One in four children in Scotland is living in poverty – despite most of them having parents in work.
These include more than 31,000 children in Tayside and Fife, and the numbers have grown annually over the last few years.
Child poverty statistics released by the Scottish Government on Tuesday are from just before the pandemic, and it is predicted many more families will have been forced below the breadline by lockdown.
They also show that one in three babies under the age of one (34%) were living in poverty and 38% of children with single parents.
Parents going without food
Charity Save the Children said parents were going without food and electricity to ensure children could eat.
Claire Telfer, Save the Children’s head of Scotland said: “It is deeply disheartening that the number of children experiencing poverty in Scotland was rising before the pandemic, and that over one in three homes with babies under one live with poverty.
“It will be another year before we understand the true impact of Covid on poverty. But we know from our work with families that the last year has seen many families struggling with hardship.
For about three weeks, I didn’t eat, I had to make a choice between feeding my child and putting money into my gas and electric.”
A parent helped by Save the Children
“Behind the statistics, there are too many families who struggle financially, day in and day out, with far reaching consequences for their children.
“Parents we work with tell us they’re having to go without meals or electricity just to make sure their children have food to eat.
“One mum told us ‘I had no idea of how I was supposed to live and how to provide for my child. For about three weeks, I didn’t eat, I had to make a choice between feeding my child and putting money into my gas and electric’.”
The report shows that 24% of children – 240,000 – lived in poverty in 2019/20 and suggests an increase in child poverty since the early 2010s.
Over two-thirds (68%) of children in poverty – 160,000 – live in a household with someone in paid work.
Figures from the Department of Work and Pension also show that the number of children living in relative poverty in Tayside and Fife rose to 31,593 in 2019/20 from 24,681 four years earlier.
The greatest number were in Fife, where 16,348 children were in poverty. Dundee had 6,255 children living in relative poverty, Perth and Kinross 4,782 and Angus 4,208. Each area has seen an increase of between 26 and 30% since 2015/16.
Households at the highest risk of poverty were those with single parents, three or more children, a child aged under one, a mother aged under 25 and those with disabled members or of a minority ethnic background.
Action to reverse the rise
Save the Children has urged the government to reverse the rise by boosting support available to families and at least doubling the value of the Scottish Child Payment for families with young children and accelerating its roll out to those with school-aged children.
It also wants the £20 uplift in universal credit, set to go in September as furlough ends, to be maintained for another year.
Ms Telfer said: “History will judge how we handled this pandemic for our children.
“It has been an overwhelming and stressful time for families already struggling on a low income, and we cannot risk plunging even more families into poverty.”
Due to the forthcoming election, the Scottish Government provided no comment.
‘Still much work to do’
But SNP candidate for Dundee East, Shona Robison, said: “The SNP has taken decisive action to tackle child poverty and ensure no-one is left behind – through our ground-breaking legislation to reduce child poverty, our new £10 a week Scottish Child Payment, providing free school meals to kids, providing up to £500 additional support this year to low-income families, and mitigating the impact of Tory welfare cuts.
“However, while we have taken a range of action to tackle child poverty, many of the key policy levers in welfare and economic policy remain reserved to the Tories at Westminster.
Now, more than ever, we need a social security system which lifts people out of poverty and supports them when they need it.”
Shona Robison, SNP candidate Dundee East
“Scotland could do even more to tackle poverty and inequality had we those powers, but instead we are fighting poverty with one hand tied behind our back.
“Now, more than ever, we need a social security system which lifts people out of poverty and supports them when they need it. Families on low incomes simply can’t afford more years of a Tory government imposing austerity on our poorest communities.
“We know there’s still much work to do, but the SNP is absolutely committed to tackling child poverty and creating a social security system with fairness, dignity and respect at its heart.”