210,000 Scottish Children Living In Poverty

25 June 2015, 16:17 | Updated: 25 June 2015, 16:20

More than one in five children in Scotland are still living in poverty, according to new figures.

There were 210,000 children living in relative poverty after housing costs in 2013/14, a 22% rate which is unchanged from the previous year.

Before housing costs are factored in, the rate of child poverty fell from 19% to 14%, or 140,000 children.

A household is said to be in relative poverty when its income falls below 60% of the UK median income.

The report also found that 140,000 children were living in combined low income and material deprivation after housing costs, an increase of 20,000.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil blamed Westminster austerity policies for the ''unacceptable'', figures but anti-poverty campaigners called on both governments to do more.

Mr Neil said: ''Westminster's approach of slashing budgets is having a damaging impact in Scotland with 210,000 children now living in relative poverty.

''While these figures are inexcusable, I dread to think how many more people will be pushed into distress and despair as a direct result of the UK Government's proposed £12 billion cuts to the welfare budget.

''The report shows that while incomes have increased, changes to living standards have not improved for many families after housing costs are accounted for.

''The UK Government should call a halt to future cuts which will put more children into poverty.''

Mr Neil said it was ``ludicrous'' for the UK Government to consider cutting tax credits that benefited 500,000 Scottish children in 2013/14.

He highlighted the recent appointment of Naomi Eisenstadt as Scotland's first poverty adviser, as well as a £296 million investment in welfare mitigation measures.

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, urged the UK Government to rethink any further cuts to family benefits and tax credits - but also emphasised the importance of policies to keep costs down in the devolved area of housing.

Mr Dickie said: ''We are still facing a child poverty crisis in the years ahead and that crisis will deepen if UK ministers go ahead with plans to cut support for children in low income families and for the low paid.

''Instead of highlighting symptoms of poverty, such as debt, the UK Government must tackle the root causes of poverty by protecting children's benefits with the same triple lock protection pensions enjoy and reversing the deep cuts to the tax credits that help the low paid.

''At every level of government action is needed to tackle rising rents, high childcare costs and extend the good work that's been done on free school meals and cutting the wider costs of school.''

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: ''While we welcome news that the official figures on poverty have fallen, there is no room for complacency.

''The number of people living in poverty in Scotland would fill Hampden Stadium over 18 times.

''While some incomes may be rising these are offset by housings costs which are rising at a faster rate, leaving people worse off.

''More must be done to tackle this to ensure that families have enough money to live a decent standard of living.

''Both governments need to take action to ensure that everyone in Scotland is afforded the best start in life.''

A UK Government spokesman said: ''Today's statistics show that - in Scotland as across the rest of the UK - the proportion of individuals and children in relative poverty are at their lowest levels since the 1980s.

''We know that work is the best route out of poverty, with children in workless families around three times as likely to be in poverty than those in working families.

''That's why as part of our long-term economic plan, our reforms to the welfare system are focused on making work pay, while our reforms to the tax system are allowing people to keep more of what they earn.

''With substantial tax raising powers on the way to the Scottish Parliament, there will be scope to make greater decisions on spending in Scotland, whilst continuing to benefit from sharing the risks and resources with the rest of the UK.''