Charities call for emergency increase in child benefit



More than 40 of Scotland’s leading children’s charities, faith groups, trade unions, community groups and anti-poverty organisations have joined civic organisations from across the UK to call on the Chancellor to increase child benefit by £10 a week per child to help families through the COVID-19 crisis. 

The signatories – including Child Poverty Action GroupAberlour, the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), Church of Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland, Citizens Advice Scotland and the Poverty Alliance - welcome the steps taken so far to support household incomes during the pandemic, but say low-income families need more help with meeting children’s needs and unexpected costs while schools are closed.
 
They said: “We are calling for emergency support for children to ensure all parents can cover the basic costs of raising their children in the face of reduced income and before the new income protection measures can take effect.

“As child benefit reaches most families (12.7 million children receive it ) it offers an effective, fast and resilient way to get money to families through our existing infrastructure - families will get the help they need directly into their bank accounts to cover additional costs.”

Because since 2011 child benefit has been subject to freezes and sub-inflationary uprating, more than half the suggested £10 increase would simply restore its value to 2010.

According to the charities, a £10 child benefit uplift, on top of this week’s planned annual uprating, would reduce child poverty by around five percentage points. That’s a bigger reduction than is achieved by the £20 increase in Universal Credit and working tax credit that the Chancellor has announced. 

The benefit cap – which limits the total amount of benefit a household can receive - would need to be lifted to enable all families to gain from the £10 child benefit uplift.

The signatories added: “Swift action to strengthen the finances of families and to shield children from additional hardship is critical in such exceptionally difficult times.”

Commenting on the letter, John Dickie, director of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said: “The number of organisations behind this letter to the Chancellor mean it must not, and cannot, be ignored. Children need to be protected from the impact of coronavirus, and increasing child benefit is the quickest and most effective way of ensuring families have the additional resources they need in these extraordinarily difficult times.”

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