Greens make case to strengthen Child Poverty Bill

The Scottish Greens have bolstered the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill by successfully including provision requiring the Scottish Government to indicate if it will use new powers to boost the incomes of some of Scotland’s poorest families, including by topping-up- Child Benefit.

Opposition parties joined with the Greens in supporting Alison Johnstone’s amendment at the Stage 2 debate during a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s social security committee.

Alison Johnstone MSP’s amendment requires the Scottish Government to indicate whether it will use new social security powers to top-up Child Benefit and to ensure that an adequate provision of information, advice and assistance is given to parents and carers in relation to entitlements to social security.

Johnstone also successfully amended the bill to ensure that people with lived experience of poverty are consulted by Ministers as they draw up plans to reduce Child Poverty.

If accepted, other proposals by Johnstone will ask councils to report what they are doing to provide income maximisation advice and require the Scottish Government to explain how its annual budget will impact on progress made towards the Bill’s targets.

Lothian MSP Alison Johnstone said:

“The Bill rightly defines Child Poverty in terms of a lack of income and sets ambitious targets accordingly. In light of that, I have lodged amendments focussed on boosting incomes of our poorest families by ensuring better access to the social security system. The Bill must address the Social Security powers devolved by the 2016 Scotland Act specifically.

“By 2020, it is projected that Child Benefit will have lost 28% of its value when compared to 2010, but we know that a £5 top-up would help to reduce the impact on our poorest children by removing 30,000 of them from poverty. That is why I am delighted I have been able to amend the bill to require the Scottish Government to regularly indicate whether or not it is planning to use this and other new powers over social security benefits.

"A lack of decent income must remain central to any poverty measurement and any strategy. With statistics showing a 4% rise in Relative Child Poverty in just one year - a rise of 40,000 children, to 260,000 - Green MSPs will be working hard to ensure the Bill is strengthened as it moves forward.

“In Scotland, 70% of children in poverty live in households with at least one working adult, a 15% increase over five years. We simply cannot depend on an unstable Tory government at Westminster to help eliminate child poverty.”