Tackling poverty has always been a priority for the SNP, as part of our ambitions to build a fairer, more equal country. In the last Parliament we introduced ambitious statutory targets to reduce child poverty and established the Poverty and Inequality Commission through our Child Poverty Act.
Our ‘Every Child, Every Chance’ plan outlined our actions to maximise incomes, increase support for parents, and mitigate the damaging impact of Tory welfare cuts that have been imposed on people across the country.
Our annual progress reports show that in government, we invest around £2billion every year to support low-income households – with over £670 million focused on families with children.
In the three years since the SNP government has had the powers and legislation to establish Scotland’s first social security system, we have started paying ten benefits, which are helping families with young children, carers, young people, and families with severely disabled children.
Although we have made progress, we will continue to have a sharp focus on shifting the curve on poverty. The “game-changing” Scottish Child Payment is the most ambitious anti-poverty policy in the UK. Around 100,000 low-income families with children under 6 are now receiving the £40 payment every four weeks. The Payment will be rolled out to under 16s by the end of 2022 – but we know that families are facing financial insecurity now. So to bridge the gap, we will provide the equivalent £520 to all low income families in receipt of free school meals. In the next Scottish Parliament we will also double the Scottish Child Payment to £20 a week – supporting up to 450,000 children in 250,000 households.
We are committed to breaking down financial barriers to learning so we will invest in providing a free school breakfast and lunch for all primary school pupils, universal provision of a laptop or tablet for all school pupils, and exempting low-income families from the cost of school trips.
We will also build a year-round system of ‘wraparound’ childcare before and after school – ensuring those on the lowest incomes pay nothing. And we will double the investment in parental employment support to £15 million.
When it comes to tackling poverty, it’s clear that Scotland is on a different journey to the elsewhere in the UK. We utterly reject the UK government’s approach to austerity, and welfare cuts including the bedroom tax, two child cap and abhorrent rape clause.
We could do so much more with full powers to tackle poverty – like employment and social security. However, we are committed to using the powers we do have, so we will also establish a Steering Group to examine introducing a Minimum Income Guarantee; and support a specific accreditation programme for Living Hours in the same way we have supported Living Wage accreditation.
With the Covid-19 pandemic upending our economy and society, we need experienced leadership to respond to the crisis and focus on our recovery. A re- elected SNP Government will be ambitious and progressive, and put respect, dignity and fairness at the heart of all we do.