MSPs urged to increase child benefit to tackle poverty

Richard Frazer
Rev Dr Richard Frazer

The Scottish Government is being urged to use new powers to chart a different course from the rest of the UK and help lift 30,000 children out of poverty.

The Church of Scotland is encouraging MSPs to consider a £5 a week increase in Child Benefit as part of the Scottish Budget, which is being debated in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon.

The Child Poverty Action Group, Poverty Alliance and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland are among a range of organisations that the Church has teamed up with to call for action.

Price worth paying

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council, said: “For some people £5 a week will not seem like a lot of money but for others it could make all the difference in the world.

“It is about having the money to afford better quality food, to buy a pair of shoes for our children or a warm winter coat.

“Or it might be about making it possible for a child to go on a school trip which would otherwise be unaffordable.”

Dr Frazer, minister at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, said the cost of implementing the increase would be £256 million a year.

But he argued that it was a price worth paying.

Dr Frazer said: “That is less than 1% of the Scottish Government’s annual budget which, given the difference that such a measure could make, is surely worth it.

“We know that those who grow up in poverty are much more likely be live in poverty as adults and to be parents to children who live in poor households.

“Making this investment today, changes the life changes for future generations as well.”

Enormous hardship

The Church of Scotland supports a wide range of pioneering work with children, young people and families across Scotland as well as supporting many breakfast clubs and out of school activities.

Last year, the Independent Working Group on Food Poverty, set up by the Scottish Government, recommended an increase in Child Benefit as an integral part of tackling the issue.

Working group chairman Rev Dr Martin Johnstone, Secretary of the Church and Society Council, said: “I became convinced in listening directly to those with young families growing in enormous hardship that this measure can make a massive difference.

“This is a chance for the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government to set a different direction from the rest of the UK.

“I fervently hope that they will grasp it for the sake of Scotland’s children and their children.”

Click here to listen to Dr Frazer being interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland.