The Scottish Government is not on track to meet its child poverty targets, a new report shows.
The Government’s current aim is that by 2030 less than 10% of children in Scottish households should be living in relative poverty.
But new research shows current measures in place do not go far enough to meet the country’s statutory child poverty targets.
The Tackling Child Poverty and Destitution report, written by think tank Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), assesses Scotland’s Scottish Child Payment (SCP) and the Scottish Welfare Fund.
While both have been acknowledged for making a tangible difference to those struggling on a low income, the report says they do not go far enough to meet Scotland’s statutory child poverty targets.
At the moment, SCP allows a £10 per week payment to families with a child under the age of six and in receipt of qualifying means tested benefits, including Universal Credit and equivalent legacy benefits, with no limit on the number of children per family eligible for the payment.
It is set to double in April this year to £20, and by the end of the year, the full rollout of the payment will see the age threshold rise to cover all children under 16 in eligible households.
But on this basis, IPPR estimates suggest the payment will lift 30,000 children out of poverty by the end of 2022 – falling three percentage points, or 30,000 children, short of the Scottish Government’s interim target.
Based on previous modelling, it said the value of the payment will have to double again from £20 to £40 by the end of this Parliament for targets to be met.
IPPR researchers also recommended additional SCP “premium” payments for higher-risk homes with families with three or more children or with a child aged one or under, lone parent families, or families where either a parent or child is disabled, to help Scotland reach its targets.
In the face of a cost of living crisis, the report also called for an urgent review of crisis support through the Scottish Welfare Fund, which helps families and people in Scotland who are on low incomes.
It said the Scottish Government should ensure any application for a Crisis Grant – a sum of money given by the Scottish Welfare Fund in an emergency – should have a “same day decision”, and ensure local authorities are resourced to enable that.
The report read: “The Scottish Welfare Fund is a vital policy tool that can support families struggling with escalating financial pressure – but it could do more to prevent hardship and destitution.
“The group is calling for an urgent review of crisis support offered through the Scottish Welfare Fund, and the value of the fund to be increased to meet higher levels of need.”
With the publication of the Scottish Government’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan due this month, Claire Telfer, head of Save the Children’s Scotland team, said it provides the Scottish Government with “an opportunity to take bold steps – like increasing the Scottish Child Payment to £40 a week – to ensure every family has enough money to provide for their family.”
She said: “We already have the right tools in our toolbox to help families facing financial crisis and living through poverty.
“Our report shows how we can supercharge the Scottish Child Payment and Scottish Welfare Fund to deliver on their potential and provide a fairer future for families.”
Polly Jones, head of Scotland at the Trussell Trust, said: “If we are serious about ending the need for food banks, the Scottish Government must ensure the Scottish Welfare Fund is properly resourced and raise the Scottish Child Payment to £40 a week.
“This is a vital opportunity to strengthen our social security system and help prevent parents from having to turn to charity to feed their families.”
Rachel Statham, associate director of IPPR Scotland, said the SCP must go “further and faster” to protect families from being swept into poverty, and “an urgent review” of crisis support offered through the Scottish Welfare Fund must be underway.
In response to the report, social justice secretary Shona Robison said the Scottish Government “will go further” with its measures and will publish its next steps in its Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan next week.
She said: “As this report acknowledges, our ambitious measures are already delivering considerable support to families compared with other parts of the UK – for example, through free childcare and employment support, maximising incomes and affordable housing and, of course, social security.
“It is this sort of action that another recent report showed was reducing costs for families by a third.
“We are the only part of the UK to have five family benefits including the Scottish Child Payment, which was designed to tackle child poverty head on and will double to £20 in just over a fortnight and be extended to under-16s by the end of the year.”
Robison pointed to the Scottish Government’s £2.5bn invested last year to support low-income households, adding: “In 2022/2023 we will invest over £360m in social security over and above what we receive in the block grant to support people in need.
“In addition, our £290m cost-of-living support package will reach 73% of households, providing £150 to those receiving council tax reduction and those in bands A-D.
“This builds on our £41m Winter Support Fund and continued investment in the Scottish Welfare Fund as well as other measures across government.”