Ending child poverty should be a national mission statement for the next Scottish Parliament, according to Nicola Sturgeon.
The SNP leader announced her party’s intention to double the Scottish Child Payment.
It currently provides £10 a week to low-income families – initially those with children up to the age of six – and is set to expand to all children under the age of 16 by the end of next year.
But the First Minister confirmed her intention for this to be doubled to £20 per week, benefitting more than 400,000 children in 250,000 households.
And as part of further expansion, she also proposed payments are brought forward with affected families to receive “bridging payments” during 2022, with the full annual £520 being paid in four quarterly instalments.
She told SNP activists on Monday: “The Scottish Child Payment has been described as a game changer in the fight to end child poverty.
“We know the pandemic will continue to cause financial hardship before then – so I can announce today that we will make bridging payments.
“But I can announce today that we will go further – I want to make ending child poverty a national mission for the next Parliament.
“It’s time to end the scandal of child poverty and this will help to do it.
“It is a down payment on what will be possible when we have the full powers over tax and social security that only independence can deliver.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “This is a key policy which Scottish Labour has been calling for, so I welcome the SNP’s support for our proposal.
“But they have been in power for 14 years. The First Minister has been in post for seven years.
“It shouldn’t have taken an election campaign for them to make the right choice for Scotland’s most vulnerable children.
“We have also frequently heard the SNP talking about ‘national missions’ before choosing to prioritise the nationalist mission instead.
“The next parliament must prioritise a national recovery so that we can transform the lives of children across Scotland and end the scandal of child poverty.”
Scottish Conservative social security spokesperson Rachael Hamilton said: “Eradicating child poverty is a mission every political party must get behind. And the Scottish Conservatives were proud to support the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment.
“Our plan to rebuild Scotland after the pandemic will provide further opportunities to end the injustice of child poverty. This includes increasing free childcare provision, so mums and dads can boost their pay packets knowing their little ones are in safe hands.
“We were also the first party to pledge free school meals for all primary school children at breakfast and lunch, with other parties following suit afterward.”
It comes as a coalition of Scottish organisations publish their manifesto detailing changes they believe are necessary “to create a more just Scottish social security system”.
The Scottish Campaign on Rights to Social Security (SCoRSS) manifesto also calls for the doubling of the Scottish Child Payment as well as increasing financial support for unpaid carers and establishing a fundamental review of disability assistance.
Debbie Horne, senior policy officer at Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “This election comes at a time when a properly functioning social security safety net has never been so important.
“Over the next five years Scotland has the chance to create a world-leading social security system.
“The next Scottish Parliament must seize this opportunity to fully implement the changes set out in the SCoRSS manifesto.”