SallyAnn Kelly, CEO of Aberlour, recently provided an article for The Scottish Sun about our Scottish election plea urging all political parties to make ending child poverty a top priority. Read the article here.
More than a quarter of Scotland’s children live in poverty.
New government statistics published last month show that, even before Covid, the number of children growing up in poverty was rising.
At Aberlour we have seen the way the pandemic has disproportionately affected low-income families across Scotland. Through our work in communities, we know the financial uncertainty it has created.
Every day we receive applications to our own Urgent Assistance Fund from families with nowhere else to turn for help. Applications to our fund have increased by 1400% during the last year.
We have given out more than £1million in cash grants to over 4000 families since the first lockdown last March. Children and families are suffering extreme hardship every day. Often, they lack basic necessities like warm clothes and bedding.
This is why Aberlour is calling on all parties fighting this Holyrood election to make ending child poverty their number one priority.
The Scottish Parliament passed the Child Poverty Act in 2017. It set child poverty targets that the Scottish Government must meet by law. We also have a national Child Poverty Delivery Plan which lays out the actions both national and local government have to take to meet those targets.
So why are things getting worse?
10 years of austerity from the UK government has played its part in a rising tide of poverty and disadvantage. An inefficient and often punitive UK welfare system has also contributed to spiralling poverty across Britain.
But the problem is not just Westminster.
Poverty is a political choice here as well. Politicians in Scotland can choose to do things differently. They can use the powers they have to reduce child poverty further. And we – the electorate – can demand that they do. It is our choice too.
The actions we have taken in Scotland simply have not been bold enough.
So, what needs to be done?
Recovery from the pandemic will be the next parliament’s main focus. If we are committed to ending child poverty, that ambition must be at the heart of the next Scottish Government’s recovery and renewal plan.
At Aberlour we are clear about the steps that have to be taken. Not only mitigate the impact of poverty on children and families – but to lift them out of poverty altogether.
Putting more money in families’ pockets must come first – so that they have enough to live on and to provide for their children.
Throughout the pandemic we have called for the Scottish Government to get cash directly to struggling families. Cash they need to weather the financial storm they are facing.
Along with other organisations, we have called for whoever is in government after the election to double the new Scottish Child Payment to £20 per child per week.
It has been encouraging to see, early in this election campaign, parties committing to make this happen. We need cross-party consensus on measures like this so that we can begin to shift the dial on child poverty.
But cash is just the start.
We also know that families in financial hardship need practical and emotional help as well as adequate incomes.
This is why our own Cash Now Families Always manifesto also calls on all parties to commit to more.
We need action to prevent young people leaving care and families with No Recourse to Public Funds falling into destitution.
We need better and more social housing and affordable homes to prevent families becoming homeless.
And we need an end the digital divide which excludes children living in poor families – denying them the same life chances as children in better off families.
These are the actions we want all MSPs to commit to. We can turn the tide on child poverty. Cash comes first – then every family which needs extra support must get help in the way that suits them.
Many people are saying this is the most important Scottish election since devolution.
I agree. But not for the reasons that some suggest.
If our politicians do not grab this opportunity to make Scotland a country where no child grows up in poverty, I fear they never will. It is up to every one of us to make sure they do.