Martin Whitfield MSP has called for the Scottish Child Payment to be quadrupled in order to help tackle child poverty in East Lothian and across South Scotland.
In East Lothian, there are nearly 5,000 children living in poverty – a rate of 24.5 per cent.
This week in the Programme for Government the SNP failed to set out a concrete timeline for doubling the Scottish Child Payment and gave no mention to going any further.
Currently 930 children in East Lothian receive the Scottish Child Payment – all of whom would benefit instantly from an increase in the rate of payment. However, the true number of children who will be helped will be much higher once eligibility is extended from under 6s to cover all under 16s and take-up is improved.
Increasing the Scottish Child Payment to £40 per week is expected to lift up to 80,000 children out of poverty across Scotland, slashing it by nearly a third with one move. This would also get Scotland back on track to meet its statutory child poverty reduction targets.
In 2017, Holyrood agreed the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act, which mandates that by 2023/24 fewer than 18 per cent of children should be in relative poverty, and that by 2030/31 it should be fewer than 10 per cent.
However, child poverty in East Lothian has been rising, increasing by 2.6 per cent between 2015 and 2020. Forecasts indicate that the Scottish Government is on track to miss its national interim child poverty target by six percentage points – leaving an extra 50,000 children in poverty.
At the election Scottish Labour called for the immediate doubling of the Scottish Child Payment to tackle poverty. This call has been backed in recent weeks by over 100 leading poverty organisations and faith groups in an open letter to the First Minister.
Now Scottish Labour is calling on the SNP go further and get back on track to meet child poverty reduction targets by immediately doubling the Scottish Child Payment and raising it to £40 per week in 2022/23.
Commenting, Martin Whitfield MSP said:
“Even one child living in poverty is one too many – so it is simply shameful that around 5,000 children in East Lothian are currently in poverty.
“Increasing the Scottish Child Payment would transform countless lives in a single move. In East Lothian, close to a thousand children would benefit instantly, and many more as eligibility is extended.
“This is our best chance to meet Scotland’s legal Child Poverty targets – but more importantly it is an opportunity to make a real difference to these children’s lives.
“We don’t have the luxury of wasting more time. We can act now to tackle the scourge of child poverty in East Lothian and across Scotland – let’s make it happen.”