The publication of the Scottish Government’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2022-26 is an opportunity to reflect on what progress has been made to reduce child poverty since the last delivery plan was launched in 2018.
In that time child poverty has continued to rise.
It is clear that action taken over the last four years hasn’t yet been enough to begin to turn the tide on child poverty or to meet the Scottish Government’s own child poverty targets.
The First Minister has committed to make ending child poverty the ‘national mission’ of the Scottish Government, and so we welcome the commitments in this plan.
This Delivery Plan recognises that more can and must be done to tackle child poverty, including reducing household costs for low income families and strengthening the social security safety net for those who rely on it.
As a member of End Child Poverty, Aberlour called for the Scottish Child Payment to be doubled to £20 per child per week.
Eligible families will begin to feel the benefit of that increase from next month when they start to receive their increased Scottish Child Payment.
The commitment to increase the Scottish Child Payment further to £25 per child per week by the end of this year is good news and will provide some financial relief for families uncertain about whether they can pay their bills.
In addition, by mitigating the unfair benefit cap for families in Scotland the Scottish Government is taking action where the UK Government has failed to.
However, with more and more families facing being pulled into poverty as living costs rise, energy bills spiral and inflation hits its highest level in 30 years, family budgets are being squeezed more than ever.
The financial pressure families are feeling right now is overwhelming and the Scottish Government must now maximise all levers available to them to give families a helping hand by increasing household incomes further.
Looking ahead to next year, making full of social security powers and increasing the Scottish Child Payment further to £40 per child per week is one clear action it must take.
We must see urgent improvement in the delivery of the Scottish Welfare Fund now, so it can better meet the immediate needs of families in financial crisis.
We need greater focus and concrete action to respond to families trapped in poverty as a result of debt, most often to public bodies such as local authorities, housing associations and DWP.
There is little in this Delivery Plan that will help and support families with No Recourse to Public Funds, who are most likely to be living in poverty in destitution, and so the Scottish Government must develop clear targeted actions to tackle this.
We welcome the positive and meaningful steps the Scottish Government has taken in this Delivery Plan, but it is still far from certain that Scotland will meet its child poverty targets without greater and more bold action.
What is clear is that by responding to what children and families living in poverty tell us they need, removing the barriers that prevent families from thriving and taking action that guarantees more money in families’ pockets, we can get closer to our ambition of Scotland being a country where no child grows up in poverty.