Kids can’t wait for new income supplement, warns Scotland’s civic society

Housing associations, homelessness charities and organisations from across Scottish society have today written a joint letter to call on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to speed up the introduction of a new income supplement to tackle child poverty.

The Scottish Government is set to update Parliament on its plans to introduce an income supplement to top up the earnings of parents on low incomes in a statement to MSPs on Wednesday.

The supplement is currently not due to be introduced until 2022.

The organisations, which include the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and Whiteinch & Scotstoun Housing Association, have warned that this is too far away for families living in poverty and have called for legislation included in the next Programme for Government and an interim version to be delivered ahead of legislation being passed.

Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Institute for Public Policy Research Scotland has found that the equivalent of one classroom of children a day – a school a month – are being pulled into poverty in Scotland. The Scottish Government’s own forecasts suggest that without action, the child poverty rate will rise to 35% by 2020/21.

According to the campaigners, this will mean that ministers will fail to meet targets set in the Child Poverty Act unless more urgent and ambitious action is taken.

They argue that the 240,000 children currently living in poverty in Scotland should not be forced to wait until 2022 for the valuable lifeline that the income supplement can provide.

Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, moderator of the Church of Scotland, said: “In a caring society we need to ensure that everyone is protected. The way we look after our children is a key indicator of how well we are putting our values into practice. Delivering the income supplement before 2022 would go a long way to put our words into deeds and would make a significant difference for many families today.”

Kerrie Friel, anti-poverty activist and lone parent of four children, said: “Too many families are being swept up in the rising tide of poverty, struggling to pay bills and put food on the table. The new Income Supplement will be a lifeline for families desperate to stay afloat, but we need it now. Kids can’t wait.”

Signatories to the letter also include Business in the Community Scotland, The Poverty Alliance, The Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Bishop William Nolan, President of the Scottish Unitarian Association, Royal College of Paediatrics, IPPR Scotland, Citizens Advice Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Inclusion Scotland, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Children in Scotland, NSPCC, Children 1st, Child Poverty Action Group, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland, Educational Institute Scotland, Deep End GP Group, Scottish Youth Parliament, NASUWT, Oxfam Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland, Aberlour, Voluntary Health Scotland, the Scottish Association of Social Work, Health and Social Care Alliance, Scottish Directors of Public Health and thirteen leading academics.

The full text of the letter reads:

Dear First Minister,

Ahead of the Scottish Government’s statement on Wednesday on the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, we have come together to urge you to bring forward the introduction of the income supplement for low income families from the current delivery date of 2022.

All of our organisations strongly welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to the income supplement, and we share your belief in the need to use Scotland’s social security powers to loosen the grip of poverty on people’s lives.

However, as you will know, child poverty projections for the coming years are stark. The Scottish Government’s own forecasts show that, without action, the child poverty rate is projected to rise to 35% by 2020/21. We will fail to meet the targets set by the Child Poverty Act unless more urgent and ambitious action is taken.

It is the firmly-held belief of our organisations that the urgent delivery of the income supplement must be one such action. The 240,000 children living in poverty in our communities across Scotland cannot wait until 2022 for the valuable lifeline that the income supplement can provide. For families in the grip of poverty right now who are struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table, 2022 is simply too far away. Families urgently need the anchor of the income supplement to prevent them from being pulled further into poverty.

This is particularly true for women, who are more likely to experience poverty than men. Women’s poverty is inextricably interlinked with child poverty, as women have a disproportionate responsibility for caring for children and account for 91% of lone parents.

We are therefore writing to you to urge that the statement this week commits to four key actions:

  • That legislation for the income supplement will be contained within the next Programme for Government and passed within this parliamentary session.
  • That the Scottish Government will explore all options for delivering either an interim or streamlined version of the income supplement in advance of the passing of legislation.
  • That an initial budget for the income supplement is announced as part of the budget process for 2020/21 and any spending review.
  • That the income supplement be delivered at such a scale as to make substantive progress toward the government’s statutory child poverty targets.

We recognise that the safe and secure delivery of devolved social security entitlements is a priority for the Scottish Government. But with the equivalent of one classroom of children a day – a school a month – being pulled into poverty in Scotland, we cannot afford to wait.

If we want to live in a Scotland where every child really does have every chance, we must act sooner than 2022. The statement on Wednesday offers the opportunity to make that happen, and we urge you to seize it.

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