Campaigners call for emergency cash boost to prevent child poverty crisis

Over 100 children’s charities, faith groups, academics, think tanks, poverty campaigners and trade unions have today written an open letter to the First Minister calling for a direct financial boost for all families living on low incomes to support them through the coronavirus crisis.

The letter expresses “grave concern” that families across Scotland are struggling to stay afloat through the crisis, and that her government’s progress on tackling child poverty is being put at huge risk.

Signatories include Children 1st as well as organisations such as the STUC, Scottish Women’s Aid, Scottish Association for Mental Health, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, IPPR, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland and One Parent Families Scotland. They say that a payment equivalent to at least £10 per week per child is needed to provide families “a lifeline now to help them weather the storm.”

The letter highlights the impact of the coronavirus crisis on low income families, particularly on those already at greater risk of poverty, such as lone parent households. The organisations behind it say the families they work with “are reporting increased financial stress and associated anxiety, loneliness, and more complex mental health problems,” and that the charitable hardship funds many of them operate have come under massively increased pressure. Aberlour’s Urgent Assistance Fund alone has, they say, seen a 1400% increase in demand.

We are joining with organisation across the country to urge the First Minster to use “every tool at your government’s disposal to deliver an emergency package of financial support to all low income families”.

The letter sets out a range of ideas for delivering the payment. Options include new or increased Best Start grants, an increased school clothing grant, additional investment in the Scottish Welfare Fund to provide a ‘coronavirus crisis grant,’ topping up UK children’s benefits and the use of local government powers. They also say additional targeted support could be delivered through increases to discretionary housing payments and Best Start Food payments.

Mary Glasgow, Chief Executive, Children 1st said: "We are delighted that so many organisations have backed the call on the Scottish Government to give a cash boost to all low income families to help them cope through coronavirus. This will be an essential foundation on which to build the longer term emotional and practical support needed to support families to repair and recover from what has happened to them.

"Parentline are hearing from families that financial challenges are compounding the stresses so many of them are facing right now and we hope this can help ease the strain."

John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland said: “Families are already being pulled under by the financial impact of coronavirus, undermining children’s education, health and life chances, and putting progress on child poverty at real risk. It’s right that government at every level should use every power at its disposal to provide an anchor of financial security through these extraordinary times. Boosting family incomes now is vital to shore up the foundations on which the recovery from coronavirus can be built and future progress on child poverty made.”

Read the open letter on the Child Poverty Action Group website