Child poverty was rising before Covid, figures show

Behind the latest data are children whose education is diminished and life chances cut short, warn campaigners

Tes Reporter

Child poverty was rising in Scotland before Covid, figures show

Child poverty was increasing in Scotland before the Covid pandemic hit, the latest figures show, moving further away from the government’s targets to tackle the problem.

Data released today shows that 26 per cent of children (around 260,000) were living in relative poverty in 2019-20.

This was up from 23 per cent in 2018-19, when around 230,000 children were living in relative poverty.

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Households that are classed as being in poverty under this measurement have incomes below 60 per cent of the median UK income.

The 2017 Child Poverty (Scotland) Act, which was supported by all parties at the Scottish Parliament, set targets to reduce child poverty to less than 18 per cent by 2024 and less than 10 per cent by 2030.

Campaigners said the latest data is “utterly dismaying” and called for the new Scottish child payment benefit to be at least doubled. Almost 100,000 applications were made for the £10-a-week benefit when it launched earlier this year.

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland director John Dickie said: “It is utterly dismaying to see thousands more children across Scotland had been locked in poverty even before the pandemic struck.

Child poverty 'a source of national shame'

“That so many more children face the daily stress of seeing their parents fret over paying bills, buying food or getting into debt should be a source of national shame.

“Behind these statistics are children whose health is being undermined, education diminished and life chances cut short.

“The good news on a day of dismaying statistics is that here in Scotland many families are now already benefiting from the Scottish government’s new £10-a-week Scottish child payment.”

Mr Dickie added: “These new figures demonstrate forcefully why the payment needs to be at the very least doubled as the next vital and urgent step toward meeting the child poverty targets agreed by all the Holyrood parties.

“We need every level of government working together to end the scandal of child poverty in a rich country.

“This rise in child poverty has been driven by eye-watering cuts to UK family benefits over recent years.

“Action to increase child benefit, end the two-child limit and make the Universal Credit uplift permanent must now also be an absolute priority for UK ministers.”

As parties launched their campaigns today for the Scottish Parliament elections, the Scottish Greens said the £10 Scottish child payment should be doubled to £20 as part of more ambitious proposals to tackle child poverty.

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