CHILD POVERTY IS A ‘HUMANITARIAN CRISIS,’ SAYS DUMBARTON MSP JACKIE BAILLIE

The way we were and unfortunately still are in places under an SNP government.

BY Bill Heaney

The photographs on this page show images of poor children in Dumbarton in the first half of last century when families were living in damp, condemned housing and dire poverty.

After 13 years of SNP misrule, Scotland still has children living “on the parish” as it was called then.

The new name for the measures to ameliorate these scourges on our society  is Universal Credit.

Living conditions are made worse and children suffer the pain daily of having to live with single parents and drug addicts, child abusers and alcoholics.

People are sleeping on the streets in freezing temperatures. Many others don’t even have the price of a loaf.

The St Vincent de Paul Society, the Salvation Army and the rest of the ever growing list of children’s charities struggling to help them has never been so lengthy.

Many families have nothing to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They are having to depend on food banks.

Children’s shoes are letting in and the clothes some of them are wearing are threadbare hand-me-downs.

We had confirmation of this yesterday when First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave mention to these things when she announced a Christmas bonus for families in need.

The replacement of leaking shoes and winter coats for children in need got a mention in her announcement.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie.

And that is why Jackie Baillie, the MSP for Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Loch Lomondside drew attention today to the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has raised child poverty in Scotland to the level of a humanitarian crisis, which requires urgent action from both the Scottish and UK governments.

The local MSP’s statement comes in the wake of new research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which shows that 230,000 children are currently living in poverty in Scotland.

The Aberlour Child Care Trust has also recorded a huge 1000% increase in demand for its urgent assistance programme for child poverty during the pandemic.

Jackie Baillie has called the UK Chancellor’s budget revisions, which will see hundreds of thousands of people at risk of losing the £20-a-week boost to Universal Credit, unacceptable.

She is calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that people in financial difficulty are able to access the support that they need.

In particular, Jackie Baillie has called for the Scottish Government to increase the funds that are available through the Scottish Welfare Fund.

The MSP said: ““Child poverty rates in Scotland are unacceptably high, and the pandemic has threatened to turn the situation into a humanitarian crisis.

“There are pockets of extreme poverty and hundreds of thousands of children are living in poverty every day across Scotland. This requires robust and immediate action.

“It is vital that the SNP government does all it can to support and strengthen the Scottish Welfare Fund during this crisis – we must not allow any more families to fall through the cracks. The Chancellor and the UK government must rethink their ill-thought out plans to cut the much needed Universal Credit boost.

“All weekend we have heard the SNP pontificate about a post-independence land of milk and honey, but they have spent a decade failing to use the levers at their disposal to tackle child poverty.

“Their record in office over the last decade has been one of abysmal failure – the fact that Scotland is not on course to meet its interim child poverty targets within three years is indicative of that.”

Meanwhile, to add to the government’s shame while responding to new statistics showing the number of households in extreme fuel poverty has increased by more than ten per cent to 311,000 and fuel poverty in remote rural areas getting worse, Liam McArthur MSP, pictured right, whose Orkney constituency is consistently the worst affected, said:  “For all the warm words, the SNP Government hasn’t made a dent in Scotland’s shameful levels of fuel poverty. It declared energy efficiency a national priority five years ago but today’s statistics show the situation getting worse.

“The delay to the Fuel Poverty Strategy can’t be used as an excuse to delay targeted funding for remote rural areas, where this problem is blatant and persistent.

“A serious new national insulation programme would tackle fuel poverty, reduce emissions and create thousands of much-needed new green jobs. We also need catch-up zones, so investment is focused on where it would make the biggest difference.”

The LibDem MSP added:  “Under the SNP’s law thousands of people will still be living in fuel poverty in 2040. They need the government to have a needle-sharp focus on the recovery from this pandemic, and this retrofit programme would be one of the soundest investments around.”

The statistics for this reveal that 311,000 households were living in extreme fuel poverty – that’s without a fire in the grate or heating in the pipes – in 2019, up from 279,000 the year before (an 11.5% increase).

Between 2018 and 2019, rates of fuel poverty increased in remote rural areas (from 33% to 43%), increasing the gap when comparing overall urban (24%) to overall rural areas (29%).

Similarly, levels of extreme fuel poverty increased in remote rural areas (from 23% to 33%), meaning that extreme fuel poverty rates in rural areas (19%) were higher than in urban areas (11%).

Total households living in fuel poverty was unchanged (613,000 households in 2019 compared to 619,000 in 2018).

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