The Scottish Government’s decisive and compassionate move to bring in the new Scottish Child Payment is the lifeline children and their families need, and is a beacon of progressive policy for the rest of the UK, says Emma Congreve.
On 26 June, the new Scottish Child Payment was announced by the Cabinet Secretary Aileen Campbell in the Scottish Parliament. This rightly has been lauded as a landmark moment and the most progressive policy brought in since devolution 20 years ago. We’ve now seen the Scottish Government decisively put words into action and we believe this will be a foundational step in turning the tide on child poverty in Scotland. Once fully rolled out, over 400,000 children will benefit, and 30,000 children could be freed from poverty.
The commitment to work towards introducing a new Income Supplement was made in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan in April 2018. Since then JRF, in collaboration with IPPR and people with experience of living in poverty, have been working to identify the priorities for this investment in families across Scotland.
We heard that people simply couldn’t wait till 2022 for this payment to start. Poverty in Scotland is rising and we know much of this is due to a reduction in the level of support many people are getting from the UK social security system. On the ground, we’ve heard that this has meant extra uncertainty over how families can get through the month. Many can’t and are slipping further away from being able to have the firm footing they need to give their children the best start in life.
How £10 extra a week will give families a lifeline
The announcement that the Scottish Government will fast-track its plans and commit to a £10-a-week-per-child payment for families who receive Universal Credit and the legacy benefits has been widely welcomed. It will provide a lifeline to many families. When we asked people with experience of living in poverty what £10 a week per child might mean, we were told that it would help with the basics of food and clothing and could allow them to occasionally say ‘yes’ to events like birthday parties, days out as a family and some school trips.
Urgency and the need for significant investment were raised by many of the people we spoke to and were outlined as key principles in our interim report.We were therefore delighted that the Scottish Government’s announcement of a new Scottish Child Payment met these tests.
The Scottish Child Payment will be brought in, in full, by the end of 2022 and children under six will start to get the payment even sooner – by spring 2021. Whilst we’d like the Payment to start right now, we must allow for parliamentary scrutiny and the Social Security Agency will need to build capacity to deliver this, which of course takes time. We are confident that the Scottish Government has done all it can to work out how to bring this payment in as soon as possible – and significantly ahead of its original plans.
Designing a system that can keep families afloat
The job doesn’t stop here. We know how important it is that the system works for families, and particularly the most vulnerable. High take-up is crucial, as is ensuring that there is enough predictability built into the system so that families can use this payment to plan their future.
We’ll continue our work with IPPR Scotland over the summer and we’re all really hopeful that we can work with the Scottish Government, in collaboration with those who should receive the Scottish Child Payment, to ensure it makes the biggest difference it can to children’s lives.