Dozens of groups from across civic Scotland have joined forces to call for an emergency rise in child benefit to deal with the impact of Covid-19.
More than forty of Scotland’s leading children’s charities, faith groups, trade unions, community groups and anti-poverty organisations have joined civic organisations from across the UK to call on the Chancellor to increase child benefit by £10 a week per child to help families through the pandemic.
The signatories to the joint letter to Rishi Sunak – including Child Poverty Action Group, Aberlour, the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), Church of Scotland, One Parent
Families Scotland, Citizens Advice Scotland and the Poverty Alliance - have welcomed the steps taken so far to support household incomes during the pandemic, but say low-income families need more help with meeting children’s needs and unexpected costs while schools are closed.
“We are calling for emergency support for children to ensure all parents can cover the basic costs of raising their children in the face of reduced income and before the new income protection measures can take effect”, they urge.
“As child benefit reaches most families (12.7 million children receive it ) it offers an effective, fast and resilient way to get money to families through our existing infrastructure - families will get the help they need directly into their bank accounts to cover additional costs.”
Since 2011 child benefit has been subject to freezes and sub-inflationary uprating, more than half the suggested £10 increase would simply restore its value to 2010. A £10 child benefit uplift, on top of this week’s annual uprating, would reduce child poverty by around five percentage points.
Campaigners say this is a bigger reduction than achieved by the £20 increase in universal credit and working tax credit that the Chancellor has announced, Mr Sunak is also facing renewed calls from the SNP to bring forward stronger UK welfare protections to ensure people are not pushed into hardship and poverty.
The five week wait for the first Universal Credit payment must be reduced through the UK government providing a non-repayable grant instead of a loan, the SNP says.
In addition, the UK government must introduce a Guaranteed Minimum Income to bridge the gaps in the Job Retention and Self-Employment Income Support schemes.
Social security payments – including Child Benefit, but also Universal Credit and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) – must be increased, according to the Nationalists at
Westminster, while the rate of Statutory Sick Pay must also be increased in line with a Real Living Wage.
Neil Gray, the SNP’s work and pensions spokesman said: “In this time of crisis, it is crucial that everyone in our society is properly supported if they have been impacted by coronavirus and not pushed into, or further into, destitution and hardship because they fall between the gaps of available support.
“People in Scotland and across the UK are at risk of contracting coronavirus and spreading the virus to others through steps they have to take to survive because they do not qualify for support – this needs to stop.
“I welcome the measures the UK government has already introduced but I am now urging the Chancellor to seriously consider the gaps in the measures and implement our proposals to close them to ensure everyone has a safety net.”