OVER 150 charities, faith groups, trade unions and community organisations from the Outer Hebrides to the Scottish Borders have sent an open letter to Scotland’s First Minister, urging him to deliver on his leadership campaign commitment to increase the Scottish Child payment to £30 a week.

The Scottish Child Payment is a weekly payment of £25 for every child in Scotland under 16 years of age, in addition to any UK benefits a family may receive. It does not affect any other UK or Scottish Government benefits that any person in a household receives.

By April 2024, the letter highlights the payment will not have been increased for 16 months. Yet, during that period, families have been facing inflation rates that have not been seen for decades – with costs still rising, and low-income households worst affected. Increasing the payment to £30 needs to be a first step they say, citing independent analysis that a £40 per week payment will be needed to be sure child poverty falls in line with government targets.

Signatories to the letter – including the Archbishop of Glasgow, the Children’s Commissioner, the General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), and the heads of dozens of children’s charities and anti-poverty groups – say the First Minister must also prioritise child poverty focused investment across early learning and childcare, employability, fair work, family support and housing.

The letter welcomes the First Minister’s promise that “shifting the dial on poverty – and child poverty in particular” will be a “defining mission” of his government. The campaigners say very real progress is being made on child poverty because of policies the Scottish Government had already put in place – not least the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment and increases to its value.

But they say the “harsh reality” is that tens of thousands of children across Scotland remain locked in poverty. They point to the government’s own analysis showing that existing policies are not yet sufficient to meet legally binding child poverty targets. The Budget, they say, is a critical test of the Scottish Government’s willingness to match ambition with the tax and spending plans needed to realise that ambition.

Speaking on behalf of members of the End Child Poverty coalition, who organised the letter, John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said: “Today’s letter to the First Minister demonstrates the largest yet coalition of support for a further increase to the Scottish child payment and a prioritising of child poverty across government spending. The First Minister himself has said his defining mission is to shift the dial on child poverty and that he wants to see the child payment increased to £30 in his first Budget. It’s now critical for Scotland’s children that his tax and spending plans deliver on those commitments.”

The General Secretary of the STUC, Roz Foyer, one of the signatories to the letter, said: “Child poverty is an absolute scandal that should shame those in positions of power. The Scottish Trades Union Congress is proud to support the call for significant additional investment to tackle child poverty in the upcoming budget. During this cost-of-living crisis, raising the Scottish Child Payment from £25 to £30 per week is imperative to ensure that families have enough to live on. We need to see significant investment to improve the lives of millions and loosen the grip of poverty.”

Lilian Macer, Scottish Secretary, UNISON added: “We need significant investment in tackling child poverty – both through improving funding for the services that help offset the damage poverty does to children’s lives and directly, by increasing the value of the Scottish Child Payment which has been such a welcome initiative.”

Carolyn Currie, Chief Executive, Women’s Enterprise Scotland, the national organisation that champions women-led and women-owned businesses, and another signatory to the letter, said: “Women’s Enterprise Scotland is committed to the vision of a more equitable Scotland, including the eradication of child poverty. We support the call to increase the Scottish Child Payment as a vital step in better equipping families to face the ongoing cost of living crisis. This action is key to making progress on child poverty in Scotland.

Dr Mairi Stark, Scotland Officer of The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), one of several health professional bodies to back the letter, said: “In an affluent society such as ours it is wholly unacceptable for children and their families to lack food, shelter, clothing and fuel. As paediatricians we are well aware of the significant health impacts of growing up in poverty. The consequences of which will follow children across their life course, taking away opportunities and stop them reaching their full potential. The current cost-of-living crisis has exacerbated these already deeply embedded issues and allowed health inequalities to rise dramatically.

“To truly improve health outcomes for children and young people, we must first address the effects poverty has on education, housing and social environment. We are once again urging the Scottish Government to make the vital increase in the Scottish Child Payment from £25 to £30 to help families in need.“

* Read the open letter here.

* More information on the Scottish Child Payment here.

* Sources: Child Poverty Action Group Scotland  and Social Security Scotland