Moderator joins coalition urging Scottish Government to double the Scottish Child Payment

Lord Jim Wallace, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, has joined more than 120 organisations across Scotland in a letter calling for the First Minister to "do the right thing" and double the Scottish Child Payment in this year's budget.

Child poverty is rising in every local authority in Scotland, with 1 in 4 children in Scotland growing up in poverty – even prior to the pandemic. A coalition of over 120 anti-poverty organisations, children's charities, community groups, think tanks, trade unions, faith leaders and academics have joined the call, outlining in their letter to the First Minister that doubling the payment would "signal that ending child poverty will be a defining priority for this Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament."

The letter, coordinated by members of the End Child Poverty coalition in Scotland, states:

"As a broad coalition of national organisations, community groups, academics, trade unions and faith groups, we are writing to you to urge you to use the upcoming Programme for Government to commit to doubling the Scottish Child Payment in this year's budget.

"We welcome the Scottish Government's commitment to tackling child poverty, evidenced in the setting of statutory child poverty targets, introducing the Scottish Child Payment and the upcoming incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. These steps have laid the foundation for tackling child poverty in Scotland and we have been delighted that they have been supported across Scotland's political spectrum.

"This cross-party agreement was also evident in May's Holyrood elections, when all of Scotland's five main political parties committed to doubling the Scottish Child Payment. Such political consensus is welcome, and provides the opportunity for your government to act quickly and decisively in doubling the payment now.

"To do so would provide a lifeline to families who are struggling to stay afloat. Even before Covid-19, people across Scotland were being swept up in a rising tide of poverty, with child poverty rising in every Scottish local authority. And the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities in Scotland and pulled many more people – particularly women, disabled people, and Black and minority ethnic people – into hardship. With women's poverty being inextricably linked to child poverty, the pandemic's impact has pulled children across Scotland ever-deeper into poverty. It has hit lone parents - the overwhelming majority of whom are women - particularly hard, a group already disproportionately affected by years of social security cuts.

"Unlocking people from this poverty requires long-term work to tackle the structural inequalities around the labour market - particularly for women, disabled people and Black and minority ethnic people – and it will also require action like further expanding childcare provision. But we also need action now to boost incomes in the short term.

"Every level of government has a duty to boost incomes where it can, and we are clear that the UK Government must scrap its planned and unjust £20 Universal Credit cut. But just as the UK Government has a moral responsibility to do the right thing, so too does the Scottish Government have a moral responsibility to use all of the powers at its disposal to loosen the grip of poverty on people's lives.

"We have the powers, we have the urgent need, and we have the cross-party consensus to double the Scottish Child Payment. If your government is to truly make ending child poverty a ‘national mission', and if we are to ensure that a more just Scotland emerges from the pandemic, then we must not delay. Children growing up in the grip of poverty right now – as well as their parents and care-givers - simply cannot endure until the end of this Parliament to be unlocked from poverty. Their lives and life chances are too important for this action to wait.

"The evidence is clear that if it is doubled now, it will represent the single most impactful action that could be taken to help meet the interim child poverty targets in 2023, and would signal that ending child poverty will be a defining priority for this Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament. If it is not, more and more children will be pulled into poverty and the opportunity to meet the interim child poverty targets will be missed. Under the current roll out plan and value, the Scottish Child Payment will reduce poverty in Scotland by between 2 and 3 percentage points. This could leave child poverty rates as high as 26% in 2023/24, when the interim target in legislation for that year is 18%. We cannot allow that to happen.

"We therefore urge your government to do the right thing, to capitalise on the cross-party consensus that already exists, and to commit to doubling the Scottish Child Payment in this year's budget. We look forward to your response."

Read the full letter here.

Signatories

Organisations supporting the letter include Church of Scotland, EIS, Unite, STUC, Scottish Refugee Council, Scottish Women's Convention, Human Rights Consortium Scotland, Scottish Christian Alliance, Glasgow Disability Alliance, Scottish Association of Social Work, Citizens Advice Scotland, Shelter Scotland, Christians Against Poverty, and Scottish Women's Aid.

Individuals supporting the letter include Professor James Mitchell (Professor of Public Policy, University of Edinburgh), Professor Sharon Wright (Professor of Social Policy, University of Glasgow, and Professor John McKendrick (Co-Director of the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit, Glasgow Caledonian University).