Scottish Child Payment extension a “watershed” - already showing that poverty can be tackled with political will
The Scottish Child Payment is already helping families north of the border to stay out of poverty despite the cost of living crisis, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
The payments, introduced for children under the age of 6 in 2021 and being extended to under 16s today is worth £25 a week for each child in a family. This will mean a boost of £1,300 a year per child for household budgets and, unlike Universal Credit, with no limit on the number of children who will benefit.
JRF analysis shows that if the payment were extended to England, Wales and Northern Ireland a further 5.3 million children would be eligible for this crucial support.
JRF is calling on governments and devolved administrations around the UK to learn from the Scottish experience and apply political will and funding to tackle child poverty by providing money directly to families, alongside other measures such as improving access to childcare, flexible work and affordable housing.
Chris Birt, Associate Director for Scotland at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said:
“The full rollout of the Scottish Child Payment is a watershed moment for tackling poverty in Scotland, and the rest of the UK should take notice. At £1,300 per child, per year it will be a welcome boost to family budgets that are stretched to breaking point already.
“No child should live in poverty so there is clearly more to do but the Scottish Government should be commended for prioritising spend on this vital measure at this time. But this is not just a cost of living crisis measure, it is an enduring investment in our children.
“Governments face difficult financial decisions at the moment but they are nothing compared to the impossible choices that families across the UK face in this crisis. Foodbank use continues to spiral and local communities are providing warm places for people to shelter from the chill of their own homes.
“A country as wealthy as the UK can do much, much, better and the Scottish Government’s action shows the UK Chancellor that prioritising those on low incomes is possible. It also shows the other devolved administrations that constraints on powers and financial flexibility are no barrier to compassionate and significant action to support families.”
Ultimately that action is seen most vividly in households and Laura*, who is involved in JRF’s end child poverty campaign and will be claiming the payments for her two sons, said of the payment:
“It'll be £25 per week for each of my 2 qualifying children aged 10 and 14. So £50 per week paid on a 4 weekly basis which is £200 extra every 4 weeks. It really is the difference between heating and eating. I'll be able to put extra gas in the meter for heating and hot water and extra food in the cupboards.
“My kids, especially my 2 teenage boys, won't be feeling hungry as often and I'll be able to make the house warm for them coming in from school which is a really great feeling. I feel so helpless and feel like a failure when they're hungry or cold and now I'll be able to give them what they need a bit more often. It's a huge relief and takes away some anxiety and stress.
“We won't be going mental with it though as it's still to get much more colder and it'll be needed more in the coming months but it's good to know that the extra money is there. I'll be applying for it on Monday the 14th November but I'm not sure how long it'll take to process but it will get backdated which is a relief too”.
JRF is also joining calls for eligible families in Scotland to apply for the new payments as soon as possible from Monday as payments will be backdated to the day on which applications are received.
From the 14th November eligible families should apply for Scottish Child Payment if they:
- receive a low-income benefit such as Universal Credit, Tax Credits, or Pension Credit
- have responsibility for a child or children under the age of 16
- live in Scotland
- The Scottish Fiscal Commission (see https://www.fiscalcommission.scot/publications/supplementary-costing-scottish-child-payment-september-2022/) have said that around 400,000 children in Scotland will be eligible for the Scottish Child Payment now it has been expanded. This equates to around 45% of all children in Scotland. If this policy was expanded to the rest of the UK, we estimate a further 5.3m children would be eligible for the £25 a week payment.
- * Names have been changed to protect anonymity.