General Election: Plans to address child poverty put front and centre

Caitlin Logan

Tory child poverty record condemned by opposition parties on the campaign trail

  • SNP pledges to pressure the UK Government to introduce new benefit to address child poverty, create a Poverty and Inequality Commission, and re-introduce legal child poverty targets
  • Scottish Labour launches 10-point plan to end child poverty, including replacing Universal Credit, introducing a £10 Living Wage, a £5 child benefit increase and building 12,000 social homes per year
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats call for a reversal in cuts to Universal Credit and an end to the two-child cap and benefits cap 

SNP MPs will push for action on child poverty at Westminster through the introduction of a new benefit and the creation of a Poverty and Inequality Commission, the first minister has announced today (12 November).

As part of the party’s General Election commitments, the SNP has said its MPs would urge the UK Government to learn from the Scottish Government’s new Scottish Child Payment by creating its own benefit to address child poverty. 

The SNP would also call for the re-establishment of UK-wide legal targets for ending child poverty targets, which were scrapped by the Conservative government, and for the establishment of a new commission to provide expert advice on using Westminster powers to tackle poverty and report on progress.

This follows an announcement by Scottish Labour last week of a 10-point plan to reduce child poverty if elected to the UK Government. 

READ MORE: ‘A sanitised version of the nineteenth century workhouse’: 10 damning conclusions from the new UN poverty report

Speaking ahead of a campaign visit to Edinburgh South, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The Tories have a shameful record on poverty – their approach has even been condemned by the United Nations.

“They knew austerity would be so bad that they scrapped their targets to reduce child poverty.

“The SNP has taken decisive action to tackle child poverty, and our groundbreaking new £10 a week Scottish Child Payment could lift 30,000 children out of poverty when fully rolled out.

“SNP MPs will demand the next UK Government match our ambition, stop making poverty worse and follow our approach – lifting incomes up instead of pushing them down.

“A vote for the SNP in this election is a vote to get rid of the Tories, escape Brexit and have a choice over our future so we can protect families from Tory welfare cuts and bring an end to poverty across Scotland.”

The latest Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) figures show that 30 per cent of children in the UK are living in poverty after housing costs, compared with 24 per cent in Scotland.

A recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation indicated that UK welfare cuts since the 2010 Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition came to power had driven poverty across the UK. 

READ MORE: Challenging Poverty: Scottish Government ‘must do more’ with devolved powers

As the difference between Scotland and the rest of the UK appears after housing costs, the report suggested that Westminster policies resulting in a rise in rent costs outside of Scotland had created the disparity.

Last week, Scottish Labour announced a 10-point plan to tackle child poverty, including: lifting the benefit cap and replacing Universal Credit with “a social security system that treats people and families with respect”; a £10 Living Wage; and increasing Child Benefit by £5 per week.

Several points of the 10-point plan relate to devolved policy, including its pledge to build 12,000 social homes per year over 10 years and automatic entitlement for an additional funded year of nursery for children whose parents legally delay their enrolment into primary one.

The plan also includes an expansion of free school meals up to primary seven and the creation of a national scheme providing free meals at weekends and holidays for primary school pupils who are entitled to free school meals.

Commenting on the proposals, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “A combination of callous Tory welfare reform and SNP timidity has allowed the unforgivable to happen – child poverty in Scotland in rising.

READ MORE: Analysis: 5 ways new research shows Scotland lives in permanent food poverty

“This is a disgrace that blights our society and demonstrates the glaring need for radical, structural change.  But the SNP’s response so far has been a series of piecemeal interventions, pet projects and one-off trials.

“This election is a once in a generation opportunity to create a fairer society. When Labour wins, Scotland wins.”

The Liberal Democrats have also challenged the Conservatives’ role in rising poverty levels, and said the party would seek to reverse damaging cuts. 

Scottish Liberal Democrat social security spokesperson Caron Lindsay said: “This chaotic Conservative government has eaten away at people’s living standards and now almost a third of children are facing growing up in poverty.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats are committed to building a brighter future. As a matter of urgency, deep cuts to Universal Credit, which disproportionately hurt poorer families, should be reversed. 

“We also need to end the two child cap and the benefits cap which are having such an awful impact on families across the country.”

The DWP confirmed earlier this month that the benefits freeze will end as of April 2020, meaning that benefits such as Universal Credit and Jobseeker’s Allowance will rise by 1.7 per cent and state pensions will rise by 3.9 per cent. 

Picture courtesy of Free-Photos

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