THE Scottish Government will need to cut spending and raise taxes to meet its legally binding child poverty targets, a watchdog has warned. 

The Poverty and Inequality Commission, which provides independent advice to ministers, said the recent increase in the  Scottish Child Payment to £25 per week and its roll out to eligible under-16s during 2022-23 had made “a real difference to the lives of children and families across Scotland”, but that it would not be enough. 

The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 requires Scottish ministers to ensure that less than 18 per cent of children are living in poverty by 2023/24 and less than 10 per cent of children are living in poverty by 2030.

The latest official statistics, covering 2021/22, show that 24%, around 250,000 children, are living in poverty in Scotland.

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Bill Scott, chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission, said: “The Scottish Government must commit to funding the actions required to meet the child poverty targets and it will need to reprioritise spend and use its devolved tax powers to raise additional revenue. 

“The current financial situation is challenging and the funding being allocated to tackle child poverty does not seem to match the ambitions the Scottish Government set out in [poverty strategy] Best Start, Bright Futures. 

“This is likely to be one reason for the lack of pace of delivery. A planned increase to employability funding was delayed, and limited funding has been allocated so far to deliver childcare commitments.”

“Our message could not be clearer. We need to see greater investment being made to key areas which can have the greatest impact and we need to see that happen now, before it’s too late to meet the targets,” he added. 

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According to a new Scottish Government report an estimated £3.03 billion was invested across a range of programmes targeted at low-income households in 2022-23.

They said this resulted in poverty levels being nine percentage points lower than they would have been had SNP-Green plans not been in place. 

In a statement to Holyrood, Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, said the government was “committed to driving forward action at the pace and scale required to ensure our statutory child poverty targets are met.”

She said modelling of Scottish Goverment policies showed that “around 90,000 fewer children are expected to live in relative or absolute poverty this year, with levels of relative and absolute poverty 9% points lower than would otherwise have been the case.”

The minister added: “This includes lifting an estimated 50,000 children out of poverty through the investment in our Scottish Child Payment.

“This considerable impact reinforces the importance of our actions to reduce child poverty. It also shows what we can do to tackle child poverty head on within our limited powers and fixed budget and that we can make a difference.”

Ms Somerville said she was acting with one hand tied behind her back. “It is only with the full powers of an independent nation that governments can use all levers such as economic, social security and employment to tackle poverty and inequalities,” she added. 

The minister said the “challenging circumstances of the past year” meant it had not been possible to “deliver the levels of investment in key measures anticipated when Best Start, Bright Futures was published.”

She said the government was “determined to do more to tackle and reduce child poverty.” 

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Responding to the report, John Dickie, the Director of the Child Poverty Action Group,said there was “very real and substantial progress on child poverty” but that progress was “not yet enough to meet statutory child poverty targets.” ]

He also called for the First Minister to stand by his promise during the SNP leadership campaign to increase the Scottish child payment to £30 in his first budget. 

“Looking ahead independent analysis suggests an increase to at least £40 in this parliament will be needed to help meet child poverty targets,” he added.