Child Poverty

– in the Scottish Parliament on 9th September 2021.

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Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

6. To ask the Scottish Government what progress it is making on reducing child poverty. (S6O-00112)

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

Child poverty is a national mission, which is shown through the almost £1 billion of targeted investment that we provided last year. Our Scottish child payment has already reached 108,000 children. Combined with our bridging payments, it will provide more than £130 million directly to families this year.

However, we will go further and double the Scottish child payment to £20 a week as soon as we can put the budgetary provisions in place. That complements wider action across Government, from the 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare to the expansion of free school meals and an increase in the school clothing grant. Those are all examples of positive steps that the Government is taking to tackle child poverty.

Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary agree that the Scottish child payment has already made significant strides towards reducing child poverty in Scotland in general and in Glasgow, in particular, where 58,520 payments have been made to Glasgow families, totalling £2,895,000, and that that demonstrates the Scottish Government’s progressive thinking as opposed to the regressive universal credit cuts that the United Kingdom Government is callously pursuing?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

I agree that the Scottish child payment has been acclaimed as a game changer in the fight against child poverty and is projected to lift thousands of children out of poverty. The member outlined how that is impacting positively on Glasgow families. However, that policy is being completely undermined by the UK Government’s regressive £20 cut to universal credit, which will be the biggest overnight cut to welfare in 70 years. Some 60,000 families across Scotland, including some 20,000 children could be pushed into poverty.

We have urged the UK Government to reverse its plans on numerous occasions, most recently in conjunction with the Welsh and Northern Irish Governments.

Photo of Pam Duncan-Glancy Pam Duncan-Glancy Labour

Citizens Advice Scotland has said that 4,000 families will lose eligibility for the Scottish child payment if the abhorrent cut to universal credit goes ahead. Will the Scottish Government commit today to continuing to pay the Scottish child payment to those families?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

As I said, the UK Government cutting the £20-a-week uplift to universal credit could reduce the number of children who are eligible for the Scottish child payment by around an estimated 2,000. For some families, the universal credit cut will be enough to remove their entitlement to the Scottish child payment. However, the problem is that we rely on top-up powers to deliver those payments. We do not have any other legislative basis to allow us to do so. I call on the UK Government not to cut the £20-a-week uplift to universal credit. We want people to remain eligible for the Scottish child payment. However, because that payment is delivered through the top-up powers, we are constrained in what we can do for those families.

Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

It is deeply disappointing that the Scottish Government has yet again failed to commit to paying the Scottish child payment in the next fiscal year as all other parties, civic society and the faith community have called for. Of course, the reason why it has not done that is that independence is on its mind and there is room for nothing else. Can the cabinet secretary explain why the Government insists on continually putting its constitutional obsession before the wellbeing of our young people?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

I find it astonishing that a Tory MSP would come to the chamber to demand that the Scottish Government double the Scottish child payment this year—[

Interruption

.]

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

—in the very month that his Government is going to remove £20 a week—[

Interruption

.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Sorry, cabinet secretary, but could you resume your seat for a second? Mr Balfour, I do not want shouting across the chamber.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

I think that I might have touched a raw nerve.

Every time a Tory MSP comes to the chamber and utters the words “child poverty”, I will remind them of what their Government is about to do this very month in cutting £20 a week from some of the most vulnerable families. They should get their own house in order before coming here and demanding that we do anything. It is an absolute disgrace and a total brass neck.