Use new powers to invest £5 a week in every child, say child poverty campaigners

April 8, 2016
  • New Scottish Parliament faces massive increases in child poverty
  • £5 top up to child benefit would reduce child poverty by 14% - lifting 30 000 children out of poverty

Launching its programme for the next Scottish Government the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) today calls on the new parliament to seize a golden opportunity to reduce child poverty by investing £5 a week in every child through child benefit .

The new Scottish Parliament will be confronted with an imminent rise in child poverty, with a projected 50% increase by 2020 largely driven by UK tax and benefit policies. Child benefit alone is set to lose 28% of its value by the end of the decade according to the Group.

In the face of this looming crisis CPAG is calling on the next Scottish government to use new social security powers to invest an extra £5 a week in child benefit . The campaigners say this policy alone could reduce child poverty in Scotland by a substantial 14%, lifting 30 000 children out of poverty.

John Dickie, Director of CPAG in Scotland noted,

“New powers coming to Scotland provide a golden opportunity for the new Scottish Government to invest directly in the next generation, reduce child poverty and set Scotland on a different trajectory from what independent forecasters tell us will happen to child poverty across the rest of the UK.

£5 a week per child could help thousands of families avoid a visit to the food bank. It could make the difference between children missing out on school trips and joining in with their friends. Above all, £5 a week will reduce rates of child poverty in Scotland by up to 14%, improving the prospects of thousands of Scotland’s children.”

CPAG’s programme for government also sets out a range of measures aimed at prioritising the eradication of child poverty in Scotland and minimising its damaging effects on children, families, services and the country’s economy.

CPAG calls on the next government to:

  • Make a strong, public commitment to ending child poverty by introduction of a Child Poverty Act for Scotland. Such an act would provide a framework for the prevention, reduction and eradication of child poverty in Scotland.
  • Remove the financial barriers that prevent children from achieving their goals. The cost of school books, transport, uniform and lunches create a 'learning levy' which excludes children . As part of this, investment in school clothing grants and reducing the cost of school will be key to tackling the educational attainment gap.
  • Reduce demand for food banks in Scotland. Minimising errors and delays in devolved social security, and ensuring families can access the Scottish Welfare Fund and benefits advice, will reduce income crisis and protect families from food poverty.
  • Ensure work pays for in-work families experiencing child poverty. 56% of children living in poverty live in working families. This will require an increase the availability of high quality jobs and family friendly employment practices.
  • Implement an ambitious childcare strategy for Scotland including clear timescales for delivery.

CPAG in Scotland’s Programme for Scottish Government 2016-21 can be found here.

For more information contact:

John Dickie, Director of CPAG in Scotland on 07795 340 618 or Hanna McCulloch, CPAG in Scotland Policy and Parliamentary Officer on 07951 440 393.

Notes for Editors

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland works on behalf of the one in five children in Scotland growing up in poverty. We use our understanding of what causes poverty and the impact is has on children’s lives to campaign for policies that will prevent and eradicate poverty – for good. We also provide training, advice and information to make sure low income families get the financial support they need.

Child benefit is currently paid at a rate of £20.70 a week in respect of the eldest child in a household and £13.70 a week for each subsequent child. It is a near-universal benefit, although those with an income of £50,000 may be liable to pay tax in respect of child benefit known as a ‘high income child benefit charge’.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has projected a 50% rise in child poverty before housing costs (BHC) in the UK by 2020. See Living standards, poverty and inequality in the UK: 2015-16 to 2020-21, March 2016, James Browne and Andrew Hood, Institute for Fiscal Studies www.ifs.org.uk/publications/8171

Cumulative losses to the value of child benefit calculated by CPAG available at www.cpag.org.uk/sites/default/files/CPAG%20Briefing%20-%20Welfare%20Refo...

Powers devolved through the Scotland Act 2016 will give the Scottish Parliament the power to increase the value of reserved social security benefits – including child benefit - for individuals and households in Scotland. This power is referred to in the Scotland Act 2016 as the power to ‘top-up’ benefits.

Topping up child benefit by £5 per week per child will cost an estimated £256 million p.a., based on figures produced Keung, A. and Bradshaw, J. (2016) Analysis of the impact of increases to child benefit and child tax credits on child poverty rates in the UK and Scotland, March 2016 - Blog: www.york.ac.uk/inst/spru/pubs/pdf/CB&CTCtopups.pdf

Based on figures produced Keung, A. and Bradshaw, J. (2016) Analysis of the impact of increases to child benefit and child tax credits on child poverty rates in the UK and Scotland, March 2016 - Blog: www.york.ac.uk/inst/spru/pubs/pdf/CB&CTCtopups.pdf

Research conducted by CPAG in Scotland has identified the financial barriers that exist in relation to education and the impact they can have on the ability of children from low income families to participate at school. www.cpag.org.uk/content/cost-school-day-report-and-executive-summary

Research conducted by CPAG in partnership with Oxfam Scotland and the Trussell Trust has identified key drivers of food bank use in Scotland and across the UK. These include error and delay in the administration of social security benefits, lack of access to advice and lack of awareness of the availability of emergency financial support. www.cpag.org.uk/content/hard-choices-reducing-need-food-banks-scotland

Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland in 2013/14, Table A7, In-work poverty (relative AHC) in Scotland 1998/99 to 2013/14 www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/06/7453/16