Church leaders call for £5 top-up on Scottish child benefit

Church leaders and anti-'¨poverty campaigners have called on the Scottish Government to use new welfare powers to increase child benefit by £5 amid growing fears for youngsters living in the worst social conditions.

More than 260,000 youngsters in Scotland are growing up in families who are struggling to make ends. Picture: Getty Images
More than 260,000 youngsters in Scotland are growing up in families who are struggling to make ends. Picture: Getty Images

Kezia Dugdale also backed the call, insisting the Labour Party would support such a move at Holyrood where the new post-referendum 
powers allow ministers to top up existing UK benefits.

But social security secretary Angela Constance last night appeared to rule out such a move, warning it would cost £250 million and would not effectively target youngsters in poverty.

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The Most Rev William Nolan, the Bishop of Galloway, who is bishop president of the Catholic Church’s justice and peace commission, announced support for the Give Me Five campaign yesterday.

Organisations such as the Child Poverty Action Group have been urging the Scottish Government to increase the benefit payment, which is received by most families, by £5 a week.

With more than 260,000 youngsters in Scotland growing up in families struggling to make ends meet, supporters
argue that a £5 increase in child benefit could remove some 30,000 children from poverty.

Bishop Nolan made the announcement ahead of 
the national launch of the 
Give Me Five campaign 
tomorrow. He said: “For a growing number of children, this is not the Scotland of equality, fairness and opportunity that our politicians 
tell us they wish to 
achieve.

“I would urge politicians of all parties to support this initiative and act now to reduce the number of our children for whom poverty is destroying their childhood and stifl-ing their future.”

The Right Rev Dr Derek Browning, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said there was a “political, social and moral imperative that we act now to effect change for the good”.

He added: “The Church of Scotland stands alongside people of all faith traditions, and none, in the move towards fairness for all our children.”

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, and Sir Harry Burns, the former chief medical 
officer for Scotland, will also be at the campaign launch.

Polling by Survation found almost two-thirds of Scots are in favour of Holyrood increasing child benefits, with 36.2 per cent strongly supporting the move while 28.6 per cent said they were “somewhat’’ in favour.

Ms Dugdale said: “Over a quarter of a million children in Scotland living in poverty is a national scandal that should shame each and every one of us and should shock the SNP Government into action.

“The SNP Government should use the powers over social security to top up child benefit by £240 by 2020.”

Ms Constance said UK Government cuts since 2010 had pushed more people, including children, “into poverty and crisis” and said the Child Poverty Bill sets new targets to eradicate child poverty.

She added: “While I recognise the rationale behind proposals to top up child benefits by £5 a week, in reality to 
deliver it would cost around quarter of a billion pounds and only £3 out of every £10 would go to households in poverty.

“When resources are tight, we need to make sure that any investment goes as far as it can to tackle poverty.”