Gordon Brown slams SNP record on child poverty
Former Prime Minister will today urge Holyrood and Westminster to form a joint council in a bid to halt the growing "epidemic" of child poverty north of the border.Almost one in four (240,000) children are living in poverty in Scotland, but the numbers are rising.Mr Brown will tell a special Our Scottish Future event in Edinburgh today that "epidemic levels2 are looming with a 130,000 jump predicted between 2015 and 2028."Both the UK Government and Scottish Government have powers to deal with child poverty but their failure to act – and to work together – means Scottish child poverty is higher than during the Margaret Thatcher-John Major years, epidemic poverty levels we were promised would never return," Mr Brown will say today.“The impact is devastating. Infant mortality rates in the most deprived areas in Scotland are over 50 per cent higher than those in the least deprived areas.“Almost twice as many babies are born with low birthweight in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived.“And, at the age of five, children from the highest-income families are ahead of children from the lowest-income families by 13 months in knowledge of vocabulary and 10 months in problem-solving skills."The rise of food banks means they have "taken over the role of the welfare state", the former Prime Minister will add.He blames both the UK Government for presiding over the rise and the Scottish Government for failing to mitigate it through new benefits devolved to Holyrood.The Scottish Government's increase in carers’ allowance, the Best Start Grant and the Child Payment, although welcome, won't do enough to have a significant impact on the child poverty rate.Brown will add: “The SNP, instead of focusing on independence, should be pressing the UK government to do more and using the substantial powers under the Scotland Act to address the child poverty emergency - but they are not."
A council of UK and Scottish governments should now be established to address the issue, Mr Brown added.
“I believe that the UK and Scottish governments have to work together to alleviate this emergency – the Scottish Government of course pressing the UK to do more – and itself offering a full package of measures to be introduced not, as promised, two years from now," he said.
The "iniquitous" two child policy which takes £64 a week from poor families, while child benefit and the child element of the Universal Credit payment should be raised by £40-a-week and a special additional payment of £40 for the under 6s needs to be introduced.
“It is time to come together and fight and win a real war against Scottish poverty” Brown said.
But a spokesman for Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said Holyrood budgets have been cut by £1.5bn by the Tories over the last decade.
“The SNP Government is doing everything it can – under the financial and constitutional constraints that Gordon Brown ensured would be placed upon us – to tackle poverty and inequality in Scotland," the spokesman said.
"We have set in statute our ambition to eradicate child poverty in Scotland and are introducing our game-changing new Scottish Child Payment, offering £10 a week per child to low-income families by the end of 2022 - with early roll-out for families with a child under 6 by Christmas this year.
“In 2018-19 we invested more than £1.4 billion in support, which was targeted on low-incomes families from housing to childcare, and an annual £100 million to mitigate the worst impacts of UK Government welfare cuts which are the main reason that child poverty is projected to rise. We have urged the UK Government many times to take action on this and reverse their cuts, as have a range of charities - and even the UN.”