Gordon Brown warns of growing child poverty crisis

Former prime minister Gordon Brown. Picture: John Devlin
Former prime minister Gordon Brown. Picture: John Devlin
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Former prime minister Gordon Brown will today warn of a “devastating child poverty crisis” across Scotland and the UK, with the number of ignored and neglected youngsters north of the Border set to double to almost 400,000.

The ex-Labour leader will attack the Westminster and Scottish governments for “shamefully ignoring” the problem, which is creating a “generation of invisible boys and girls” when he appears at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The SNP government has not done enough with Holyrood’s new powers to tackle Tory-led austerity cuts at UK level, Mr Brown will say. He will call for an increase in child tax credits as the most effective way to cut child poverty numbers. The number of children living in poverty is set to increase to 5.2 million by 2022, up from around four million, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

Scottish Government projections published earlier this year showed about 230,000 children are living in relative poverty north of the Border, but this is poised to rise to more 360,000 (38 per cent) by the mid-2020s as the impact of welfare cuts bite.

Mr Brown will say: “It is time to awaken the entire country to the devastating, but virtually ignored and, to many, invisible rise in UK child poverty, which is on the road to doubling since 2010 to 3.9 million in 2022, before housing costs are calculated, while 5.2 million children are now expected to be in poverty after housing costs are taken into account.”

He will add: “This means that without remedial action the prospects for nearly half a generation of children are today in tatters, with Westminster and Holyrood governments shamefully ignoring this national disgrace and the silent suffering and sorrows of left-out millions.”

Growing child poverty is driven by UK ministers’ cuts to benefits, Mr Brown will say, but Holyrood has failed to protect Scots.

He will add: “If the Scottish Parliament is serious about addressing child poverty, it has the power under the Scotland Act 2016 to top up tax credits. If there is any doubt on that or on whether the HMRC has a duty to assist them in doing so, then I would support greater powers enabling the Parliament to act.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to actions to help eradicate child poverty in Scotland by 2030, and we have outlined key measures as to how that goal can be achieved. That is despite on-going UK government austerity, which will see annual welfare spending cut by almost £4 billion in Scotland by 2020.”

A UK government spokesperson said:“In Scotland, the proportion of children living in absolute poverty is at a record low, the employment rate is increasing and the number of children living in a workless household has fallen by around 27 per cent since 2010. The best way to help people improve their lives is through employment and our welfare reforms incentivise work.”