Leaders and organisations from across Scottish society have joined together to call on the First Minister to speed up the introduction of a new income supplement to tackle child poverty.
Poverty campaigners, faith leaders, academics, children’s charities, trade unions, women’s groups and industry bodies have today written a joint letter to the First Minister pushing for the government to commit to bringing forward the supplement because “kids can’t wait”.
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 (26 June).
The supplement is not due to be introduced until 2022, but campaigners say that is too far away for families living in poverty, and want to see 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. This will mean that ministers will fail to meet targets set in the Child Poverty Act unless more urgent and ambitious action is taken.
Around 240,000 children live in poverty in Scotland and campaigners say that they should not be forced to wait until 2022 for the valuable lifeline that the income supplement can provide.
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.”
Jackie Brock, chief executive of national charity Children in Scotland, said: “The level of poverty many families are experiencing in Scotland in 2019 is an affront to our society’s shared instincts about fairness, justice and equality. It must not be tolerated.
“Harsh austerity policies pursued by UK governments over the last nine years have been the major driving force behind this. However, the Scottish Government has the power to act now and stop further increases in child poverty. It needs to be bolder and more ambitious if it is to meet its own targets laid out in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act.
“Early implementation of the family income supplement would make a crucial difference to children and families across Scotland, and would demonstrate that what UN rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston has described as the ‘principles of dignity and social security as a human right’ are alive in Scotland.”
Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said the government’s first Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan outlines the range of actions to be taken to help meet our child poverty targets, backed by a £50m fund.
She said: “Our actions include working on development of a new income supplement and we have involved stakeholders, including Poverty Alliance and many of their signatories, in that work.
“A one-year progress report on the delivery plan will be given to parliament on Wednesday.”