More than 150 charities, faith groups, trade unions and community organisations from across Scotland have urged First Minister Humza Yousaf to keep to his promise to increase a benefit to low income families.

The organisations have signed an open letter asking the SNP leader to make good on his leadership campaign commitment to raise the Scottish Child Payment from £25 to £30 a week "as a first step" to meet child poverty targets.

The letter highlights the payment has not been increased for 16 months despite hard-pressed families facing inflation rates that have not been experienced for decades, with low-income households being the worst affected.

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Signatories to the letter include the Archbishop of Glasgow, the Children's Commissioner, the general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), and the heads of dozens of children's charities and anti-poverty groups.

The coalition believes the First Minister must also prioritise child poverty investment across early learning and childcare, employability, fair work, family support and housing in the Scottish Government's budget next month.

They say tens of thousands of children across Scotland are currently locked in poverty and the looming budget is a "critical test" of the Scottish Government's willingness to match its stated ambition of shifting the dial on the problem.

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John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said: "Today's letter to the First Minister demonstrates the largest yet coalition of support for a further increase to the Scottish Child Payment and a prioritising of child poverty across government spending.

"The First Minister himself has said his defining mission is to shift the dial on child poverty and that he wants to see the child payment increased to £30 in his first budget. It's now critical for Scotland's children that his tax and spending plans deliver on those commitments."

Roz Foyer, general secretary of the STUC, said: "Child poverty is an absolute scandal that should shame those in positions of power.

"The STUC is proud to support the call for significant additional investment to tackle child poverty in the upcoming budget.

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"During this cost-of-living crisis, raising the Scottish Child Payment from £25 to £30 per week is imperative to ensure that families have enough to live on.

"We need to see significant investment to improve the lives of millions and loosen the grip of poverty."

Unison Scottish secretary Lilian Macer said: "We need significant investment in tackling child poverty - both through improving funding for the services that help offset the damage poverty does to children's lives and directly, by increasing the value of the Scottish Child Payment, which has been such a welcome initiative."

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Carolyn Currie, chief executive of Women's Enterprise Scotland, said: "Women's Enterprise Scotland is committed to the vision of a more equitable Scotland, including the eradication of child poverty.

"We support the call to increase the Scottish Child Payment as a vital step in better equipping families to face the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. This action is key to making progress on child poverty in Scotland."

Dr Mairi Stark, Scotland Officer of The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said: "In an affluent society such as ours it is wholly unacceptable for children and their families to lack food, shelter, clothing and fuel.

"As paediatricians we are well aware of the significant health impacts of growing up in poverty. The consequences of which will follow children across their life course, taking away opportunities and stop them reaching their full potential.

"The current cost-of-living crisis has exacerbated these already deeply embedded issues and allowed health inequalities to rise dramatically.

"To truly improve health outcomes for children and young people, we must first address the effects poverty has on education, housing and social environment.

"We are once again urging the Scottish Government to make the vital increase in the Scottish Child Payment from £25 to £30 to help families in need."

During a SNP leadership hustings on March 7 Mr Yousaf said he would raise the Scottish Child Payment to £30 per week from £25 in his first budget if elected First Minister.

The draft Scottish budget for 2024-2025 will be published on December 19.

Shona Robison, the deputy first minister, who is also the finance secretary, warned on Sunday that her government has “limited room for manoeuvre” in setting her budget as she insisted her spending plans “will be one of the most difficult” since devolution.

She told the BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show that it was “very clear that the budget is at the expense of public services”, amid Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's announcement of a cut to National Insurance in his autumn statement last week.

Meanwhile, Scottish Government's statistics published today revealed that the families of more than 323,000 under-16s were receiving the Scottish Child Payment at the end of September.

The figures show the payment of £25 per week was reaching 323,315 children - an increase of more than 7,000 compared to 30 June 2023. 

The data also revealed the combined overall amount paid out across Social Security Scotland’s five family payments, since they launched, is more than £596 million. 

The sum was made up of £458.5 million for Scottish Child Payment and £138.1 million for the rest of the five family payments - Best Start Foods and three Best Start Grants (Pregnancy and Baby Payment, Early Learning Payment and School Age Payment) combined. 

Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Tackling poverty and inequality is a key mission for the Scottish Government and we are committed to meeting our statutory targets through our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, ‘Best Start, Bright Futures’.

“The authors of this letter recognise the very real progress being made on child poverty because of policies the Scottish Government has already put in place, which I welcome.

“Modelling estimates that 90,000 fewer children will live in relative and absolute poverty this year as a result of this Government’s policies, with poverty levels 9 percentage points lower that they would have otherwise been.  This includes lifting an estimated 50,000 children out of relative poverty through our ‘game-changing’ Scottish Child Payment. New statistics published 28th November show that at the end of September more than 323,000 children were benefitting from the payment, which is unique to Scotland.

“We are currently providing the most generous funded early learning and childcare offer in the UK, and we have set out plans to expand access to funded childcare for 13,000 more children and families who need it most by the end of this Parliament.

“We will continue to do everything within the scope of our powers and budget to meet our statutory child poverty targets. However, it is only with the full economic and fiscal powers of an independent nation that Ministers can use all levers other governments have to tackle inequalities.”