New official poverty statistics reveal ‘utterly dismaying’ rise in child poverty in Scotland and across UK – even before pandemic hit | CPAG

New official poverty statistics reveal ‘utterly dismaying’ rise in child poverty in Scotland and across UK – even before pandemic hit

Published on: 
25 March 2021
Written by: 

John Dickie

Director of CPAG in Scotland

 

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland

Media Release

For immediate release

 

Thursday, 25th March 2021

 

New official poverty statistics reveal ‘utterly dismaying’ rise in child poverty in Scotland and across UK – even before pandemic hit

 

· But Scottish child poverty targets can be met if Scottish child payment is increased, and ‘at the very least doubled as vital next step,’ say campaigners

 

New official statistics published today by the Scottish and UK governments reveal rising child poverty across the country, even before the pandemic hit.

 

In Scotland 260 000 children were living in poverty in 2019/20 (26% of all children), an increase from 23% (230 000) children in 2018/19. The rolling three year average number of children in poverty was up from 23% (230 000 children) to 24% (240 000) between 2016-19 and 2017-20. 16% of all children experienced persistent poverty, having lived in poverty in three or more of the four years 2015-19 (up from 15%). Across the UK 31% of all children were still locked in poverty.

 

All Holyrood’s political parties backed the 2017 Child Poverty (Scotland) Act which set targets to reduce child poverty to less than 18% by 2023/24 and less than 10% by 2030. A new Scottish child payment of £10 per week for each child in families receiving universal credit or equivalent legacy benefits was introduced from February this year for children under six. It is to be rolled out to all eligible under 16s by the end of 2022. The Scottish government forecasts this will reduce child poverty by three percentage points, lifting around 30 000 children out of poverty by 2023/24.

 

Responding to the latest statistics John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said:

 

“It is utterly dismaying to see thousands more children across Scotland had been locked in poverty even before the pandemic struck. 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. 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”.

 

Mr Dickie continued;

 

“Of course increasing family benefits on its own cannot end child poverty. With 68% of children in poverty living in families where an adult is working we need to see action on pay and conditions to make work a real route out of poverty for parents. Further action to tackle housing and chidlcare costs is also needed. But in order to reach the 2023/24 child poverty targets and build the foundations on which wider action to end child poverty can be built, investing significantly more in the Scottish child payment now is essential.”

 

All the current Holyrood political parties back the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 setting statutory targets to reduce child poverty to less than 18% by 2023/24 and less than 10% by 2030. Recent reports and analysis published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, IPPR Scotland and Fraser of Allandar Institute (see notes below) all suggest meeting the 2023/24 target means lifting at least 50 000 children out of poverty – with a Scottish child payment increase from the current £10 a week to £40 a week enough to achieve this in the absence of other substantial labour market and housing policy changes.

 

Ends

 

For further comment of background contact John Dickie, Director of CPAG in Scotland on 07795 340 618

 

Notes

 

Scottish Government Poverty and Inequality statistics are published today at https://www.gov.scot/collections/child-poverty-statistics/ and UK Households below average income (HBAI) statistics are published today at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/households-below-average-income-hbai--2 .

Scottish government forecasts suggest that the existing £10 a week Scottish child payment will lift around 30 000 children out of poverty by 2023/24. analysis from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggests that despite this the interim 2023/24 child poverty target enshrined in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act will be missed by four percentage points, with 40,000 more children left in poverty than if the targets were met. However meeting the target is possible if the Scottish child payment is increased, they conclude.

IPPR analysis Better than before: A 'social renewal supplement' on higher earners in Scotland published March 2021 demonstrates how reducing the Higher Rate Tax Threshold down to £40 000 (equivalent to a £5 a week increase for higher earners each year for three years) could in itself generate the resources needed to lift 50 000 more children out of poverty by increasing the Scottish child payment from £10 to £40 per week, lifting 50 000 more children out of poverty.

Fraser of Allander analysis published yesterday 24th March 2021 at https://fraserofallander.org/poverty-and-inequality-looking-pre-and-post-pandemic/ concludes that the “good news is that, based on the assumption of broad economic recovery over the next few years, our analysis shows that meeting these (Child Poverty) targets is possible with the powers that the Scottish Government currently hold” and that “if the Scottish Child Payment was used alone to meet the target, a payment of £40 a week would meet the interim target and cost in the region of half a billion a year”.