New ‘Cost of a Child in Scotland’ research published ahead of final vote on Scottish Budget

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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.”