Scottish Government child poverty plans ‘not enough’

Monday 7th October 2019

Scottish Government plans to stop more than one in four children growing up in poverty will ‘not be enough’ without also providing more affordable housing, according to an expert assessment.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says more than one million Scots are ‘locked’ in poverty – including just under a quarter of a million children.

This equates to one in five adults and one in four youngsters.

Published to mark challenge poverty week, the report says levels of deprivation north of the border are still ‘significantly lower’ than elsewhere in the UK.

Government efforts to keep rents for social and council homes lower are pinpointed as the ‘crucial’ factor behind this.

In 2017 rent in Scotland was 14% lower for housing association tenants and 18% lower for council tenants compared with England.

But the charity warns deprivation rates have been on rising since 2009.

It says social security and new benefit powers that have been devolved to Scotland cannot ‘do all the heavy lifting.’

Instead ‘new game-changer’ policies are needed to boost the number of social homes and make rents more affordable.

Jim McCormick of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says progress in bringing down poverty levels in the last 20 years is in danger of “unravelling”.

 “The recent announcement of the Scottish Child Payment shows what can be achieved when we are bolder in our thinking and accept that only large-scale action will ease the pressure facing families trapped in poverty. While this new payment will start to turn the tide, it will not by itself be enough to enable every child to break free from poverty.

“As we mark challenge poverty week, it is vital that ministers in Holyrood match their ambitious targets to solve poverty with the scale of action on housing, work and social security needed to make this a reality.”

Scottish communities secretary Aileen Campbell said: “I welcome the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s recognition of our bold commitment to reduce child poverty in Scotland. This comes after UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston said Scotland is on a ‘very different trajectory’ than England when it comes to the social protection of our people.

“The Scottish Government invested over £1.4 billion to support low income households last year, including the £100 million we invest each year to mitigate the worst impacts of UK Government welfare changes.

“Our new Scottish Child Payment has rightly been described as game-changing in terms of the potential to reduce child poverty. Once fully rolled out, the benefit could help up to 410,000 eligible under 16s and lift 30,000 children out of poverty.

Ms Campbell said the Scottish Government was 'on track' to deliver 50,000 new affordable homes by 2021, more than two thirds of which will be for social rent.

She added: “But we do this in face of challenges that could push more people into poverty – both a disastrous ‘no deal’ Brexit and continuing UK Government welfare changes that are harming people. However we remain committed to tackle poverty and  inequalities in Scotland through our range of ambitious actions.”