Increase of £50 a month in benefits 'could bring 45,000 children out of poverty'

5 March 2018, 07:16


An increase of £50 a month in child benefits could bring around 45,000 children out of relative poverty, according to a think tank.

Without action, UK Government cuts to benefit spending could increase poverty rates in Scotland over the next four years, IPPR Scotland said.

The body modelled the effects of topping up the child element of Universal Credit for the year 2019/20, which it estimates would cost £390 million a year.

Topping up the benefit by £150 per month could bring 100,000 children out of relative poverty, at a cost of £950 million per year, it said.

Relative child poverty is defined as families with children with income less than 60% of median income, after housing costs.

Russell Gunson, director of IPPR Scotland, said: "The scale of the challenge we have set ourselves in reducing child poverty in Scotland is rightly ambitious.

"Increasing government spending to tackle child poverty will be necessary, but it won't be enough on its own.

"We can make steady progress over the next 10 years through increased government investment but we will also need to find ways to boost wages and earnings amongst the poorest families, through inclusive growth.

"In this sense we need to adopt a whole-Scotland approach over the coming years, with action from employers, business, charities and government."

The Scottish Government has set targets of bringing relative child poverty down to under 10% by 2030.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said: "This Government has consistently taken the lead on actions to address child poverty.

"When the UK Government abolished its child poverty targets, we introduced income targets to eradicate child poverty by 2030 through the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act.

"As a consequence of the Act, our first Child Poverty Delivery Plan with actions across government to meet the ambitious targets will be published later this month, backed by our new £50 million Tackling Child Poverty Fund.

"We have also expanded free childcare, are investing in free school meals and are spending around £100 million a year mitigating the worst of UK Government welfare cuts."

A UK Government spokesman said: "We know that work is the best route out of poverty and under Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

"The Scottish Parliament now has significant welfare powers, including flexibility over Universal Credit payments."

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: "What is absolutely clear is that doing nothing is not an option.

"Ministers must now choose how, not if, to use new social security powers to help end child poverty.

"The longer they leave it, the harder it gets for tens of thousands of families across the country, and the more costly it will be for us all to meet the government's targets."