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‘Tsunami of debt’ could hinder child poverty goals, MSPs hear

MSPs discussed poverty targets (Jane Barlow/PA0
MSPs discussed poverty targets (Jane Barlow/PA0

A “tsunami of debt” as a result of the cost-of-living crisis could hinder attempts to tackle child poverty, MSPs have been told.

Anti-poverty campaigners also warned that modelling which suggested the Scottish Government would meet its interim child poverty targets should be treated with caution.

Holyrood’s Social Justice Committee heard from a number of charities and researchers as it examined the Government’s latest plan to tackle child poverty.

Released by Social Security Secretary Shona Robison last month, it includes interim child poverty targets for 2023/24, as well as longer-term targets to be reached by 2030.

Modelling from the Government suggests it will meet the 2023/24 target for reducing relative child poverty to below 18%.

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “We need to treat those predictions with some degree of caution.”

Those on lived-experience panels were saying “things are getting tougher, not things are getting easier”, he said.

Bill Scott, chairman of the Poverty and Inequality Commission, pointed out that relative poverty can fall if the incomes of the entire population are reduced.

Saying there was a danger of “trumpeting” the relative poverty target, he added: “I think the material deprivation target is one that’s going to be missed probably by a quite a large margin.

“That’s a quite important one, because during the first year of the pandemic 50,000 Scottish children went without a basic necessity.”

He said he was “quite impressed” with the thought that had gone into the Government’s delivery plan.

Both Marion Davis, of One Parent Families Scotland, and Claire Telfer, of Save the Children, warned household debts would be a growing problem due to the rising cost of living.

Ms Davis said: “I think there’s going to be a tsunami of debt and we already have a huge debt crisis.”

Discussing a survey of single parents carried out by her charity, she said: “The survey we’ve had back is incredibly frightening.

“The 200-odd parents we’ve heard from are in a very desperate situation.”

Emma Congreve, of the Fraser of Allander Institute, said the Government’s plan was not intended to fully address all cost-of-living issues.

She said: “It is potentially an issue that it doesn’t include more actions that deal with the cost of living in the here and now.

“But then, on the other side of the coin, was that what this plan – with the longer-term focus that it has – is that what we should expect this plan to be doing?”

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