Child poverty: Girl walked to school with no soles on her shoes

Poverty is affecting children so seriously that a girl walked to school with no soles on her shoes, an MSP has told the Scottish Parliament.

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Labour’s Martin Whitfield, former MP for East Lothian and now a South of Scotland MSP, said poverty had a huge impact on children and called for politicians to do more to tackle the problem.

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During a debate on child poverty at Holyrood he said: “Children who are hungry cannot learn; children who are cold cannot learn; and children who come from households in which there are parental stresses because of money are not in a position to learn.

“Last week, I spoke with a teacher who told me that a young girl had come to the high school with no soles on her shoes—she had walked in with just the covering.”

The school had managed to find her a pair of shoes. But Mr Whitfield said: “This is 2022. We are expecting children to sit exams in only a few weeks, yet they do not have shoes on their feet.

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"I would like to see the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child come back to Parliament, so that young people can hold to account the politicians, from all parties, who say brave words, speak loudly and do nothing.”

Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison had announced at the start of the debate that the Scottish Child Payment, which is to double from £10 to £20 a week from April, will increase further to £25 by the end of this year.

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Labour MSP Martin Whitfield said the Scottish Child Payment should be raised to £40.

Mr Whitfield welcomed benefit increases, but he quoted Save the Children, which had said the most impactful action that could be taken was to increase the Scottish Child Payment to £40 as soon as possible.

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“That would lift children out of poverty by putting cash where cash is needed,” he said.

Ms Robison said there was no silver bullet to tackle child poverty. “If there was, we would not be faced with the reality of one in four children living in poverty in Scotland today. No one actor can solve that on their own. A national mission to tackle child poverty is just that: a national and collective effort across society to deliver a bright future for our future generations.”

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She attacked the UK government for its removal of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, taking £1,000 a year out of the pockets of low-income households, and the on-going impact of welfare cuts, including the benefit cap and the two-child limit.

"Since 2018, we in the Scottish Government have made a real difference to families and laid strong foundations to deliver in the future. That includes through our new social security system, our massive expansion of funded early years learning and childcare.”

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But she said she recognised more was needed. As well as the extra increase in the Scottish Child Payment to £25, she announced £10 million a year to mitigate the effects of the UK Government's benefit cap.

And she said modelling suggested that as a result of actions taken since 2017, 60,000 fewer children would be in relative poverty by 2023.

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