Our second delivery plan, “Best Start, Bright Futures”, sets out our actions to tackle child poverty, including our focus on long-term parental employment support, increased social security and measures to reduce household costs. The resource spending review allocates up to £300 million for tackling child poverty and for social justice. It also commits more than £23 billion through social security payments in the next four years, with almost £1.8 billion for the Scottish child payment, which will increase to £25 per child per week when the payment is extended to under-16s at the end of 2022.
The Scottish Government’s plans to mitigate the impacts of the cost of living crisis are as welcome as they are necessary, especially when they seek to tackle child poverty. However, those plans stand in marked contrast to those of the United Kingdom Government. Has there been an assessment of how many children could be lifted out of poverty by 2023-24 if the UK Government found its moral compass and matched the support that the Scottish Government is delivering as a result of the spending review?
Recent Scottish Government analysis sets out that, if key UK Government welfare reforms that have been implemented since 2015 were reversed, an additional £780 million would be put in the pockets of those in Scottish households in 2023-24, which would lift 70,000 people out of poverty, including 30,000 children. That would be part of the concrete long-term action that is needed to address poverty. Other actions could include matching Scottish Government action by uprating benefits and introducing the equivalent of the Scottish child payment.
However, we know that UK ministers do not prioritise tackling child poverty. The Scottish Parliament should have full powers over social security and employment so that we can take the action that is needed.
It has been estimated that about 30,000 children in Scotland are in poverty as a direct result of the cost of privately rented housing. At stage 2 of the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Bill last week, in response to my calls for immediate action to freeze rent, the Deputy First Minister said:
“Obviously, the Government will seek to take whatever action we can in the short term.”—[Official Report, COVID-19 Recovery Committee, 9 June 2022; c 96.]
Will the Scottish Government commit today to working with me ahead of stage 3 to strengthen amendments that provide for an emergency rent freeze?
I thank Mercedes Villalba for bringing up that issue. I am reliably informed by my colleagues that a meeting has been offered to talk about the subject that she has raised. I hope that she will take up that offer of a meeting, where that issue can be addressed.