Commissioner: UK and Scottish Governments must do more to address child poverty

Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, has given evidence to the UK Work and Pensions Committee as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into children in poverty which publishes its first report today.

The UK parliamentary committee’s first findings underscore the impact of poverty in childhood for children’s lived experiences now and for outcomes later in life, including in health and education.

As part of its inquiry, the Committee heard evidence from Mr Adamson, who said that having child poverty targets in legislation in Scotland had made a significant change to the Scottish approach to child poverty.

He talked about there being “a real consensus in Scotland around the need for this framework” as “an important starting point” to help track child poverty over time but noted there is still a lot more to be done, especially as “interim targets set for 2023 now look very unlikely to be met, given the challenges of Covid-19”.

Reducing Child Poverty

We know from the latest progress report of the Poverty and Inequality Commission that “unless very significant further action is taken now, the Scottish Government is going to miss the interim and final targets by a long way, leaving children and families locked into poverty. The targets can be met, but the Scottish Government must deliver action at a much greater scale and pace, and with significantly higher levels of investment, if it is to do so.”

Reducing child poverty, the most significant human rights issue facing children in Scotland , requires action by both the UK Government and the Scottish Government. Poverty affects every aspect of a child’s life, including their educational attainment and mental and physical health. 

End to Universal Credit uplift

The UK Government continues to face widespread calls from the Children’s Commissioners of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, civil society groups, academics and politicians to respect children’s rights and halt the plans to cut the £20 uplift in universal credit. The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights said that the cut was an “unconscionable” move that breaches international human rights law and is likely to trigger an explosion of poverty.

With the cut due to take effect on 6 October, time is running out for the 22,000 children in Scotland that are protected from poverty by the uplift.

Scottish Child Payment

The Commissioner also renewed calls to the Scottish Government for an immediate increase to the Scottish Child Payment.

Following a joint letter by the Commissioner and the Poverty and Inequality Commissioner in August and campaigning from civil society groups the Scottish Government has commitment to doubling the payment to £20 per week.

But if the Scottish Government is going to come close to meeting its interim child poverty targets in 2023, it needs to act quickly to double the payment now and take other urgent action to ensure that children have an adequate standard of living – the course of the Parliament is a lifetime for children living in poverty.  

Clothes, a plate of food and a house.

UNCRC Article 27

I have the right to have a proper home, food and clothing

More Work to be Done

Poverty is a human rights issue and while UK benefit rules continue to play a significant part in keeping families in poverty, the Scottish Government plays an important role in ensuring children’s rights are met. The effects of the pandemic – which are still becoming clear – have only served to make a dire situation worse for those in poverty or only just getting by. Both governments must do more.

Visit our Child Poverty pages to learn more about the work we’ve been undertaking on this issue.

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