Child Poverty  Delivery Plan to counter Sunak - Lorna Slater

When Rishi Sunak delivered his Spring Statement he had the power and opportunity to offer hope and help to people who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. He categorically failed.

By Lorna Slater
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 7:00 am
Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity
Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity

By the time he sat down, little had changed. There was nothing in the statement to address skyrocketing energy bills or the soaring food prices that have stemmed from their divisive and disastrous Brexit.

There was nothing to help people who aren’t working or can’t work due to disability, illness or caring responsibilities. There was nothing to support those who have been plunged into poverty by the callous cuts to Universal Credit.

The poverty and destitution that so many people are experiencing didn’t begin last week. Poverty figures were already far too high, but research from the End Child Poverty Coalition shows that 500,000 children were pushed into poverty across the UK between 2015 and 2020.

Behind every one of those numbers is a household that is struggling and a child that is having even more barriers and hurdles placed in their way by a Tory government at Westminster that is more concerned with the wealth of its donors than it is with their wellbeing.

Children who grow up in poverty are far more likely to experience poor physical and mental health, and to live in cramped and overcrowded accommodation. That is why it is so important that tackling child poverty is right at the heart of our recovery.

24 hours after the Chancellor had delivered his speech, my Government colleague, Scotland’s Social Justice Secretary, Shona Robison, stood up in Holyrood to give a very different one.

She announced the Scottish Government’s Child Poverty Delivery Plan, a bold and ambitious plan that takes a very different approach from Rishi Sunak and his Tory colleagues.

The plan includes a commitment to increase the Scottish Child Payment to £25 by the end of the year, which will be worth an additional £780 a year for every eligible child. We are also uprating eight Scottish social security payments by 6% to ensure these payments keep their real-terms values for families.

These measures will help those most in need at a time when the UK government has abandoned them. They will help to offset some of the damage being done while delivering on a key pledge in the Scottish Greens manifesto to use devolved powers to mitigate the impact of the cruel benefit cap.

This plan will make a significant inroad into tackling child poverty, but it will not be the end of what we do. It builds on important priorities like free bus travel for young people and free school meals for primary children and will act as a springboard towards other measures like rent controls, which we have committed to delivering in this parliament.

Not all these measures can be implemented by Holyrood alone. They will need a lot of work and coordination with councils too. That’s why it’s vital that as many Scottish Greens councillors are elected as possible this May.

In Edinburgh we have a great team of sitting Green councillors and candidates. They will be local champions and support our communities while working with Greens in government to deliver a fairer, greener city.

The future we want to build is a very different one from the harshness and austerity being implemented by Downing Street. There is nothing inevitable about poverty, and all governments must do everything they can to tackle it.

Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity