MSPs urged to use Budget Bill to top-up child benefit by £5

Published on: 
01 February 2017

Children’s Commissioner and faith groups join children’s charities, unions and anti-poverty groups in call for investment in family incomes to help end child poverty.

Leading voices from Scottish civil society[i] came together today to urge MSPs to press the Scottish Government to use the Budget Bill – which will be debated at Holyrood today – to top-up child benefit by £5 a week.

The coalition, which includes the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland, the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Women’s Convention, the Wheatley housing group, the PCS trade union and anti-poverty campaigners, has sent a briefing to all MSPs highlighting that a £5 top-up to child benefit could reduce child poverty in Scotland by a substantial 14%, lifting 30,000 children out of poverty[ii].

The briefing comes just a week after the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health[iii] reported poverty to be the “biggest cause of poor health” and highlighted that children living in poverty are much more likely to be in poor health, be overweight or obese, experience mental health problems, and die early.

The campaigners say that unless decisive action is taken, child poverty in Scotland will get much worse, with modelling from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) forecasting a 50% increase in child poverty across the UK by 2020[iv]. It highlighted the need for the Scottish Government to use all the tools at its disposal - including new social security powers – to tackle the issue.

John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, a leading group behind the call, said;

“Five pounds a week might not seem like much for many of us but for hard-pressed families it would make all the difference. It could be the difference between a child going on a school trip or missing out, or the difference between a trip to the food bank and a trip to the supermarket. We urge MSPs of all parties to make sure the Scottish Government uses this budget – and the new social security powers at its disposal – to invest in family incomes and make a defining impact on levels of child poverty.”

“The Scottish Government commitment to eradicate child poverty in Scotland by 2030 is hugely welcome as are the commitments already made to introduce Best Start grants, but the new power to top up benefits provides an opportunity to take an even greater step towards achieving that goal. Topping up child benefit by just £5 a week could not only reduce child poverty by 14%, it would set Scotland on a different trajectory from the rest of the UK, which is facing a projected 50% rise in child poverty by 2020”

For more information contact John Dickie, Director of CPAG in Scotland at [email protected] or on 07795 340 618.

[i] Organisations include the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, the Church of Scotland, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Inclusion Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS), the Poverty Alliance, Children First, Children in Scotland, the Conforti Institute, BEMIS, the Third Sector Interface for Glasgow and the Wheatley Housing Group.

[ii] Based on modelling carried out by Prof. Jonathan Bradshaw and Antonia Keung, University of York, 2016. For more information see

[iii] State of Child Health Report 2017, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

[iv] Living Standards, Poverty and Inequality in the UK: 2015-16 to 2020-21. Table B2: Relative Poverty: 2007/08 to 2020/21. Research from the Resolution Foundation also projects increases in child poverty of up to 1.2 million across the UK by 2020/21 compared to 2016/17 available at