Scotland seeing slowest increase in destitution due to Scottish Child Payment

The £25 per week payment is cited as slowing the rate of increase of destitution in Scotland.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has said around a million children experienced destitution in the UK last year.The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has said around a million children experienced destitution in the UK last year.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has said around a million children experienced destitution in the UK last year.

Destitution is increasing much more slowly in Scotland than in the rest of the United Kingdom due to the impact of the Scottish Child Payment and other welfare spending, a leading anti-poverty charity has said.

Wales, London, and the Middle East are seeing the highest rates of increase in destitution, with Scotland’s rates growing “much more slowly”.

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In total, around 3.8m people experience destitution in the UK, up 61 per cent since 2019 and more than doubling since 2017, a new study undertaken by Heriot-Watt University for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found .

This includes one million children, an increase of 88 per cent since 2019.

Destitution is the most extreme type of poverty people can experience and occurs when essentials needed to eat, stay warm, dry, and clean are gone without due to lack of money.

More than half of destitute households have a weekly income of less than £85 a week, with more than a quarter having no income at all.

The report found the social security system is also not protecting people from experiencing destitution, with almost three quarters in receipt of benefits.

Destitution is rising fastest in Wales, the report said, with London having the highest levels of any region, followed by the North East and North West of England.

Scotland, on the other hand, is seeing much slower rates of destitution than other parts of the UK, partially due to the Scottish Child Payment, a benefit worth £25 per week per child.

The benefit has been described by academics as “game-changing”, but forms part of the spiralling social security budget putting pressure on other aspects of Scottish Government spending.

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Despite policies making an impact, Glasgow remains one of the council areas with the highest levels of destitution, placing 26th in the UK, but is behind cities such as Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle, and Liverpool.

Paul Kissack, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said it was a political choice for the government not to help.

He said: “Across our country we are leaving families freezing in their homes or lacking basic necessities like food and clothing. Such severe hardship should have no place in the UK today – and the British public will not stand for destitution on this scale.

“The Government is not helpless to act: it is choosing not to. Turning the tide on destitution is an urgent moral mission, which speaks to our basic humanity as a country, and we need political leadership for that mission. That is why we are calling for clear proposals from all political parties to address this challenge with the urgency it demands.”

The foundation’s associate director for Scotland, Chris Birt, added that the scale of destitution was “outrageous”.

He said: “This needn’t be the case, destitution in Scotland is rising much more slowly than in other parts of the UK with the Scottish Child Payment and local welfare support offering some protection. Despite this, there is no cause for celebration when destitution numbers aren’t falling.

“It is time for both Scotland’s governments to step up to this challenge that years of failed government policy have caused. This is particularly acute for the UK Government and all the parties that are bidding to run it after the next election - they must come through for the Scottish people by embracing the Essentials Guarantee.

"This would improve the lives of people across these islands and stop falling back on their failing work first approach that our Poverty in Scotland report shows is not working. The Scottish Government can also do more and will need to show its willing to turn the tide on destitution in its forthcoming budget.”

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Scottish Labour’s social justice spokesperson, Paul O’Kane, said governments were “too mired in scandal and division” to tackle destitution.

He said: “These deeply upsetting figures reveal the true cost of our stagnating governments in Holyrood and Westminster.

"When Labour was last in government we lifted 1 million children out of poverty but the SNP and Tories have squandered that legacy with poverty spiralling under their watch.

"It could not be clearer that Scotland and the rest of the UK desperately needs change.”

Collette Stevenson, an SNP MSP, said her party’s government was “doing all it can to help those struggling”, but was doing so “with one hand tied behind our back”.

She said: “This latest study should serve as a wake-up call for the UK government to take meaningful action, as the SNP has in Scotland, to address the scourge of destitution and tackle the cost of living crisis.

“The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is right that the persistence of such extreme hardship is a political choice and the culmination of 13 years of Tory rule in which austerity, a callous welfare system and Westminster-made cost of living crisis have made life immeasurably harder for Scots.”

Shirley-Anne Somerville, the social justice secretary, said 90,000 children will be lifted out of poverty due to the government’s welfare policies, claiming the government had spent £3bn on anti-poverty measures.

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She said: “As of 30 June, our Scottish Child Payment was providing 316,000 children with support worth £25 per week.

"We’re making available £83.7 million through Discretionary Housing Payments to mitigate UK government welfare cuts. We estimate that 90,000 fewer children will live in relative and absolute poverty this year as a result of our policies, with poverty levels 9% points lower that they would have otherwise been.

“Entering fair and sustainable work can increase household income and help to tackle poverty. This is why we provide funding for parental employability support across all local authorities.

"We fund Living Wage Scotland to promote payment of the real living wage and support real living wage accredited employers who pay, at least, the real living wage. Some 64,000 workers have had a pay rise as a result of living wage accreditation.

“We continue to urge the UK Government to introduce an Essentials Guarantee to ensure people can afford life's essentials and ensure vulnerable people are properly supported.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Government’s priorities are clear – the best way to help people in Scotland and across the UK with the cost of living is by driving down inflation and growing our economy.

“There are 1.7 million fewer people in absolute poverty than in 2010, including 400,000 fewer children, but we know some families are struggling, which is why we are providing support worth an average of £3,300 per household, including raising benefits by over 10% this year.

“To help people out of poverty through work, we are increasing the National Living Wage again and are also investing £3.5 billion to help thousands into jobs by breaking down barriers to work.”



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