Poverty Campaigners Urge £5 Increase In Child Benefit

Campaigners have renewed calls for child benefit payments to be increased by £5 a week when Holyrood gets new welfare powers.

A coalition of children's charities, unions and anti-poverty groups issued the plea as MSPs prepare to debate the Scottish Government's draft Budget for 2017/18.

They argue topping-up payments from the current rate of £20.70 a week for the first child and £13.70 for any additional children could reduce child poverty in Scotland by 14%, benefiting 30,000 deprived youngsters.

It follows a report last week which found more than 210,000 children in Scotland live in poverty.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said children living in poverty are more likely to be in poor health, be overweight or obese, experience mental health problems and die early.

The coalition includes the Children and Young People's Commissioner for Scotland, the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Women's Convention, the Wheatley housing group and the PCS trade union.

They warn that unless action is taken the problem will get worse, highlighting modelling from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) forecasting a 50% increase in child poverty across the UK by 2020.

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said: "Five pounds a week might not seem like much for many of us but for hard-pressed families it would make all the difference.

"It could be the difference between a child going on a school trip or missing out, or the difference between a trip to the food bank and a trip to the supermarket.

"We urge MSPs of all parties to make sure the Scottish Government uses this Budget - and the new social security powers at its disposal - to invest in family incomes and make a defining impact on levels of child poverty.

"The Scottish Government commitment to eradicate child poverty in Scotland by 2030 is hugely welcome as are the commitments already made to introduce Best Start grants, but the new power to top up benefits provides an opportunity to take an even greater step towards achieving that goal.''

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