Holyrood ministers are being urged to meet their pledge to double the payment made to low-income families as soon as possible.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation made the call at the same time as it urged the UK Government to “do the right thing” and commit to keeping the £20 uplift to Universal Credit.
Universal Credit payments were increased in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the UK Government now plans to remove this at the end of September – a move already branded “indefensible” by the Scottish Government.
Chris Birt, deputy director for Scotland at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, warned such a move would see millions of families across the UK “seriously unable to meet their needs”.
Meanwhile some 60,000 people in Scotland – including 20,000 children – could be left worse off by the change, the Scottish Government has warned, with social security minister Ben Macpherson branding it the “worst possible move at the worse possible time”.
The Scottish Government has already introduced the £10 a week Scottish Child Payment, to help low income families with children.
The payment is currently made to those with youngsters under the age of six, though ministers plan to expand it to older children in 2022, with the SNP also having pledged to double the payment to £20 a week in the Holyrood election campaign – though no date has yet been announced for this.
Mr Birt said: “It’s not too late for the UK Government to do the right thing and keep the £20-a-week increase to Universal Credit and prevent millions of families being left seriously unable to meet their needs.
“If this cut to Universal Credit goes ahead in October, all the promised doubling of the Scottish Child Payment will achieve is to reverse the effects of this damaging cut.
“In the face of this financial risk to low-income families, it is vital the Scottish Government doubles this payment as soon as possible to help us reach our child poverty targets.”
Meanwhile, Macpherson said: “The UK Government’s decision to withdraw the £20-per-week uplift to Universal Credit in September is indefensible. It is also economically nonsensical at a time when we need to stimulate growth in order to create jobs and help businesses recover.
“Now is not a time to cut household support – now is a time to invest and assist those who need it.
“This cut will remove £461m from Scottish households – and we estimate it will push more than 60,000 people in Scotland into poverty, including 20,000 children.
“As we begin to emerge from this dreadful pandemic, we need to be building an economic recovery that works for everyone – but by ending the £20 uplift, just as household incomes need to be supported, the UK Government are taking the worst possible decision, at the worst possible time.”
The minister insisted: “The Scottish Government is doing everything it can to tackle child poverty with the limited powers and resources at our disposal. In February, we delivered on our landmark commitment of a Scottish Child Payment – and we are expanding it even further during this parliamentary term.
“But our anti-poverty efforts are being seriously undermined by Westminster cuts and ending the Universal Credit uplift will be yet another unjust and unnecessary step backwards for Scottish communities and those across the UK.”
Macpherson demanded: “Even at this late stage, the UK Government must think again about ending the uplift and retain the £20 boost that people need. They must listen to anti-poverty charities and halt the senseless harm they are about to inflict on already hard pressed families.”