MSPs to vote on legislation to cut child poverty

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Legislation that will make Scotland the only part of the UK with statutory targets to cut child poverty is expected to be passed at Holyrood.

MSPs will debate and vote on the Scottish Government’s Child Poverty Bill at the final stage of its journey through parliament .

Currently more than one in five (220,000) children live in poverty north of the border.

The Bill will require Scottish ministers to ensure that by 2030 less than 10% of children are in relative poverty, meaning those living in a home earning below 60% of the current median UK household income.

It sets out that less than 5% of children are to be in absolute poverty, defined as households earning below 60% of the 2010/11 national median income.

Further targets are for less than 5% of children to be assessed as being in combined low income and material deprivation and less than 5% in persistent poverty.

Speaking before the debate, SNP MSP George Adam, who sits on Holyrood’s Social Security Committee, said the Bill could be “transformational for children across the country”.

He said: “Parties of all colours should listen to groups such as the Child Poverty Action Group and the Poverty Alliance and back the Scottish Government’s proposals that will allow progress on tackling child poverty to be monitored and gives us the chance to keep track of what is working and what is not.

“No child should grow up in poverty – particularly in a wealthy country like Scotland. We need to fast-track action to try and fix this and to help children living in poverty now, and to prevent future generations of children growing up in poverty.

“This Bill brings together and builds on the work we are already doing to strengthen our fight against child poverty – despite having to do this with one arm tied behind our backs as a result of disastrous Tory policies imposed on us by Westminster.

“It is a bill worthy of support from across the parliament.”

Opposition parties previously backed measures aimed at strengthening the legislation during its committee stage of scrutiny.

Labour, Tory and Green MSPs on Holyrood’s Social Security Committee united to vote through a series of amendments to require ministers to set out whether they will use new welfare powers to increase child benefit, i nclude interim child poverty targets on the face of the Bill, and establish a statutory Poverty and Inequality Commission.

Scottish Labour’s Pauline McNeill said: “Labour has strengthened the Child Poverty Bill at every stage through the parliamentary process and will continue to support its progress today.

“It is vital that we do everything we can to reduce and eventually eliminate child poverty in this country.

“Just this week statistics have exposed the scale of the problem we are facing, with Tory welfare reforms making the average family in Scotland more than £700 worse off and changes to Universal Credit pushing a million kids across Britain into poverty.

“If we are serious about tackling child poverty in Scotland the SNP government must start using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts and invest instead.”