Families on low incomes need an urgent cash boost to help them through the pandemic, child poverty campaigners have said.
End Child Poverty – a coalition of 70 UK charities, faith groups, unions and other organisations – say struggling families need “direct and immediate financial support”.
A new benefit for under-sixes called the Scottish child payment, which gives eligible families £10 per week per child, is open to applications from November but the first payments will not be made until February next year.
End Child Poverty says an equivalent payment should be made to help low-income families in the intervening months, with the need particularly urgent as the furlough scheme winds down.
Martin Canavan, head of policy at children’s charity Aberlour, said on behalf of the campaign group: “We are urging the Scottish Government to act quickly to protect children from poverty by bridging the gap until the initial roll-out of the Scottish child payment next year.
“Low-income families need direct and immediate financial support and this should be at least equivalent in value to the £10 per week per child payment for all eligible families.”
He continued: “Many families are facing desperate situations; we know there are over 30,000 more families with children who are now claiming Universal Credit in Scotland since Covid-19 hit.
“Low-paid women and their children, who were already at particular risk of poverty, have been put at even greater risk as a result of being disproportionately impacted by unemployment and enforced reduction of hours.
“The last five months will have caused yet more stress to those already walking the tightest of financial tightropes.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We recognise that this is a difficult time for many families and more people are facing financial insecurity from the economic impacts of coronavirus.
“We are doing everything with the powers we have to tackle poverty, including child poverty – but the UK Government retains control of many of the key welfare policies.
“It must match our efforts by taking action to reverse welfare cuts which are hitting harder than ever – including the benefit cap, bedroom tax, and two child limit, as well as making fundamental alterations to Universal Credit.
“Our policies include the introduction of the new Scottish child payment which will tackle child poverty head-on, while in order to provide immediate support to families we have more than doubled the Scottish welfare fund, increased the budget for Discretionary Housing Payments by £5 million and invested over £110 million to tackle food insecurity caused by the crisis – including extending free school meal provision over the summer holidays.
“We are also taking action to support people into employment with a £100 million package to help those looking for work or at risk of redundancy, including a job guarantee for young people and a new national retraining scheme as well as a £2.35 million increase for our parental employability support fund.”
Picture: UK five pound, ten pound, twenty pound and fifty pound notes with one pound coins. (Dominic Lipinski/PA).