The Scottish Government is on track to miss its own child poverty targets by more than 100,000 children, new figures have revealed.
A report published by thinktank Resolution Foundation shows that extreme cuts to welfare by the UK government are pushing more families into poverty while Holyrood does not do enough to mitigate the impact.
Child poverty has been on the rise since 2011, researchers said, with 23 per cent of children in Scotland trapped in relative poverty in 2016-17. The Resolution Foundation analysis shows that the trend will continue over the next five years to hit a 20-year high of around 29 per cent by 2023-4.
This would be equivalent to an extra 60,000 children whose families are forced to survive on less than 60 per cent of the median household income.
John Dickie, head of Child Poverty Action Group Scotland, told The Big Issue the report should serve as “a real wake up call” for both governments to act with urgency.
He said: “The primary driver of rising child poverty is the extraordinary scale of the cuts to financial support for families, particularly working families, over the last few years. The freeze to child benefits, the two-child limit and the benefit cap are all having a massive impact and UK government needs to fundamentally rethink those policies – the benefits cash freeze in particular.”
The Scottish Government set out its child poverty targets in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 – but the thinktank predicted that it will miss these by more than 100,000 children.
In the Act, the government committed to reducing relative child poverty to less than 18 per cent by then, and to below 10 per cent by 2030-31.
Dickie added: “There’s also major action needed from the Scottish Government.
The targets set and the commitment made to introducing an income supplement are both really welcome. But families really can’t wait until 2023, which is the current date for that to be brought in.
“This report demonstrates that by that time there will be 60,000 more children in poverty. The government here in Scotland needs to act with urgency and use their social security powers to bring an immediate boost to families’ income.”
Analysts noted that their projection did not include Holyrood’s policies such as the Best Start Grant, the Carers’ Allowance Supplement and more generous council tax support, but said they “are dwarfed in scale by the main poverty-raising policies, all announced by former Chancellor George Osborne in his summer 2015 budget”.
The thinktank expressed support for the income supplement set to be introduced in Scotland by 2022, which experts said could help reduce – or at least limit rises in – child poverty if it is substantial enough.
Holyrood communities secretary Aileen Campbell said the Scottish Government is “tackling child poverty with one hand behind [its] back” following “devastating” welfare cuts by Westminster.
She added: “We are doing all we can with the powers we have to mitigate those cuts, protect people on low incomes, and secure our ambitions to eradicate child poverty and have a range of actions and multi-million pound package of investment to deliver on that.
“These actions include £12m in new intensive employment support, helping parents to work and earn more, and a new Financial Health Check service, backed by £3.3 million over two years as well as using our new social security powers.”
The Scottish Government is set to publish its second Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan in 2022, setting out how it will meet 2030 targets.