Local MSP Margaret Burgess has spoken of the increasing number of Scottish children living in severe poverty as a result of policies imposed by the Tory-Lib Dem UK Government.
Mrs Burgess was answering Parliamentary Questions last week in her capacity as the Scottish Government Minister for Housing and Welfare when she was asked about a new report – Challenges From The Frontline – in which charity Bernardo’s reveals it is increasingly having to deal with children and families suffering extreme levels of destitution.
Mrs Burgess said, “The wellbeing and safety of Scotland’s children and young people are a key priority for the Scottish Government. All children and young people have the right to be cared for and protected from harm, and to grow up in a safe environment in which their rights and needs are respected.
“I heard the concerns that are expressed in the report from Barnardo’s and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children at the Ministerial Advisory Group on Child Poverty. There are concerns that a combination of the United Kingdom Government’s welfare reforms, low wages and rising living costs are significantly contributing to the number of children and families living in poverty in Scotland. That is unacceptable, and I am concerned that, at a time when we continue to work with the Advisory Group to improve children’s wellbeing and life chances, it is estimated that UK Government welfare changes will lead to around 100,000 additional children in Scotland living in poverty by 2020.”
SNP MSP Christina McKelvie enquired, “The minister mentioned the prospect of up to 100,000 more children in Scotland being pushed into poverty as a result of Westminster welfare reforms. Welfare and benefit caps were proposed this week at the Labour Party conference, which would be applied in the unlikely event that it was elected at the next election. Will the minister outline what steps are being taken to mitigate that impact?”
Mrs Burgess, MSP for Cunninghame South, which includes Stevenston, replied, “I reassure the member that reducing poverty and inequalities is a priority for this Government, and our child poverty strategy sets out our preventative approach to tackling poverty. However, the cumulative impact of the UK welfare reforms over six years to 2015-16 could result in the Scottish welfare bill being reduced by around £6 billion, and more than £1 billion of that reduction relates directly to children in Scotland.
“We are doing what we can to mitigate the impact of the reforms, and our current and planned spending will invest at least £260-million over the period 2013-14 to 2015-16 to limit the damage of Westminster welfare policies in Scotland.”