Scottish government policies could help cover up to a third of the ‘cost of a child’ for low income families, independent analysis finds:
- Out of work family incomes still fall a third short of what’s needed to meet actual costs of bringing up a child, but gap significantly smaller than elsewhere in UK
- Child poverty campaigners call for urgent roll out of child payment, doubling of bridging payments and free school meals to all primary children to ensure families protected as cost of living crisis grows
- UK government must increase universal credit and family benefits by at least 7% to match inflation, say campaigners
A new report commissioned by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland from the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University has analyzed the impact Scottish government policies and lower childcare costs have on the cost of bringing up a child.
The report builds on calculations which find that the minimum cost of bringing up a child in the UK, excluding childcare costs, is around £76,000 in a couple family and £103,000 in a lone parent family. The new Scottish analysis includes the impact of Scottish policies such as the Scottish child payment, minimum school clothing grants, best start payments and free bus travel.
Assuming the Scottish child payment is doubled and fully rolled out and all primary school children are receiving free school meals, it finds that:
- The combined value of Scottish government policies and lower childcare costs reduces the net cost of bringing up a child by up to 31% (nearly £24,000) for lower income families, once all announced policies are in place.
- Once fully implemented throughout primary school universal free school meals make the cost of bringing up a child £1,700 cheaper, whilst free bus travel saves £3,000 in the lifetime cost of a child in Scotland compared to England. The Scottish child payment will bring in a total of £16,700 over 16 years to help cover the cost of a child for families in receipt of universal credit.
- A family with two children in Scotland on out-of-work benefits still falls 30% short of meeting their needs, compared to over 40% in the rest of the UK. The shortfall will be greater for families hit by the UK government benefit cap.
John Dickie Director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said
“This new analysis shows just how big a difference long campaigned for policies like the doubling of the Scottish child payment and roll out of universal free school meals will make. But it’s absolutely vital Holyrood Ministers press ahead to ensure they are all delivered this year and that all families are able to take up the extra support they are eligible for. Scotland really is making progress tackling child poverty, but as the cost of living soars families need extra help now if they are to stay afloat this year. That means every level of government must step up to the plate. The Chancellor needs to ensure UK financial support for families increases with inflation – an April increase of at least 7% to match the Bank of England’s forecast of inflation, not the 3.1% planned – and he needs to scrap the benefit cap so the increase reaches every family that needs it.”
Donald Hirsch, Professor of Social Policy and Director, Centre for Research in Social Policy, Loughborough University and the author of the report commented
“The rising cost of raising a child and the failure in recent years to match this with improvements in help from the state has left many families in the UK struggling to make ends meet. This report shows however that in Scotland, families are significantly better off in this regard, as a result of Scottish Government policies seeking to address the problem, and also childcare costs that have not risen as fast as in England. Benefit levels still remain well below what families need but it is encouraging to see policies at the Scottish level that make a substantial difference for families.”
For further details contact John Dickie, Director of CPAG in Scotland on 07795 340 618
- The Cost of a child in Scotland was published Wed 9th March at https://cpag.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/report/cost-child-scotland-2022
- The Cost of a Child studies are based on the Minimum Income Standards research which entails a sequence of detailed deliberations by groups of members of the public, informed by expert knowledge where needed. The research process involves agreement being reached by groups of members of the public, and then checked and rechecked by subsequent groups. Each group has detailed discussions stating its rationale for what should be included in a minimum household budget. The standard thus represents a considered, settled agreement on what is the minimum needed, rather than just a collection of subjective opinions held by individuals. For further information, see https://www.lboro.ac.uk/research/crsp/mis/ . Author of the report Professor Donald Hirsch is Director of the Centre for Research in Social Policy, where he leads the Minimum Income Standard for the UK programme.
- ‘Net income’ refers to disposable income after rent, council tax and childcare.
- The figure showing the cost of a child to a lone parent is higher than that for couples because certain fixed costs of having children are offset by greater adult savings for the couple. For example, the costs of having a car are offset by greater savings on public transport fares when there are two adults not one.
- The Scottish government has committed to doubling the Scottish child payment from April 2022 and rolling it out to all eligible under 16’s by Dec 2022. Bridging payments for some school aged children are in place to support over fives until full roll out, but as yet there is no commitment to double these.
- The roll out of free school meals to all P6 and P7 pupils had been promised by Aug 2022, but has since been replaced by a commitment to deliver “later in the Parliamentary term”.