Children and Young People’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson and Chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission Bill Scott have jointly written to the Scottish Government urging them to take action now to tackle child poverty.
Their call comes following the Scottish Government’s announcement that the Scottish Child Payment will be delivered from February next year. Although the statement welcomes the introduction of the payment, it highlights that action is needed now as child poverty becomes even more severe in Scotland.
Full text of the Statement
Last week, the Scottish Government announced the Scottish Child Payment – a new £10 per week per child cash payment – will be delivered for low income families with children under six from February. When fully rolled out, the Scottish Child Payment will lift tens of thousands of children out of poverty and will act as a lifeline. But for families struggling to put food on the table and to pay their bills right now, that lifeline feels like a lifetime away.
Even before Covid-19, poverty represented the greatest human rights issue facing children in Scotland, with one in four growing up in its grip. Five months into the pandemic – with many parents and caregivers seeing their incomes cut and finding it even more difficult to get by – that grip of poverty has only tightened, while many more families have been swept into poverty for the first time.
In its response to the pandemic, the Scottish Government committed to action aimed at reducing the impact on children, families and communities. The school holidays saw the continuation of free school meals, while community organisations have been financially supported to carry out their vital work.
This action was welcome. But as the Children and Young People’s Commissioner and the Chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission, we have a duty to speak out when the Scottish Government can do more to loosen the grip of poverty, and to protect children’s rights. And we believe not only that it can, but that it must do so urgently.
It is clear that the pandemic’s impact has not been borne equally. Women have been particularly hard hit by the economic storm that has engulfed us and, with women’s poverty being inextricably linked to child poverty, we are living amid a rising tide of hardship. That tide risks overwhelming communities and threatening Scotland’s child poverty reduction targets.
That’s why we are urging the Scottish Government to use next week’s Programme for Government to deliver an urgent cash boost – equivalent to the Scottish Child Payment and using powers the Scottish Government already has – to families who are, right now, facing a six-month wait for a lifeline they so desperately need.
Autumn sees the end of the furlough scheme and, with it, the risk of rising unemployment, debt and financial insecurity. Without this urgent Scottish Government action, the colder months will bring the cold blasts of economic hardship, with families facing even greater struggle before the Scottish Child Payment begins its roll-out. We simply cannot allow that to happen, and families need urgent financial support now to hold them steady amid the economic storm.
We’re a country that believes in protecting one another from harm, and that believes that every child should have every chance. Next week, the Scottish Government has the opportunity – and responsibility – to put those beliefs into action, and to pull families back from the brink. We urge the government to take that opportunity; action is needed now.
Bill Scott, Chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission
Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland