Scottish Government urged to outline child poverty strategy
Charities have called on the Scottish Government to explain how it will use its pending new powers to improve benefits and cut poverty.
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) will convene 180 delegates at a welfare rights conference in Glasgow today.
Social justice secretary Alex Neil will encourage delegates and welfare workers to work together to bring the UK government’s austerity agenda to a halt. Mr Neil said that Westminster will freeze working age benefit tax credits and child benefit, and reduce benefit spending in Scotland by £130 million.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “With key areas of social security set to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, today’s Child Poverty Action Group conference is bringing together over 180 frontline advisers to get the latest details on what exactly is being proposed and share ideas on how new powers might be used to improve benefit support and tackle poverty more effectively.
“The discussion is crucial, coming as it does against a backdrop of rising child poverty and the threat of further cuts to the UK benefits that families both in and out of work rely on.”
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimate that 11 million families in the UK, including an estimated one million families in Scotland, will be affected by the plans to freeze benefits.
Ahead of the conference Mr Neil will visit the Shettleston Housing Association’s Smelly Welly Club gardening project in Glasgow which encourages children and their parents to get together to grow their own food, save money and improve their diets.
Mr Neil said: “The UK government’s proposed £12 billion cuts will have a detrimental impact on Scotland and will do nothing to tackle the scourge of child poverty.
“We need to present a united front against these additional measures and I would encourage every organisation working to tackle inequalities and fighting poverty to add their voice to this debate.
“Through our child poverty strategy we are already working with partners to reduce levels of poverty amongst households with children and to break inter-generational cycles of poverty, inequality and deprivation.
“The Scottish Government, alongside CPAG and others, wants a more equal society, we want to create jobs and lift people out of poverty, and we will continue to listen to the advice of organisations who are working directly with families across the country.
“However, if we are having to fund mitigation then we have a much harder challenge ahead of us.
“Our resources should be used to take positive action and tackle existing inequalities, not fight just to keep people at a standing position.
“The Smith Commission proposals gave the Scottish Government limited powers to make real inroads into child poverty outcomes.
“We will work with all concerned to make sure that the new powers we have will lead to better results for people in Scotland.”