According to a report, the SNP’s child protection policies could reduce the burden on struggling families by a third if fully implemented.
The researchers analyzed the impact of policies such as payments for children, free school meals, clothing grants and free bus travel on the cost of raising a child.
The report is based on calculations which show that the minimum cost of raising a child in the UK, excluding childcare costs, is around £76,000 in a couple family and £103,000 in a single parent family.
Assuming the Scottish Payment for Children is doubled to £20 a week and fully rolled out and all primary school children receive free school meals, he found that the combined value of Scottish Government policies reduces the net cost of education. raising a child up to 31% (almost £24,000) for low-income families.
Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said Scotland was the only part of the UK to have five child benefits.
Universal free school meals throughout primary slash the cost of raising a child by £1,700, while free bus travel saves £3,000 on a child’s lifetime cost in Scotland compared to England.
Deputy Prime Minister John Swinney said in November 2020 that the SNP would make free school meals available to pupils by August 2022 if his party retained power in the May election.
However, funding has only been made available to extend it to P4 and P5 pupils. P6 and P7 students will have to wait “later in the legislature”.
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The Scottish Child Payment will provide a total of £16,700 over 16 years to help meet the cost of a child for families on Universal Credit.
Incomes of out-of-work families are still a third less than what is needed to cover the true costs of raising a child, but researchers said the gap was ‘significantly smaller’ than elsewhere UK.
A family with two children in Scotland on unemployment benefit is 30% below their needs, compared to more than 40% in the rest of the UK.
The shortfall will be greater for families affected by the UK government’s benefit cap.
The report was commissioned by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland from the Center for Social Policy Research at Loughborough University.
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The charity has called for the policies to be fully implemented as soon as possible and for transitional payments to be doubled for children eligible for free school meals to help bridge the gap with the rollout of the Scottish Children’s Payment in April.
He said the UK government must also increase Universal Credit and Child Benefits by at least 7% to match inflation.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “This new analysis shows how a long campaign for policies such as doubling the Scottish payment for children and rolling out universal free school meals will make a big difference.
“But it is absolutely vital that Holyrood ministers move forward to ensure that they are all delivered this year and that all families are able to benefit from the additional support to which they are entitled.
“Scotland is making real progress in tackling child poverty, but with the cost of living soaring, families need extra help now if they are to stay afloat this year.
“That means every level of government has to step in.
“The Chancellor must ensure that UK financial support for families rises with inflation – an increase of at least 7% in April to match the Bank of England’s inflation forecast, not the 3.1% forecast – and it must remove the cap on benefits so that the increase reaches all the families who need it.
Donald Hirsch, Professor of Social Policy and Director of the Center for Social Policy Research at Loughborough University and author of the report, said: ”
“The rising cost of raising a child and the failure in recent years to match this with improvements in state support has left many families in the UK struggling to join the two ends.
“However, this report shows that in Scotland families are significantly better off in this regard, thanks to Scottish Government policies aimed at tackling the problem, as well as childcare costs which have not risen as rapidly. than in England.
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“Benefit levels remain well below families’ needs, but it is encouraging to see policies at Scottish level that are making a substantial difference for families.”
Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said: ‘The Scottish Child Payment, designed to tackle child poverty head-on, will be doubled to £20 a week from April – four times more than what activists had originally asked. Combined with our three Best Start and Best Start Foods grants, low-income families will receive £8,400 of financial support by the time their first child turns six.
“We are also providing immediate support to over 144,000 school-age children through bridging payments worth £520 this year and last, before the Scottish Children’s Payment is extended to under-16s. end of the year.
“Our ambitious measures are already providing huge support to families compared to other parts of the UK – for example, through at least 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare, help with employment, income maximization, affordable housing and social security.
“We remain the only part of the UK to have five child benefits.
“We need to go further and later this month we will release our next child poverty plan which will outline the next steps we will take alongside our delivery partners to break the cycle of child poverty. .”
A UK government spokesman said: ‘We recognize the pressures people are facing with the cost of living which is why we are providing support worth around £20billion this financial year and the next to help.
“This includes putting an average of £1,000 more a year in the pockets of working families via changes to Universal Credit, freezing fuel taxes to cut costs and helping households pay their utility bills. energy through our £9.1 billion rebate on energy bills.
“We have also increased the minimum wage by over £1,000 a year for full-time workers and our £500m household support fund is helping the most vulnerable with essential costs.
“Meanwhile, the benefit cap, up to the equivalent of £24,000 wages, ensures fairness for hard-working taxpayer households and a strong incentive to work, while providing a much-needed safety net. ”