New benefit to tackle child poverty fast-tracked
The Scottish Government has brought forward a new benefit aimed to tackle child poverty by giving extra cash to low-income families.
The Scottish Child Payment will provide eligible families with £10 a week for every child under 16, with introduction for under sixes starting by early 2021 – a year earlier than planned. It aims give more immediate support to eligible families who need it most, as almost 60% of all children in poverty live in a family with a child under the age of six.
The payment will be delivered to all remaining eligible families with children under 16 by the end of 2022, with no cap on the number of children in families.
When delivered in full, 410,000 children could be eligible for the income supplement – over a third of all children. It is estimated it will lift 30,000 children out of relative poverty by 2023/24.
For a family with two children under the age of 16 this new payment would mean additional support of more than £1,000 a year.
Communities secretary Aileen Campbell said: “Scotland is facing a spike in child poverty as a result of welfare cuts imposed by the UK Government.
“We will not stand by and simply watch that happen. We will act.
“We will help families with £10 per week for every eligible child under 16 years old in Scotland, with over a third of all children benefitting.
“That can make a massive difference to thousands of children across Scotland - and tackle child poverty head on. It will mean more families are able to make ends meet.
“Almost 60% of all children in poverty live in a family where a child is under six years old, which is why we will deliver the payment for this group first.
“The Scottish Child Payment will not only help raise children out of poverty but is also designed to help prevent those just above the poverty threshold from sliding under.
“This is a real preventative measure that will tackle child poverty head on in Scotland and help mitigate against continuing UK Government austerity.
Naomi Eisenstadt, the First Minister’s former Independent Advisor on Poverty and Inequality, said: “The best way to help children out of poverty is to get money into parents’ pockets so I am absolutely delighted that the Scottish Government is introducing the Scottish Child Payment.
“It’s great to see the Scottish Government taking such ambitious and direct action to shift the curve on child poverty.”
The payment will be administered by Social Security Scotland alongside the existing programme of devolved social security benefits.
Ms Campbell added: “We understand this may have an impact on the timetable for the delivery of devolved social security benefits. But we believe it is worth it to introduce a visionary new benefit that will make such a big difference to so many lives.”
The Scottish Government has also published a progress report on child poverty which follows last year’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan. The plan outlined a range of actions aimed at meeting child poverty targets and was backed with a £50m fund.
The Scottish Greens said ministers must ensure that all those eligible for the new Scottish Child Payment are able to claim it if it is to fulfil its purpose of seriously tackling child poverty.
Social security spokesperson Alison Johnstone MSP highlighted that while take up of the well-established child benefit payment sits at 95%, many of the ‘gateway’ benefits to the new payment are significantly under claimed and asked the communities secretary how the government would ensure all those eligible were made aware of the new payment.
Ms Johnstone said: “Across the board, means-tested payments have lower rates than universal payments. Child Benefit, a trusted, well-known source of support is claimed by around 95% of eligible families. Given that the Scottish Government have decided not to use Child Benefit to boost family incomes, it’s vital that Ministers ensure that every effort is made to ensure every low-income family eligible for the new payment will receive it.”
Citizens Advice Scotland’s social justice spokesperson Mhoraig Green added: “The new Scottish Child Payment is a step in the right direction and its fast tracked introduction for children under six is a testament to the hard work of campaigners across Scotland. We are also pleased that the Scottish Government has pledged to avoid capping this new benefit for larger families.
“What is essential is that families who are entitled to this benefit claim it, and everything else that they are entitled to. Our research shows that people in Scotland support the principles of our welfare state, and that people should claim what they are entitled to.
“In the meantime people who are struggling can turn to their local Citizens Advice Bureau for support. We help and advocate for hundreds of thousands of people each year and can ensure people are claiming the right support and not over-paying on bills. Our support is free, impartial and confidential.”
The news was also welcomed by think-tank IPPR Scotland.
Director Russell Gunson said: “The Scottish Government has followed many of our recommendations on what a child poverty payment should prioritise, and listened to the strong voice of anti-poverty organisations across Scotland.
“With a classroom of children being swept into poverty each day in Scotland, urgent action is needed. The news that the Scottish Government will bring forward plans to deliver a new Scottish Child Payment to 2021 at the latest will bring much needed financial help to children living in poverty far faster. These children can’t wait – and this urgency is welcome.
“The new Scottish Child Payment will cost hundreds of millions of pounds, and rightly so. But we know from our work that the costs of not doing so would be far higher.
“The UK government’s welfare cuts are likely to pull tens of thousands of children into poverty over the coming years. The Scottish Government deserves credit for using its new powers to begin to tackle child poverty in Scotland by strengthening our social safety net.
“We look forward to engaging with the Scottish Government over the coming months on the design of the new Scottish Child Payment, so we can make the most of this golden opportunity to help tens of thousands of children escape from poverty in Scotland.”