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Includem urges the Scottish Government to do more to address child poverty now

Includem welcomes the announcement by Scottish Government that the Scottish Child Payment will be rolled out in February of next year. However, with nearly 1 in 4 children in poverty before the pandemic and more families falling into poverty since, we strongly believe February is too far away for many children.

We know that those who were already in poverty are disproportionately disadvantaged by the measures put in place to manage the spread of Covid-19. They will take even longer to recover, if at all.

The families we work with experience entrenched and persistent poverty. They often find themselves in overcrowded accommodation, unable to move to something more suitable due to rent arrears or there being no appropriate housing in their area of choice. These families are far from the job market and solely reliant on benefits. These benefits are subject to caps and sanctions and the system itself is difficult to negotiate. Many of our families tell us that they got into debt at points of entering education or employment because they have not understood the rules or their obligations on what and when they have needed to tell to manage their benefits.

A recent survey of social workers by the Child Poverty Action Group showed that poverty and the resulting stress and strain makes it difficult to support families make meaningful changes. Our experience also tells us that it paralyses many of our families when it comes to resolving issues with their benefits or other debts. Our families have a very real fear of the brown envelope and many just don’t open them!

While the Scottish Child Payment is welcome, Includem would urge the Government to do more.

Includem recommends:

  • An immediate and ongoing payment to families in entrenched poverty to alleviate immediate need until the Scottish Child Payment is in place. The Welfare Fund has started this process, but families need to know what they are getting and when. They should not have to rely on their ability to get grants through the third sector.
  • A full review of the benefits system to ensure it is simple, easy to negotiate and does not create the ‘fear of the brown envelope’. Universal Credit is not the answer. There are numerous studies that demonstrate the Universal Credit causes families to go further into poverty and detrimentally affects their mental health taking them further away from the job market.
  • More accessible and affordable housing of a size and in areas that families want. We have seen too many children experiencing multiple school moves due preventable changes in their housing. This can further widen the poverty related attainment gap.
  • More measures to stop families becoming homeless. Includem welcomes the indication by Scottish Government to extend the ban on evictions but more needs to be done to stop families getting further into arrears – all we are currently doing is delaying the eviction rather than preventing it. We also need to understand why families get into rent arrears in the first place and what structural changes are needed to address it.
  • More money provided for holistic family support. We know that holistic family support that identifies and addresses causes of stress and advocates and signposts families to the right agencies means that parents are one step closer to be job ready and one step closer to lifting themselves out of poverty.

Includem sees and works every day with young people and families suffering from the bane of entrenched poverty. Waiting to enact legislation and payments has a disproportionate effect on these families and drives them further into poverty and despair. Article 27 of the UNCRC enshrines the right for children to have a standard of living that is good enough to meet their physical and social needs and support their development. We are not meeting our obligations.

No one measure will suffice, a concentrated and systematic effort is required, not just commitment but execution of a plan that truly gets it right for every child – right now we are failing one in four.

For more information please contact: meg.thomas@includem.co.uk

Tags: policy
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