UK ministers have been told to ‘take note’ of Scottish child payment extension

The full roll-out of a benefit payment to low-income families in Scotland has been hailed as a ‘watershed moment’ – with politicians across the rest of the UK urged to ‘take notice’.

Some 400,000 children in Scotland would now be eligible for Scottish Child Payment, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said that if the scheme was replicated in the rest of the UK, 5.3 million young people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland could benefit.

Chris Birt, associate director of the think tank in Scotland, said the benefit should show the UK government that “prioritizing people on low incomes is possible”.

It also shows other devolved governments that “constraints” on their powers are “not a barrier to compassionate and meaningful action to support families”, he added.

The Scottish Child Payment was previously paid to low-income families with young children, but is now available to all eligible households with young people under the age of 16.

At the same time, the payment – hailed by Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon as the ‘most ambitious child poverty reduction measure in the UK’ – has now been increased from £20 a week per child to 25 £.

This means eligible families will receive £1,300 per year per child – which Mr Birt described as a ‘welcome boost’ at a time when many household budgets are ‘stretched to breaking point’.

He said: “The full roll out of Scottish Child Payment is a watershed moment in tackling poverty in Scotland, and the rest of the UK should take heed.

“At £1,300 per child per year, it will be a welcome boost to family budgets which are already at breaking point.

“No child should live in poverty, so there is clearly more to be done, but the Scottish Government should be commended for prioritizing spending on this vital measure at this time.

“But it’s not just a cost-of-living crisis measure, it’s a lasting investment in our children.”

He acknowledged that governments are facing “difficult financial decisions at the moment”, but said it was “nothing compared to the impossible choices facing families in the UK in this crisis”.

Mr Birt continued: ‘A country as wealthy as the UK can do much, much better and the action of the Scottish Government shows the UK Chancellor that it is possible to prioritize people on low incomes.

“It also shows other devolved administrations that constraints on powers and financial flexibility are not a barrier to compassionate and meaningful action to support families.”

A mother, identified only as Laura, said the payment would help her cover the cost of feeding her family and heating her home.

She will receive payment for turning 10 and turning 14, saying the extra £200 every four weeks “really makes the difference between warming up and eating”.

She said, “I could put extra gas in the meter for heating and hot water and extra food in the cupboards.

“My children, especially my two teenagers, won’t be hungry as often and I’ll be able to warm the house for them when I come home from school, which is a really great feeling.

“I feel so helpless and like a failure when they are hungry or cold and now I will be able to give them what they need a little more often. It’s a huge relief and takes away some anxiety and stress.

The charity One Parent Families Scotland has also urged the UK government to follow the Scottish government’s lead.

Chief executive Satwat Rehman said: “With rising costs and falling temperatures, this winter will be particularly difficult for low-income families.

“The increased financial support through the new Scottish Child Payment and its availability for parents and carers of older children will provide a much-needed lifeline to low-income families.

“We hope the UK government will follow this lead and provide additional support for low-income families in its next autumn budget on Thursday.”

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, also made a similar plea, telling politicians in Westminster: “If the Scottish Government can make this kind of serious investment to protect our children from poverty, then so can the British government. .

“The autumn statement is an opportunity for the Chancellor not only to ensure that UK benefits rise in line with inflation, but also to reverse cuts made since 2010 – starting with a £20-a-week increase family allowances.”

The UK government has noted its expansion of free school meals in England and other support available through Universal Credit.

A UK government spokeswoman said: ‘Our priority will always be supporting the most vulnerable and we recognize that people are struggling with rising prices, which is why we are protecting millions of those who need it the most. need with at least £1,200 in direct payments.

“In addition, vulnerable families are being supported by the government’s Household Support Fund – which has been increased by £500million – to help pay for essentials and the latest figures show there were 200,000 children from less in absolute poverty after housing costs compared to 2019/20. .

“The UK Government has also provided an additional £123million to the Scottish Government to help vulnerable families at their discretion and this is on top of the significant welfare powers they already have.”

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Elaine R. Knight