SCOTTISH Government advisers have said the Scottish Child Payment should be quadrupled while warning that targets for curbing child poverty are to be missed - and that levels of deprivation could actually be getting worse.

Legislation required the Scottish Government to hit an interim target of  less than 18% of children living in relative poverty by 2023/24 and less than 10% by 2030.

But the Poverty and Inequality Commission which provides independent scrutiny advice has warned ministers that significant work needs to be undertaken to stem the tide with an anti-poverty charity warning that 210,000 children in Scotland could be trapped in a cost of living crisis.

The commission say that since targets were set for Scotland, child poverty levels have been "at best stagnating, and may be starting to rise".

During the Covid-19 pandemic, a million people north of the border, including 240,000 children, were trapped in poverty.

In a damning analysis, the commission has said: "Despite a demonstrable commitment to reduce child poverty, the action that has been taken by the Scottish Government so far is not on a scale or at a pace that is sufficient to meet the interim or final child poverty targets.".

They said that the first Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan "lacked a clear sense of what impact many of the actions it contained were expected to have, and how they could add up to progress towards the targets".

And they warned that the Scottish Government will need to increase the devolved Scottish Child Payment beyond the £10 per week currently to meet the interim child poverty targets.

The First Minister has already announced that the payment will double to £20 from April.

But the commission says that it will need to go up further to £40.

The commission said: "Given the short time left to meet the interim targets, we consider that further social security increases will be necessary to be assured of meeting them. Modelling has shown that increasing the Scottish Child Payment to around £40 per week would allow the interim targets to be met through social security alone."

The Herald:

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has warned that even if the payment went up to £20 a week the nation would still be four percentage points short with 210,000 children in poverty.

Scottish Labour have described growing poverty rates as "Scotland's shame".

The call came as it said that the full impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on households is yet to be felt, prompting concerns child poverty rates could rise further.

It follows hot on the heels of a separate analysis by the Fraser of Allander Institute which warned hitting Scotland's official targets on child poverty will require profound changes to the economy and “bold” policies such as massive benefit spending and income tax hikes.

The report ministers would be able to cut child poverty over the next decade to reach the country’s statutory target but the three scenarios they modelled all involved spending billions on child welfare benefits which were paid for by eye-watering income tax rises that shrank the economy almost as much as Brexit.

A quarter of children in Scotland currently live in relative poverty, defined as a household income below 60% of the UK median income after housing costs.

Under a 2017 Holyroood law, the Government is under a duty to reduce the proportion of children in relative poverty to 10 per cent by 2030/31, a drop of 15 percentage points.

The Herald:

Commission chairman, Bill Scott, said: “Our advice shows that, quite simply, too many children are still experiencing poverty in Scotland.

“As a society we believe it’s wrong for children’s lives to be restricted by poverty. That’s why the child poverty targets were set.

“While we know work is ongoing, progress is not enough to meet the targets, and for some measures the position is worsening. Despite a clear commitment, the action taken by the Scottish Government so far is inadequate.”

The commission called on ministers to use “all the levers available to end the scourge of child poverty”.

Mr Scott added: “Targets to reduce child poverty can be met, however, the Scottish Government will have to utilise every opportunity and deliver action faster, coupled with a significant increase in funding.”

“We need to see action across all areas of Government in order to release families from the constraints of poverty. Providing parents with support to apply for a job, for example, won’t have the impact we want if the parent can’t get suitable childcare or doesn’t have a reliable bus service to get them to work.”

To meet the 2030-31 target, it added that “further action” is needed in areas such as employment and housing, with the report making clear: “This action must happen now.”

Here, the commission added that “tackling child poverty has to be at the core of design and delivery of a wide range of policies including economic development, employability, skills, education, transport, childcare, social security, housing and the transition to net zero”.

The Herald:

Suicide rates are three times the rate in the nation's most well off areas, while Covid-19 death rates are more than double that of the least deprived areas.

It is estimated that the rise in the Scottish Child Payment to £20 move would lift 20,000 children out of poverty by April 2024 but would still mean the child poverty rate was at 22%.

Social Justice Secretary, Shona Robison, described tackling child poverty as a “national mission”, as she said ministers would publish their next delivery plan in March.

This will “outline the transformational actions” the Government will take to tackle the problem, she stated.

Ms Robison said: “We will double the Scottish Child Payment to £20 per week from April and will invest £361 million above the level of funding from UK Government on social security in 2022-23.

“The delivery plan will also set out other levers we will use and actions to take – for example, on employment, maximising incomes and affordable housing, which all contribute to reducing child poverty.

“However, we cannot do it alone – we must work together across society to deliver on this national mission.”