A £180 million initiative to tackle child poverty in Scotland has been hailed as a "game changer" by campaigners and charities, as ministers responded to calls for urgent action.

The Scottish Government claims the move will lift 30,000 children in Scotland out of relative poverty.
Pressure had been building on the ministers to make earlier use of devolved welfare powers and bring forward a commitment to introduce a "family income supplement" in 2022.

Announcing the new Scottish Child Payment to MSPs, Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said it would pay £10 a week per child to families living in poverty, with those eligible to claim including those qualifying for other benefits such as Universal Credit, Jobseekers Allowance and Child Tax Credits.

It will still be 2022 before the payment applies to all children under 16, but will be made available to under sixes a year earlier, in recognition of the fact that almost 60% of all children in poverty live in a family with a child under the age of six, Ms Campbell said.

She said: “This is a real preventative measure that will tackle child poverty head on in Scotland and help mitigate against continuing UK Government austerity."

She described the move as a "game changer",  and anti poverty campaigners and children's charities echoed the phrase welcoming the move as a pragmatic response to calls for the Scottish Government to bring forward its plans.

The new benefit will cost £70 million a year initially, rising to £180m once all children are covered.
 For a family with two children under the age of 16 it payment will mean additional support of more than £1,000 a year.

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon told to fast-track new benefit to tackle poverty

However Ms Campbell said it would help raise children out of poverty while preventing people just above the poverty threshold from sliding under it.

She added: “That can make a massive difference to thousands of children across Scotland - and tackle child poverty head on. It will mean more families are able to make ends meet."

She told MSPs "Today is a story of two Governments. This Government committed to tackling child poverty head on, while those in the rest of the UK are having to bear the brunt of the UK Government's callous actions destroying lives around the country."

John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said: "This new payment is an absolute game changer in the fight to end child poverty. £10 a week for each child will make a real difference to families struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes and pay for the ordinary school trips, sport and other activities that are fundamental to a decent childhood. 

Dr Jim McCormick, of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation​: Scottish Child Payment will loosen the grip of poverty on struggling families 

Dr Jim McCormick, of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation​ said it would loosen the grip of  poverty on struggling families. "£10 for a child in poverty can mean being able to buy fresher food, or go on a school trip, or have enough warm clothes. Fast-tracking the introduction of this new payment is absolutely the right thing to do and is a golden opportunity to make meaningful progress in solving child poverty in Scotland," he said.

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance said: “Today is an important milestone. Those who experience poverty, and the organisations that support them, have been listened to and action is being taken. Today has shown that we can use our social security powers for a purpose; loosening the grip of poverty on people’s lives.”

Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland, described it as a "lifeline" for families which might mean fewer children having to go with out basic essentials, including food. 

“The Scottish Child Payment will be a lifeline for families up and down Scotland who are being dragged into poverty," he said. "Over 70 organisations and leaders signed a letter calling for an income top-up to be fast-tracked and ministers have listened to the need for this extra cash to be introduced faster.  Putting cash in the pockets of struggling families will help many stay afloat."

SallyKelly, chief executive, Aberlour Child Care Trust, said it was not a silver bullet but the payment was "a significant start" towards ending child poverty while Citizens Advice Scotland’s Social Justice spokesperson Mhoraig Green said the Scottish Child Payment was a "step in the right direction".

Read more: Warning over impact of new devolved benefits on Scottish budget

However Ms Campbell also announced delays to the introduction of other benefits to be delivered using devolved powers. 

She said that because the new payments for families would be administered by by Social Security Scotland alongside its existing programme of devolved social security benefits, Disability Assistance for Older People - due in winter 2020 - will not now be introduced until 2021, while Scottish Carer’s Allowance will be put back a few months to early 2022. 

Ms Campbell added: “We understand this may have an impact on the timetable for the delivery of devolved social security benefits. But we believe it is worth it to introduce a visionary new benefit that will make such a big difference to so many lives."