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“Cuts to family benefits and in-work support” are being blamed for poorer families across the UK drifting even deeper into poverty, as new research reveals that poorer families are struggling to get by on an average weekly income of £55.60 below the poverty threshold.

Research published today by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) shows that the ‘poverty gap’ – how far the income of an average poorer family falls below the poverty threshold – has grown by 9.4% in recent years, from £50.80 in 2010-11 to £55.60.

The research is published ahead of the Scottish and UK government’s annual child poverty statistics, with independent forecasts warning the number of children in the UK living in poverty will increase 50% by 2020, with significant increases expected in 2017.

Whilst parents are doing their best to protect children from the worst effects of poverty, CPAG say children in low-income households are feeling the squeeze too. CPAG Scotland warn of an increase in the number of children who are unable to have friends round for tea or go on school trips as a result of financial constraints.

Jennifer, a working mother of three young children from Edinburgh, said: “My younger son is going away on a residential school trip, it’s the end of school trip in primary seven. But I’ve not been able to manage to pay the £200 to it because I’ve needed it for my rent…I presume that there will be other mums that struggle as well.

“It’s just all the extra stuff to get. You have to buy things like wellies and waterproofs and they’re never going to wear them again but you have to get them. All the other kids will have them. So, you just have to. It’ll be fine. I’ll sort something out.”

CPAG Scotland are calling on both the UK and Scottish Government “to take immediate steps to avert a child poverty crisis in Scotland”. The charity is calling on the Scottish Government to:

  • Make a strong, public commitment to ending child poverty by introduction of a Child Poverty Act for Scotland. This would provide a framework for the prevention, reduction and eradication of child poverty in Scotland.
  • Using new social security powers to top-up child benefit by £5 a week. This policy alone could reduce child poverty in Scotland by a substantial 14%, lifting 30 000 children out of poverty.
  • Take steps to remove the financial barriers that prevent children from achieving their goals. The cost of school books, transport, uniform and lunches create a ‘learning levy’ which excludes children.
  • As part of this, investment in school clothing grants and reducing the cost of school will be key to tackling the educational attainment gap.

John Dickie, director of CPAG in Scotland, said: “This financial squeeze on low-income families, including those in work, has meant that more families are missing out on the basics in life.

“More than one in five parents on low incomes can’t keep their home in a decent state of repair or pay for home contents insurance. Almost a quarter don’t have the money to fix or replace a broken fridge or washing machine.

“Cuts to family benefits and in-work support mean that the money parents do have goes on children’s essentials. Parents are depriving themselves to protect their children, but even so increasing numbers have been missing out on basics like being able to go on a school trip.”