End Child Poverty members in Scotland welcome today’s report from IPPR Scotland calling for urgent action by both the UK and Scottish Governments to help low-income families stay afloat amid increasing financial uncertainty and rising child poverty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before this crisis 1 in 4 children in Scotland were living in poverty and this report makes clear that as winter approaches many more families are struggling to pay bills and to make ends meet.
The commitment to Free School Meals outside of term time over the winter by the Scottish Government will help ensure many children do not go hungry. However, with the likelihood of further coronavirus restrictions in place for many across Scotland over the coming months, this will likely mean further uncertainty for those in low paid and insecure employment creating ever greater financial worries for families.
We are very concerned that the IPPR report notes that 73% of single parents, the majority of whom are women, were classified as financially vulnerable – lacking savings to cover basic living costs for three months – compared to 34% of all households at the beginning of the year. The impact of the ongoing crisis on women’s employment more widely and the provision of additional unpaid care work is particularly concerning. To stop families being pushed into (or deeper into) poverty, the UK and Scottish Governments must act now to put money in the pockets of low-income families and work with lenders, providers, and councils to write off Covid-19-related debt and arrears.
We support IPPR Scotland’s recommendations that: (1) the UK Government makes the temporary uplift to Universal Credit and Tax Credits of £20 per week a permanent lifeline for families; and (2) the Scottish Government invests a further £40 million by introducing a new Winter School Clothing grant and backdating the first payment of the Scottish Child Payment back to when applications open.
Getting money directly into the pockets of families and making sure they have an adequate income to provide for them and their children is crucial to mitigate the immediate financial impact of this crisis. We believe the steps outlined by IPPR Scotland can provide vital financial relief for low-income families in Scotland who otherwise face a long winter of financial uncertainty.