FMQs: Leonard pressures government to raise child benefit

Nicola Sturgeon faced calls from Richard Leonard to increase Child
Benefit, which Labour says would lift 30,000 children in Scotland out
of poverty.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions today, the Scottish Labour leader challenged Nicola Sturgeon to deliver a £5 per week increase to the payment, a policy supported by a large swathe of children’s charities, anti-poverty organisations, faith groups and the Scottish Trade Union Congress.

The calls come during Challenge Poverty week, and also follows the publication of the influential Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s ‘Poverty in Scotland’ report, in which it said the Scottish government "has not taken the decisive steps needed to make the transformational change required for Scotland’s children.”

Leonard challenged the government to be more ambitious in their attempts to reduce child poverty.

“The SNP government has a child poverty target for 12 years’ time but not 12 months’ time. Increasing Child Benefit by £5 would lift 30,000 children out of poverty." he said.

“This policy has support across civic Scotland, from anti-poverty organisations to faith groups, from children’s charities to the Scottish TUC."

“The SNP has been in office for eleven years. Nicola Sturgeon has been First Minister for four."

“We cannot afford more children growing up in grinding poverty as a result of this government’s failure to do more than tinker around the edges.”

Ms Sturgeon denied the extra funding would be the best way to raise kids out of poverty. “The estimate shows that that policy would lift 20,000 children out of poverty, which would mean a drop in child poverty of just two percentage points." she said.

“I am not saying that is insignificant, but what I am saying is that if we’re going to introduce an income supplement – which we are committed to doing – we must make sure that the money invested in that has maximum effectiveness in tackling child poverty."

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