Campaigners condemn ‘unacceptably high' child poverty rates in local areas
Campaigners have called for urgent action after new research shows child poverty rates are “unacceptably high” at local levels in Scotland.
The End Child Poverty Coalition, consisting of 101 organisations, has said all levels of government in the UK can do more to reduce the number of children living in poverty.
Just four local authority areas in Scotland had child poverty rates below 18% in 2021/22, according to new research by Loughborough University.
However, the Scottish Government is aiming to have child poverty rates under this target by 2023/24, and under 10% by 2030.
East Renfrewshire had the lowest estimated rate of 14.4%, followed by East Dunbartonshire, 14.9%, the Shetland Islands 15.4% and Aberdeenshire 16%.
The statistics were calculated based on the number of children who live in a household with a median income below 60% after housing costs are removed.
Glasgow City, North Ayrshire and Clackmannanshire had the highest child poverty rates, with 32%, 29% and 28.3% respectively.
Child poverty rates across Scotland suggest nearly one in four children (24%) are in poverty, compared to 29% across the UK.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group, made a number of recommendations to national and local governments on behalf of the End Child Poverty coalition.
The recommendations include urging the UK Government to scrap the two-child benefit limit – where families with additional children born after April 2017 cannot access further financial aid, while the Scottish Government should do more to mitigate the policy.
The roll-out of the Scottish Child Payment of £25 for eligible children under 16 was praised by campaigners, however they urge ministers to increase its value.
Mr Dickie said: “These latest statistics are a stark reminder that child poverty remains unacceptably high across the UK, including in every local authority area of Scotland.
“It’s now absolutely vital that the UK Government scraps the poverty creating policies like the two-child limit.”
He added: “Here in Scotland, the Scottish Child Payment is already making a big difference to struggling families, but nearly one in four children still face this deep injustice and further effort is now needed to ensure Scotland’s upcoming child poverty targets are met.
“The First Minister has committed to use devolved powers to the ‘absolute maximum effect’, so his Government must now do the right thing and go further to both increase the value of the Scottish Child Payment and put in place additional payments for families affected by the two-child limit.”
He also called for local governments in Scotland to ‘double down’ on child poverty action plans by putting low income families at the centre of decision-making.
The UK Government said two million fewer people, including 400,000 children, were in absolute poverty than in 2009/10.
A spokesperson said: “We are providing a £94 billion package of immediate cost-of-living support worth around £3,300 per household.
“But in the long-term, the best route out of poverty is through employment, which is why we are boosting our childcare offers to help more parents to re-enter and progress in work.
“The two-child policy asks families on benefits to make the same financial decisions as families supporting themselves solely through work, and there continues to be careful exemptions and safeguards in place within the policy to protect people in the most vulnerable circumstances.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Tackling poverty and protecting people from harm is one of three critical missions for this government.
“This year and last we have allocated almost £3 billion to support policies to tackle poverty and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
“We have continually urged the UK Government to also take urgent action and match our ambitions to tackle poverty.
“We have a range of actions in our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan and our five family payments could be worth over £10,000 by the time an eligible child turns six – over £8,000 more than families in England and Wales.
“This includes the Scottish Child Payment which 303,000 children are now benefitting from and is projected to lift 50,000 children out of poverty this year.
“In addition, we’re making £84 million available to protect people from the damaging impact of UK Government welfare cuts including the bedroom tax and benefit cap, and have taken action on rent.
“We are taking action within limited powers and fixed budget but it is only with the powers of an independent nation that we can use all the levers other governments have to tackle poverty and inequalities.”