Scottish Labour’s 10-point plan to eradicate child poverty reveals the difference a UK Labour government would make
Scottish Labour today outlined a radical 10-point plan to tackle child poverty, through profound and lasting “structural change.”
The plan includes bold measures to scrap the discredited and punitive Universal Credit system, its perverse two-child limit and the benefits cap. This will be replaced with a new social security system that treats people with dignity.
The punitive sanctions regime, which the Tories have imposed on the poorest in our society without remorse, will also be scrapped and replaced with a new, more humane system based on decency and reciprocity.
A £10 an hour living wage along with Labour’s Jobs Plan for Scotland, which would invest at least £70billion in Scotland’s industries, housing and public services and create new, well-paid, high-skilled jobs Scotland will tackle the high rates of in work poverty in Scotland.
These would complement a series of radical measures in Holyrood to reduce child poverty long term and tackle the inequalities those currently living in poverty face.
These include building 120,000 social homes over ten years, the introduction of flexible, all-age, all-year, wrap-around affordable early years’ childcare, free meals at weekends and holidays for school pupils across Scotland, a minimum income guarantee for young carers and a new fund to help low income families pay for school trip that would be otherwise unaffordable.
Leading the announcement Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:
“A combination of callous Tory welfare reform and SNP timidity has allowed the unforgivable to happen – child poverty in Scotland in rising. The government’s own figures tell us one in four children live in poverty, and the majority of these are from working families.”
“This is a disgrace that blights our society and demonstrates the glaring need for radical, structural change. But the SNP’s response so far has been a series of piecemeal interventions, pet projects and one-off trials.”
“Two of the most deprived wards in the country are in the First Minister’s own constituency. How can she bang on with arcane debates over independence while so many of her constituents are struggling?
“Nicola Sturgeon may not hear them. We do. Only Labour will tackle the root causes of poverty as well as the symptoms.
“This election is a once in a generation opportunity to create a fairer society. When Labour wins, Scotland wins.”
Scottish Labour’s 10 point plan
- Overhaul the UK’s punitive and counterproductive social security system.
Universal Credit, including the disgraceful two-child cap, has pushed more families into poverty and debt, including working families. A UK Labour government would scrap Universal Credit and replace it with a social security system that treats people and families with respect. And we would lift the benefit cap, which his hit some of the most vulnerable families the hardest.
- Increase Child Benefit by £5 a week.
A Labour government at Holyrood would top up child benefit by £5 a week, which would equate to a total of 274,885 families’ incomes topped-up by at least £520 per year, and a further 288,075 families receiving an additional £260. Child benefit is not only the best way to reach those who really need it with a stable and reliable benefit, it is means of keeping those keeping children out of poverty and improving children’s standard of living across Scotland.
- Introduce a £10 an hour living wage along with Labour’s Jobs Plan for Scotland to create new, well-paid, high-skilled jobs across the country.
Currently, two thirds of children living in poverty are in working households. However, the SNP have failed to tackle child poverty by increasing earnings and employment; Scotland now has higher unemployment, lower employment and higher economic inactivity than the UK as a whole. A UK Labour government will transform Scotland’s employment market by investing at least £70bn into Scotland’s industries and public services, which will create new, well-paid, high-skilled jobs across the economy. This would work hand-in-hand with a £10 an hour living wage to give working families the security they need to get on in life.
- Deliver a flexible, all-age, all-year, wrap-around affordable early years’ service centred on the needs of the child, and ensure automatic entitlement for an additional funded year of nursery for children whose parents legally delay their enrolment into Primary 1.
Accessing childcare can be a major barrier for parents when it comes to returning to work, especially for women. However, plans to deliver a system of effective universal childcare in Scotland are well behind the staffing and infrastructure needed for its planned implementation in just ten months. Fewer than half of the 8,458 additional staff required to move from the current 600 hours have so far been recruited. Just 214 of the 900 refurbishments, extensions or new build projects have been completed to provide the extra capacity required for the change. Construction has yet to begin on almost two-thirds, 566, of the infrastructure projects required which are described as being “in development.” Construction is underway on a further 120.
- Ensure automatic entitlement for an additional funded year of nursery for children whose parents legally delay their enrolment into Primary 1.
All parents wishing to defer their children’s entry to formal schooling should be supported to do so by their local authorities. However, local authorities’ processes for dealing with funding requests for an additional year of nursery vary widely – discrepancies have created a postcode lottery. Parents who can afford to pay for their child’s extra year at nursery (and are allowed by their local authority to do so) often choose to, as they believe it is in their child’s best interests. This compounds disadvantage in society further and will only widen the attainment gap in the long run.
- Extend ‘Club 365’ across Scotland.
A Labour government at Holyrood would roll out North Lanarkshire’s ‘Club 365’ scheme across Scotland to end the scandal of children going hungry during the school holidays. The scheme provides free meals at weekends and holidays for primary school pupils who are entitled to free school meals, as well as games and activities at community centres. We would also ensure the scheme applies to all primary school children by extending the current Scottish provision of free school meals to include primary years 4 through to 7.
- Build 12,000 social homes a year.
Housing costs are a key driver of child poverty in Scotland. In particular, the number of households living in the private rented sector, including families on low incomes, is increasing as rents are rising. A Labour government at Holyrood would be able to build 12,000 social homes over ten years using £10 investment from a UK Labour government, extending the choice of properly affordable accommodation to all families who need it.
- Introduce free bus travel for under 25s.
A Labour government at Holyrood would introduce free bus travel for all under 25s, not only cutting emissions but opening up opportunities for all young people, cutting the cost of living and making it easier for young people to stay in education and access jobs.
- Introduce an extra-curricular access fund.
A Labour government at Holyrood would introduce grants for young people from low income backgrounds to access school trips that are currently unaffordable. Scottish government statistics show that a quarter of children live in families that can’t afford to save for rainy days and nearly 20% live in families that cannot take a holiday away from home once a year. Expensive school trips can create division between privileged and less well-off pupils and ultimately, inequality of opportunity.
- Introduce Right to Play