Scottish parliament building

New ‘Cost of a Child in Scotland’ research published ahead of final vote on Scottish Budget finds costs are still outstripping additional Holyrood support for families

  • Campaigners “bitterly disappointed” Scottish Budget does nothing to further plug gap between costs of bringing up children and family incomes.
  • Rising costs and enduring impact of UK benefit cuts still leave lowest income families in Scotland up to 40% below what they need for a minimum socially acceptable standard of living.
  • Holyrood policies are working – the gap between costs and income is over 50% in rest of UK, but more is needed from the Scottish Budget to protect families and meet Scottish child poverty targets.
  • UK government must also invest in social security to reverse long-term damage to living standards, starting by scrapping the two-child limit and benefit cap, and restoring the value of child benefit.

A new report published today has found a huge gap remains between the cost of raising a child in Scotland and actual family incomes, despite the significant impact of Scottish government policies and lower childcare costs.

The report, the latest in a series – commissioned by Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland from the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University – builds on calculations which find that across the UK it cost at least £166,000 to bring up a child at a socially acceptable standard of living in 2023.

However, as a result of inflation and the enduring impact of UK benefit cuts families with children who have little or no paid work still receive under half what they need through universal credit and child benefit. In Scotland, the report finds families are benefitting from a range of Holyrood policies, to reduce these costs and to improve incomes.

The Scottish child payment, universal free school meals for all pupils in P1 to P5, best start payments, free bus travel for under 22’s and school clothing grants, alongside cheaper than average childcare,  can reduce the net cost of bringing up a child in Scotland by over a third for low-income families.

For typical out-of-work families in the UK as a whole, social security provides less than half the income needed to meet a socially acceptable standard of living. In Scotland, the additional support and lower costs mean that this shortfall is reduced to around 40 per cent.

The research also finds that working families, whilst  benefitting from lower-cost childcare in Scotland as compared to England, are often still unable to meet the minimum socially acceptable standard of living even if working full -time on the national living wage.

Along with other members of the End Child Poverty coalition, Child Poverty Action Group have sent  a Budget Scorecard briefing to all MSPs ahead of tomorrow’s (Tuesday 27th February) final vote on the Scottish government’s tax and spending plans. In it they say they are “bitterly disappointed” that the draft Scottish Budget for 2024-25 fails to sufficiently build on existing Holyrood support for families. As it stands they say the Budget will at best stall progress on child poverty.

The report author, Dr Juliet Stone a Research Fellow at the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, said: “As the cost-of-living crisis continues to severely stretch the incomes of families across the UK, the additional financial support provided to households with children in Scotland, particularly through the Scottish Child Payment, is more important than ever.

“However, even in Scotland the social security system still fails to provide enough for these households to reach a minimum socially acceptable standard of living. Much more needs to be done to protect children and their families from financial hardship.”

John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “This important analysis confirms that Scottish government policies that are already in place, not least the Scottish child payment, are making a big difference to families.

“But there is still a huge gap between incomes and the minimum cost of raising a child. The Scottish Budget needs to do far more to plug that gap. Its bitterly disappointing that as yet we have not even seen an increase in the Scottish child payment to the £30 per week that the First Minister said he wanted during his leadership campaign.

“This new analysis shows just how much more is needed to ensure families have an adequate income to give their children a decent start in life.”


For further details contact John Dickie, Director of CPAG in Scotland on 07795 340 618


  1. ADVANCE COPIES of the Cost of a Child in Scotland 2023 report are available on request. The report will be published at 0001 26/01/24 at
  2. Today’s report is the latest in a series that systematically monitors the minimum cost of a child. It updates those calculations for 2023 and outlines the factors affecting the latest figures. The cost of a child calculation uses the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) for the UK which is based on what members of the public think are the essential items that every family should be able to afford. The cost of an individual child is calculated not by producing a list of items that a child needs, but as the difference that the presence of that child makes to the whole family’s budget. These calculations are made for different children according to their birth order, in each year of their childhood, and are added up to produce a total cost from birth to age 18. The cost of raising a child is higher for lone parents because they do not benefit from economies of scale to the same extent as couple-parents, therefore the additional cost of a child is higher for these families.  For example, the costs of having a car are offset by greater savings on public transport fares when there are two adults not one.

For further information, see Loughborough University's The Minimum Income Standard for the United Kingdom


  1. Along with other members of the End Child Poverty coalition in Scotland CPAG in Scotland had called for the Scottish Budget to:
    • Build on existing investment in the Scottish Child Payment by increasing it to at least £30, as committed to by the First Minister during the SNP leadership election, with a view to reaching £40 by the end of this parliament.
    • Mitigate the punitive Two Child Limit and the Young Parent Penalty via top ups or additional payments for those unfairly affected.
    • Deliver on the commitment to fully roll out Free School Meals to Primary 6 and Primary 7 in the next financial year (not waiting until 2026).
    • Help parents to increase income from employment, through increasing quality and accessible funded childcare, investing in person-centred employability support, and embedding child poverty focused labour market policies, including fair work.
    • Ensuring the Scottish Welfare Fund is adequate and accessible, at a time of rising need – including deepening food insecurity – fuelled by acute income crises.

The coalitions collective Budget Scorecard, summarizing the draft Budget against these calls can be found at


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 24/26

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