Rafiq Habib, convenor of the Muslim Council of Scotland.
It comes after a coalition of 120 anti-poverty organisations, charities and others made the same call last month.
The moderator said: “The vision of the early leaders of the Church of Scotland at the time of the Reformation was for a ‘school in every parish’ to allow every child the chance to have every opportunity to reach their full potential.
“Our vision today is nothing less than the eradication of child poverty. It will require all levels of Government – Scottish, UK and local – to work together and use all the powers at their disposal.
“We have the means to help and there has been support expressed across the political spectrum. Surely there must now be the will to carry this through.”
In the statement, the faith leaders said the Scottish Child Payment is a “lifeline for families across Scotland” and that more than one million people – including one in four children – are living “in the grip of poverty”.
They voiced concerns that so many across the country – especially low-paid women, disabled people, and people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds – are “struggling to stay afloat”.
In the statement, they say: “We urge the Scottish Government to use its powers to do the just and compassionate thing.
“Respond to this moral imperative, double the Scottish Child Payment now, and protect Scotland’s children from poverty.”
Imam Dr Muhammad Rafiq Habib said: “Around one quarter of children in Scotland are living in poverty and we all share a moral duty to do what we can to help. These families deserve dignity and fairness.”
The other faith leaders who have signed the statement are Rabbi Moshe Rubin (senior rabbi of Scotland and Giffnock and Newlands Hebrew congregation), Charandeep Singh (director of Sikhs in Scotland), Madhu Jain (executive committee, Hindu Mandir Glasgow), Elizabeth Allen (clerk, General Meeting for Scotland, Quakers) and Lieutenant Colonel Carol Bailey (secretary for Scotland, The Salvation Army).
Social justice secretary Shona Robison said: “We plan to significantly increase the level of the Scottish Child Payment (SCP), following the planned rollout to six to 15-year-olds, in order to maximise the impact on child poverty, with the full £20 payment being achieved within the lifetime of the parliament.
“We have taken unprecedented action as part of our national mission to tackle child poverty, investing nearly £1bn a year in support for families with children and we have introduced the SCP to tackle child poverty head on.
“Ahead of its increase to under-16s, we are also investing £77m this year and next through our bridging payments. These payments, worth £520 a year, will provide immediate support to around 145,000 children and young people from low-income families.
“This is in addition to the Best Start Grants we have introduced, our recent increase to the value of Best Start Foods, and of course other actions to support families such as the increase in the hours of free childcare and provision of free school meals.”
She also called on the UK Government to reverse the “indefensible decision” to cut the £20-per-week uplift to Universal Credit.