Child poverty ‘on rise’ before coronavirus outbreak

Analysis of government data shows the poorest families were ill-equipped to deal with pandemic.

Child poverty has been rising steadily over a four-year period, campaigners have said, leaving some of the poorest families ill-equipped to deal with the pandemic.

End Child Poverty, a coalition of 70 UK charities, faith groups, unions and other organisations, has published an analysis of Government data showing an increase in poverty rates among children.

It found the child poverty rate in Scotland grew from 14.5% in 2014 to 18.1% in 2018.

The Glasgow Central constituency had one of the largest increases anywhere in the UK over the same period, with child poverty up from 30.6% to 42.2%.

Across the UK as a whole, child poverty rose from 15.6% to 18.4%.

Researchers from Loughborough University, who worked with the campaigners, found the rise took place mainly in working families.

The campaign group called for an ambitious plan to eradicate child poverty in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak.

John Dickie, a member of the End Child Poverty and director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland said: “We may all be in this coronavirus storm together but we really aren’t all in the same boat.

“This official data shows the extent to which too many children have been cut adrift over the past four years, and are already experiencing unacceptable hardship as a result of cuts and freezes to UK benefits.

“That’s why we are urging the Chancellor to strengthen the social security system by immediately increasing household income for those least well-off.”

He added: “Here in Scotland, the Holyrood Government must act to use all the powers at its disposal to make emergency financial payments to low income families.

“Scotland’s much welcomed child poverty strategy must be put at the heart of decision making on every aspect of the country’s recovery and renewal from the pandemic.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said the UK Government needs to “reverse their welfare cuts” in order to tackle the issue.

He added: “We remain absolutely committed to tackling and reducing child poverty in Scotland which is why we are working on introducing the new Scottish Child Payment and will be paying carers in receipt of carers allowance an additional supplement this year.

“To support families and others at risk through the pandemic we have committed £350m of additional funding, including more than doubling the Scottish Welfare Fund with £45m of new investment and over £100m to local authorities, with £30m targeted at food insecurity – investment which is supporting over 168,000 children to access Free School Meals.

“A further £125m is committed to support third sector and community efforts.”