IPPR Scotland research shows need for urgent ‘stronger safety net’ to stop Scots falling into ‘deep poverty’
The Scottish Government must take further action to help provide a much stronger safety net for families if it is to meet its own child poverty targets and reduce ‘deep poverty,’ according to a new report from think tank IPPR (Institute of Public Policy Research) Scotland.
‘Tackling Child Poverty and Destitution’ has been written by IPPR Scotland on behalf of charities the Trussell Trust and Save the Children, to consider whether two of Scotland’s boldest welfare policies are doing enough for families and what more can be done to maximise their potential.
The findings stress that The Scottish Child Payment and Scottish Welfare Fund make a tangible difference to those struggling on a low income and putting money into people’s pockets is the most effective solution. Yet the evidence is clear that the Scottish Government is currently not on track to meet its own statutory child poverty targets and both policies must do more to meet growing needs and the deepening cost of living crisis.
The findings show that the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment is a ‘gamechanger’ in getting money directly to families in need.
One parent said: “It alleviates that pressure, that I won’t be counting down every last penny.”
The Scottish Welfare Fund is also a real lifeline to families, as one parent described: “(It) helped me get through…Sometimes I need that extra help through Crisis Grants – halfway through month, times are tight – after bills, it’s just food and (pre-payment) meters.”
But without further action, the Scottish Child Payment simply doesn’t go far enough, by itself, to meet the Scottish Government’s target to reduce child poverty. The charities are calling for ambitious action to double the payment to £40 to boost stretched incomes and increase uptake of the payment to coincide with full roll out in 2022.
In the face of the worst cost of living crisis in decades, the Scottish Welfare Fund is a vital policy tool that can support families struggling with escalating financial pressure - but it could do more to prevent hardship and destitution. The group is calling for an urgent review of crisis support offered through the Scottish Welfare Fund, and the value of the fund to be increased to meet higher levels of need.
This month sees the publication of the Scottish Government’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan – an opportunity to take bold steps to ensure every family has enough money to provide for their family, and help counteract the mounting cost of living crisis, set to cause escalating pressure for those families already making impossible decisions
Claire Telfer, Save the Children’s head of Scotland, said: “Families on the lowest incomes are already making impossible decisions to meet their basic needs. Families face even stronger headwinds in the months ahead as the cost of living spirals. As it currently stands, there is a real risk that more and more parents and children’s basic needs won’t be met.
“The Scottish Government’s Child Poverty Delivery Plan, due to be published this month, is an opportunity to take bold steps – like increasing the Scottish Child Payment to £40 a week - to ensure every family has enough money to provide for their family.
“Now is the moment to release the potential of key policy levers to fight child poverty and support families in crisis and prevent destitution. We already have the right tools in our toolbox to help families facing financial crisis and living through poverty. Our report shows how we can supercharge the Scottish Child Payment and Scottish Welfare Fund to deliver on their potential and provide a fairer future for families.”
Polly Jones, head of Scotland at the Trussell Trust, added: “The cost of living crisis means that families in Scotland on the very lowest incomes will continue to be hit the hardest over the coming months, and beyond. Everyone should be able to afford the essentials in life – but food banks in our network see far too many people facing impossible decisions, like whether to put food on the table or heat their homes. This isn’t right.
“Our new research shows the vital role the Scottish Child Payment and the Scottish Welfare Fund play in getting support to people who are struggling to make ends meet. But if we are serious about ending the need for food banks, the Scottish Government must ensure the Scottish Welfare Fund is properly resourced and raise the Scottish Child Payment to £40 a week. This is a vital opportunity to strengthen our social security system and help prevent parents from having to turn to charity to feed their families.”
Rachel Statham, associate director at IPPR Scotland, commented: “Urgent work is needed to meet Scotland’s interim child poverty targets, and now rising food and fuel prices are putting additional strain on families’ finances. The Scottish government must act quickly to protect people from the coming storm and get back on track to drastically reduce child poverty by 2030.
“This should start with commitments in this month’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan to make sure the Scottish Child Payment is going further, faster to protect families from being swept into poverty or pulled deeper underwater, alongside an urgent review of crisis support offered through the Scottish Welfare Fund. Now is the time for action that meets the scale of parliament’s ambitions.”