THE “large and growing problem” of child poverty is to be investigated by MSPs.
Charities believe that the number of children living in poverty has risen in the last year, bucking the official downward trend, according to campaigner Marion Davis.
About 160,000 children were living in poverty in 2011/12, representing about 16% of Scotland’s child population, according to Scottish Government figures.
This is down from around 22% ten years ago but Ms Davis believes the next round of figures will show an increase, hampering efforts to achieve the official target of cutting relative poverty to 10% and absolute poverty to 5%.
Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee met with families in Possilpark, Glasgow, today as part of their inquiry into health inequalities and will take further evidence on child poverty from children’s organisations and the Scottish Government in the coming weeks.
Ms Davis, a member of End Child Poverty in Scotland, said: “Poverty is affecting a large and growing number of children in Scotland.
“Families that we work with tell us that every day is a challenge when it means that parents can’t provide the basics for their children.
“Added to this is the worry about the negative side effects of growing up in poverty damaging childhoods and life chances.
“The committee’s investigation is a chance to hear families’ stories and listen to their experiences.
“They are the experts in their own situations and by working with them we can make sure that the right support is in place when they need it.
“Child poverty is not a natural phenomenon, it is the product of choices and actions made by government and society.”
She added: “The Scottish Government may be able to say over a certain period child poverty has gone down, which obviously it has done because they have the research to show it.
“This will be the impact of policies that proceeded from the previous (UK) government. Research shows that tax credits that the previous government put in place reduced child poverty.
“But there is every indication at the moment that there has been an increase in poverty.
“Certainly in our work we are seeing a lot more parents going without food because they can’t afford to feed their children and eat themselves, and going to food banks because they have been sanctioned by the Job Centre.
“Across the board, child poverty groups are all seeing increasing pressures on families.”
Committee convener Duncan McNeil said: “It is no exaggeration to say that each and every child that is growing up in poverty is being badly let down by the system.
“These children need action now, so our committee is undertaking a short, focused investigation to try and determine why over 160,000 children in Scotland continue to be blighted by poverty.”
Deputy convener Bob Doris said: “We all know that child poverty is a complex issue with no easy answers, but by taking evidence on this issue we hope to bring to the fore why child poverty continues to affect thousands of children all across Scotland.
“This is important not only for children that every day face the stark reality of living in poverty but also for the next generation of children. We owe it to them to do better.”