SNP vow to double flagship child benefit payment

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will today announce plans to double the payments in its flagship child benefit scheme in an attempt to “end the scandal” of child poverty.

The SNP is to announce plans to double the Scottish Child Payment to £20 a week, but there are warnings that the benefit should be even higher. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
The SNP is to announce plans to double the Scottish Child Payment to £20 a week, but there are warnings that the benefit should be even higher. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The £10-a-week Scottish Child Payment (SCP) will rise to £20 in what the SNP hailed as a “major expansion” of the initiative.

However, it remains doubtful whether the doubling of the payment will meet the Scottish Government’s child poverty targets.

Both the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and IPPR Scotland have called on the benefit payment to be lifted to £40 a week.

Ms Sturgeon is expected to announce the key election pledge today, pointing out that the increase will benefit over 400,000 children across 250,000 households.

The SNP leader will also unveil plans for “bridging payments” to low-income families with children aged between six and 16, who have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

At present, the SCP provides a payment to low-income families with children up to the age of six, but it is set to expand to all children under the age of 16 by the end of next year.

Ms Sturgeon will say that she wants to make ending child poverty a “national mission” for the next parliament.

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She is expected to say: “It’s time to end the scandal of child poverty and this will help to do it.

“It is a down payment on what will be possible when we have the full powers over tax and social security that only independence can deliver.”

No definite date for the proposed increase has been announced, but the SNP said the payments will rise over the course of the next parliamentary term.

Ms Sturgeon will also explain that if reelected, the SNP will provide the bridging payments - four quarterly instalments totalling £520 - to all low-income families with children in receipt of free school meals this year, and again in 2022.

Only last week, the IPPR Scotland think tank said the Scottish Government should introduce a new social renewal supplement, paid for by higher rate taxpayers, to raise the SCP to £40 a week. Such an upsurge in the payment, it said, would help lift more than 50,000 children out of poverty.

It also proposed the introduction of lone parent and disability premiums to the SCP to help those families “further below an income floor.”

Last month, meanwhile, an analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that Scotland was on course to miss its interim child poverty target by four per cent, leaving 40,000 children trapped in poverty as a result.

It said that unless the payments were lifted by £30 for each child - at a cost of around £380 million a year - the introduction of the SCP was still not enough to help meet that target.

The Scottish Government has set the interim target of having no more than 18 per cent of children living in relative poverty by the end of 2023/24, down from the current total which sees almost a quarter (24 per cent) of youngsters affected - the equivalent of around a quarter of a million children.

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