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Child Poverty in Scotland — [Sir David Crausby in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:04 pm on 30th October 2019.

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Photo of Patricia Gibson Patricia Gibson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Consumer Affairs) 3:04 pm, 30th October 2019

Absolutely. My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. The fact is that unless child poverty is addressed, raising aspiration and attainment is like working with one hand tied behind your back. Children who are hungry or go home to a cold house tend to find it much more difficult than other children to attain their goals at school, whether those are academic or vocational. Their life is limited in ways that are difficult for people who have not experienced poverty to imagine.

The Scottish Government are doing what they can to tackle child poverty. Their Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill sets tough targets to reduce child poverty levels. A £50 million fund will support innovative approaches to tackle child poverty. Free early years childcare has been expanded to 30 hours per week, and there is a new best start grant to provide financial support to low-income families. The popular baby box gives practical support to new parents. An initiative that has been unveiled recently is Scottish child payment, which provides £10 per week for each child.

These measures are welcome and can ease the scourge of child poverty, but they cannot remove it. We need to use all the levers of tax and benefits to make the inroads required to remove it. The Scottish Government have power over 16% of social security spending, and that is better than 0%, but it is far from what is required to tackle this scourge on our society.

It is no accident—the Minister has heard this—that the roll-out of universal credit brings with it a spike in food bank use. In my constituency in the past year, 8,173 people relied on food bank assistance, of whom 2,192 were children. That is an absolute disgrace in this day and age, although I pay huge tribute to the food bank organisations in Ardrossan and Largs in my constituency, which do tremendously good work against challenging odds.