Over 100 organisations and academics sign letter to First Minister
“Grave concern” regarding impact of crisis on family incomes and children’s wellbeing
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 the STUC, Scottish Women’s Aid, Scottish Association for Mental Health, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, IPPR, Barnardo’s, Poverty Alliance, 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.
The groups 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”.
They set 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.
Commenting on the letter John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, one of the signatories, 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.”
SallyAnn Kelly, CEO of Aberlour said:
“We urgently need to get money directly to the thousands of struggling families across Scotland who are being pushed, or falling further, into poverty as a result of coronavirus. Families already at breaking point are struggling to put food on their tables or to meet the basic needs for them and their children, and so we are calling on the Scottish Government to take immediate action and use all the measures available to them to get money to those families most in need.”
Claire Telfer, Head of Scotland at Save the Children said:
“All children should be safe, warm, fed and able to play and learning during this crisis and beyond. But, the financial strain on families risks children’s wellbeing now and in the future. Far too many families are struggling to keep afloat – not knowing how they will pay for their next meal or pay their bills. We are concerned the number of children in poverty could soar as a result of the crisis. Emergency support through the Wellbeing Fund and other support from government has been very welcome. It’s not enough to fully protect families. Families need predictable, consistent and sustainable financial support. That is why we are calling for a cash first response for families with children.”