New research shows need for urgent ‘stronger safety net’ to stop Scots falling into ‘deep poverty’

New research shows need for urgent ‘stronger safety net’ to stop Scots falling into ‘deep poverty’

Charities urge that the Scottish Child Payment and the Scottish Welfare Fund are maximised to tackle child poverty and destitution

The Scottish Government must take further action to help provide a much stronger safety net for families if it is to meet its own child poverty targets and reduce ‘deep poverty,’ recommends a new report.

The Tackling Child Poverty and Destitution report, written by IPPR (Institute of Public Policy Research) Scotland on behalf of the Trussell Trust and Save the Children, considers whether two of Scotland’s boldest welfare policies are doing enough for families and what more can be done to maximise their potential.

The findings stress that The Scottish Child Payment and Scottish Welfare Fund make a tangible difference to those struggling on a low income and putting money into people’s pockets is the most effective solution. Yet the evidence is clear that the Scottish Government is currently not on track to meet its own statutory child poverty targets. Recent statistics suggest that around 26 per cent of children, around 260,000, were living in poverty in 2019/20. The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 requires Scottish ministers to ensure less than 18 per cent of children are living in poverty by 2023/24 and less than 10 per cent of children are living in poverty by 2030.

Both policies must do more to meet growing needs and the deepening cost of living crisis.

The findings show that the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment is a ‘gamechanger’ in getting money directly to families in need.  One parent said: “It alleviates that pressure, that I won’t be counting down every last penny.”  But without further action, the Scottish Child Payment simply doesn’t go far enough, by itself, to meet the Scottish Government’s target to reduce child poverty.

The charities are calling for ambitious action to double the payment to £40 to boost stretched incomes and increase uptake of the payment to coincide with full roll out in 2022.

The Scottish Welfare Fund is also a real lifeline to families, as one parent described: “[It] helped me get through…Sometimes I need that extra help through Crisis Grants – halfway through month, times are tight – after bills, it’s just food and [pre-payment] meters.” In the face of the worst cost of living crisis in decades, it 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.

This month sees the publication of the Scottish Government’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan – an opportunity to take bold steps to ensure every family has enough money to provide for their family, and help counteract the mounting cost of living crisis, set to cause escalating pressure for those families already making impossible decisions

Claire Telfer, Save the Children’s head of Scotland said: “Families on the lowest incomes are already making impossible decisions to meet their basic needs. Families face even stronger headwinds in the months ahead as the cost of living spirals. As it currently stands, there is a real risk that more and more parents and children’s basic needs won’t be met.”

Polly Jones, head of Scotland at the Trussell Trust said: “The cost of living crisis means that families in Scotland on the very lowest incomes will continue to be hit the hardest over the coming months, and beyond. Everyone should be able to afford the essentials in life – but food banks in our network see far too many people facing impossible decisions, like whether to put food on the table or heat their homes. This isn’t right.

Rachel Statham, Associate Director at IPPR Scotland commented further: “Urgent work is needed to meet Scotland’s interim child poverty targets, and now rising food and fuel prices are putting additional strain on families’ finances. The Scottish government must act quickly to protect people from the coming storm and get back on track to drastically reduce child poverty by 2030.”

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