At a debate on Child Poverty in the City Chambers on 14th December, I spoke in support of the topping up of Child Benefit to reduce poverty. This is possible by using the devolved welfare powers to help children and families out of poverty.
Between 2010 and 2020, there are changes to the UK Government policies which mean that Child Benefit is projected to lose 28% of its value and so, it is essential we make use of devolved powers to counter act this.
Almost one in four of Scotland's children are officially recognised as living in poverty. This is higher than in many other European countries. We must act to reduce the number of our children for whom poverty is destroying their childhood and stifling their future.
A coalition of third sector groups are advocating that all families in receipt of Child Benefit should receive a £5 top up per child to their weekly payment. Introducing a single rate top up to Child Benefit would be the simplest and most effective way to boost family incomes. Most families receive Child Benefit. It is easy to claim because it is not means tested and is not part of Universal Credit, nor is it affected by sanctions. Child Benefit supports families in and out of work, creating no administrative issues, when parents take up work or increase their hours.
The additional £5 a week to Child Benefit would be spent on clothes/shoes, food, a child's education or other costs associated with bringing up a child.
There is a need to take in to account the impact of child poverty including poorer children's reduced productivity, lower educational attainment, and poorer physical and mental health. We must develop plans to top up Child Benefit to ensure that our children grow up in families with the resources needed to give them the best possible start in life.