Child poverty: Scottish Liberal Democrats launch proposals to combat child poverty
The new measures include providing better access to free activities outside of school.
They come after think tank Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) said earlier this month that the Scottish Government is not on track to meet its child poverty targets.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader said the new proposals come under his New Hope for Young People plan.
This includes providing an easy, automatic “play wallet” to ensure young people living in poverty have access to activities outside of school hours such as music, sport and dance.
A new, national legal entitlement for young people to have access to funded youth work is also part of the plan, plus a permanent year-round “Holiday Fun Fund” for children and young people to use for experiences and activities during school breaks.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said libraries, youth centres and residential centres must be protected “as a priority” to help deliver these experiences and activities.
“One in eight libraries have shut for good under the nationalists,” he said.
“Lifeline youth work has felt the squeeze of years of SNP/Green council cuts.
“Residential trips have been lost to the pandemic.
“It’s time to start expanding opportunities for young people instead of shutting them down.”
He said the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on vulnerable young people could be catastrophic.
“Poverty is not just about a lack of money,” he said.
“It often means children being excluded from the activities and opportunities that are so vital to their happiness, mental wellbeing and even their cognitive development.
“Opportunities that children from more privileged backgrounds are able to benefit from.”
Mr Cole-Hamilton said this week the Scottish Government allocated £10 million to a summer 2022 programme to support families during the holidays, half of the £20 million sum provided last year for the Summer Fun Fund which he said only happened thanks to campaigning from the Liberal Democrats.
He said last year’s fund “helped deliver everything from photography workshops to holidays for young people in residential care that staff said would never happen otherwise” adding: “The Scottish Government shouldn’t be cutting that funding in half.
“Lifting children out of poverty altogether is critically important, but at the same time the Scottish Government can do so much more to reduce the impact of poverty on young lives.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “This week we published our second Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, Best Start Bright Futures, which has a raft of clear actions we will take to provide immediate support to children and families and to break the cycle of child poverty.
“The plan is backed by new investment of £113 million on top of funding already allocated.
“As a result of these new commitments and actions taken to date, modelling shows that child poverty is projected to fall to its lowest level in nearly 30 years, with more than 60,000 fewer children estimated to be living in relative poverty in 2023 compared to 2017.
“The plan includes an £80 million parental employment package and £15 million fund to support parents with barriers to work.
“We will also take steps to mitigate the UK Government’s benefit cap which is causing hardship to poorer families.
“In addition, the Scottish Child Payment – one of five family benefits – will double to £20 in a week and be increased to £25 and extended to under-16s at the end of the year.”