CPAG in Scotland responds to Programme for Government
- First Minister is right to prioritise childcare, but more direct cash support still needed to meet child poverty targets say campaigners.
- “Disappointment” at lack of further detail on First Minister’s commitment to increase Scottish child payment to £30.
Responding to today’s Programme for Government statement from the First Minister, John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland said:
“The First Minister is right to prioritise childcare as key to tackling child poverty. We look forward to seeing the details but today’s announcements are welcome. It is vital childcare is funded and delivered in ways that ensure it is available where and when struggling families need it and that it provides the highest quality early learning and out of school opportunities. Today’s announcement needs to be the first step in a transformation of our childcare system so that all parents, especially mums, can work the hours they want, confident that their children are in settings where they are thriving. Childcare services must be designed to meet the needs of families most at risk of poverty, but we need to see a continuation of a universal approach as the best way to maximise take up and ensure all children, but especially those at risk of poverty, benefit.
In a briefing circulated to all MSPs prior to todays statement the Child Poverty Action Group argued that childcare must be part of a wider package of policies needed to meet statutory child poverty targets, including an increase to the Scottish child payment to at the very least £30, as pledged by the First Minister in his leadership campaign (note 2). To be sure of bringing child poverty below 18% (the interim statutory child poverty target) they say a £40 Scottish child payment is needed (note 3).
The campaigners welcomed the First Minister's confirmation that income thresholds will be removed for eligibility for Best Start Foods, and school clothing grants increased in line with inflation. However, responding to the lack of any further detail on the First Ministers campaign pledge to increase the child payment to £30 Mr Dickie said:
“It is disappointing not to hear any further detail on the First Minister’s commitment to look to increase the Scottish child payment, or any action to mitigate the two-child limit in UK benefits. Families with children are reeling under the pressure of a cost-of-living crisis that followed years of UK cuts to in-work and out-of-work benefits. It is now vital that he uses the forthcoming Budget to deliver on the campaign commitments he made, and at the very, very least increase the Scottish child payment to £30 per week. There is no credible route to meeting the government’s child poverty targets that does not involve further investment in social security alongside action to transform childcare and the employment opportunities available to parents.”
CPAG in Scotland point to the government’s own analysis (see Note 1) showing that the interim child poverty target may be missed, and that the government’s current policy package is not sufficient to meet the 2030 target of less than 10% of children living in poverty by 2030. With one in four children still locked in poverty they say the Scottish government must act to:
- Increase the Scottish child payment at the very least to £30 per week from April 2024, as committed by the First Minister in his leadership campaign (note 2). To be sure of bringing child poverty below 18% (the interim statutory child poverty target) they say a £40 Scottish child payment is needed (note 3).
- Provide additional cash payments to families impacted by the UK government’s poverty producing two-child benefit limit and by the young parent penalty in universal credit. CPAG analysis shows the two-child limit affects over 80 000 children in Scotland and pushes up to 15 000 of them into poverty.
- Further invest in childcare so that every parent can access the childcare they need, when they need it.
- Keep the manifesto commitment to increase the minimum school clothing grant in line with inflation. That would mean lifting them to at least £150 (from £120) for primary school and £185 (from £150) for high school pupils by summer 2024.
- Ensure that schools have sufficient resources to remove cost barriers, including to provide every child with a device and connectivity; remove costs for curriculum related trips and activities and ensure all pupils can attend ‘rite of passage’ trips.
- Be bold in using tax powers in a progressive way to ensure sufficient resources are available to fully deliver on the actions that are needed to tackle child poverty.
For further comment contact John Dickie, Director of CPAG in Scotland on 07795 340 618.
 “Yousaf has previously announced he would look to increase the payment, but says he would push it to £30 per week from £25 in his first budget if elected first minister.” https://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2023/mar/07/snp-leadership-debate-live-hamza-yousaf-kate-forbes-and-ash-regan-to-set-out-visions-for-scotland and https://twitter.com/CPAGScotland/status/1633482352193052673.
 Further details of the actions CPAG believe need to be included in the Programme for Government can be found here.