FMQs: Johnstone calls for radical action on child poverty

Scottish Greens Parliamentary Co-Leader Alison Johnstone MSP this afternoon (28 March) said that radical measures to boost the incomes of poorer Scots households are needed, as Scottish Government figures showed a rise in the estimated number of children living in poverty.

At FMQs Ms Johnstone highlighted the new statistics, which show a rise in estimates the number of Scots children living in Relative Child Poverty, measured after Housing Costs, from 230,000 to 240,000. In percentage terms, this is a 1% increase using 1-year figures (23%-24%).

They come less than a week after the Resolution Foundation’s report Wrong direction: can Scotland hit its child poverty targets? projected that 29% of children in Scotland will be in relative poverty by 2023/24, well short of the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act target of 18%.

Scottish Greens back a range of measure designed to significantly cut the rate of child poverty. Green MSPs stood for election to the Scottish Parliament on a manifesto commitment to increase Child Benefit by £5 using new top-up powers; have campaigned to increase all reserved and devolved social security payments by inflation; won a commitment to roll-out nationally a money advice scheme for families that could boost incomes by £9m; campaigned to scrap the Benefit Cap in Scotland, and pushed to maximise take-up of social security entitlements.

The Resolution Foundation last week hailed Green-initiated local tax reform talks as having the potential to lead to reforms that might cut child poverty.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“This increase in the numbers of children living in poverty is hugely concerning. This is yet more evidence, not that any more was needed, that UK welfare reforms are plunging hundreds of thousands of people into poverty, many of them children.

“A U-turn on welfare reform from the UK Government is required more than ever. It should remove the Two Child Limit; end the Benefit Cap, which can take more than £2000 a year from our poorest families, and stop the cruel benefits freeze.

“But the Scottish Government must consider more radical action too. We should be topping-up Child Benefit by £5 right now, and not wait until the proposed Income Supplement is ready. And we must redouble efforts to maximise take-up of social security by raising awareness and making devolved payments as easy as possible to apply for and receive.”

“Greens have been working hard to get extra money where it needs to go. Green budget deals have put hundreds of millions back into Local Government, ensured that the richest Scots pay more to support our poorer families and mean that poverty-fighting local tax reform is back on the agenda.”