'Devastating' rise in child poverty in Scotland

Woman and child
Image caption About four million people are living in poverty around the UK

More than a quarter of children in Scotland were living in relative poverty after housing costs in 2015-2016, according to government figures.

It marks what charities described as a "devastating" rise of 4% from the previous year.

Overall figures show 1.05 million people in Scotland were in relative poverty after they had paid housing costs, up 2% from the previous year.

Ministers said making a fairer and more equal Scotland was a "core ambition".

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, challenged both the Scottish and UK governments to act quickly to address the problem.

"We cannot afford to lose sight of the tens of thousands of children across Scotland that lie behind these statistics and the devastating impact that poverty will too often have on their health, wellbeing and life chances," Mr Dickie said.

"These figures highlight just how important the Child Poverty Bill currently before the Scottish Parliament is. But legislation alone won't end poverty and the Scottish government must now act quickly to implement the kind of concrete, practical policies that would make a significant dent in these figures.

"The latest modelling suggests that using new powers to top-up child benefit by £5 a week would, for example, reduce child poverty in Scotland by up to 14%, lifting around 30,000 children out of poverty."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Most child poverty now is in families with a working parent

The National Statistics Publication for Scotland said: "Estimates for 2015-2016 signal relative child poverty increased before and after housing costs, but the combined low income and material deprivation rate for children has remained steady.

"This suggests that despite the indicative upward push on poverty rates, there has been no overall change in the ability of low-income households to afford necessities."

Figures show that about four million children are living in poverty across the UK.

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: "Too often when we think about poverty, it is about those who are out of work. However, these statistics show that for too many families in Scotland work is no longer a route out of poverty.

"With 70% of children in poverty living in households where someone is in work, there is also a clear role for employers to play their part in tackling poverty."

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said the Scottish government was working hard to reduce child poverty, but that it was hampered by the UK government's "failed austerity agenda" and £1bn of cuts to welfare spend in Scotland.

She added: "We want to substantially reduce the number of children experiencing the damaging effects of poverty by 2030.

"That's just one of the 50 steps we've set out in our Fairer Scotland Action Plan to create a more equal country.

"These include using new social security powers to provide better support where we can, increasing free childcare and building 50,000 affordable homes to reduce housing costs."

Scottish Labour's social justice spokeswoan Pauline McNeill MSP said: "These are distressing figures.

"There does not appear to be a cohesive plan to tackle the scandal of children living in poverty.

"Labour has a plan to use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to top-up child benefit, which could lift 30,000 children out of poverty by the end of the decade and boost families' incomes by £240 a year."

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