New ‘Cost of a Child in Scotland’ research finds rising costs outstrip additional Holyrood support for families

A new report commissioned by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland from the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University has found a widening gap 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 builds on calculations which find that across the UK it costs at least £160,000 to bring up a child at a socially acceptable standard of living.

However, inflation and real-terms cuts to UK benefits mean that, for example, out of work families with children now receive under half what they need through universal credit and child benefit.

In Scotland, families benefit from a range of Holyrood policies, including the new Scottish child payment, to reduce these costs and to improve incomes.

Alongside cheaper than average childcare this can reduce the net cost of bringing up a child by over a third for low-income families.

The report warns that in the past year, rising costs have made incomes less adequate relative to families’ needs throughout the UK.

The shortfall has risen from around 30 per cent to 40 per cent below needs in Scotland, and from over 40 per cent to over 50 per cent elsewhere in the UK.  

“Gap between family incomes and the minimum cost of raising a child is widening horribly”

John Dickie Director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “This important analysis confirms that Scottish government policies are making a big difference to families.

"But the harsh reality is that soaring inflation and real terms UK benefit cuts means the gap between incomes and the minimum cost of raising a child is widening horribly.

"It is absolutely vital that the Finance Secretary uses this week’s Scottish Budget to double down on support for children. At the very least he needs to ensure the Scottish child payment and other Scottish benefits hold their real terms value next year.

"Given the pressure on his budget he must also use his tax powers to increase the resources available to him to deliver the social security, childcare and employment actions that are needed to meet his government’s child poverty targets.”

“Worst year in memory for the living standards of families on low incomes”

Dr Juliet Stone, Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Research in Social Policy, Loughborough University and co-author of the report, said: “In 2022, the living standards of families on low incomes have been severely and negatively affected by rapidly rising costs and by the increasing inadequacy of benefits.

"The extra help provided to families in Scotland, particularly via the Scottish Child Payment, has mitigated but not prevented these effects.

"This is not to dismiss the positive impact of the actions of the Scottish Government, which have shown that devolved policy can make an important difference to people’s lives.

"Nevertheless, families in Scotland are still worse off than they were a year ago and more remains to be done to raise their living standards to a socially acceptable level.”