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Scottish Budget 2023-24 Response

Gary Seath 1 year ago

Influencing Policy Media

Forces Children Scotland warmly welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to prioritise the eradication of child poverty in its 2023-24 budget.

The cost of living crisis has pushed thousands of households into poverty across Scotland, who face unprecedented challenges in responding to sharp increases in the cost of living driven by the significant increases in food, fuel, and energy prices.

Forces Children Scotland has seen a rise of over 30% more armed forces and veteran families who have reached out to the charity for financial support this year to cover essential needs; from feeding and clothing children to costs associated with energy and fuel, and much more.

The charity has increased grant-giving expenditure by 15% to meet the demand for support, however, the charity calls on the Scottish Government to consider the wider issues that serve to widen income inequality within armed forces communities across Scotland.

The Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement emphasises what our own evidence shows; those on low incomes face the most significant challenges right now which is compounded further by the intersection with other types of disadvantage and social issues.

Forces Children Scotland has seen a 10% rise in armed forces and veteran families across Scotland who reported significant debt, something we are disappointed to not have seen referenced within the Scottish Government’s most recent budget.

Equally, the charity is supporting growing numbers of families with a loved one living with life-changing psychological or physical challenges; some attributed to service in the British Armed Forces whereas, for others, challenges have presented in later life.

80% of applications received from armed forces and veteran families this year included a parent who is unemployed due to the aforementioned challenges faced. In some cases, partners or children provide caring roles, presenting further income/education inequalities.

It is believed 46% more children and young people from armed forces and veteran families that we work with are facing significant financial hardship; a percentage we anticipate will rise in the months which follow, based on forecasts presented within the budget.

A report commissioned by Children Poverty Action Group (CPAG) states there is a widening gap between the cost of raising a child in Scotland within a socially acceptable standard of living and current family income levels due to rising costs.

Research, delivered in partnership with the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University has shown the gap has risen from 30% to 40% in Scotland, which aligns closely with our findings.

While our support is vital, the reality is it provides short-term relief for families struggling with larger, sustained financial challenges. The commitment to uprate devolved benefits by 10.1% in line with inflation is hugely welcomed and was the right choice to make.

Yet given the significance of the Scottish Child Payment for families, which has the potential to benefit roughly 387,000 children in Scotland and has many civil society supporters, it is disappointing it appears to be excluded from the list of uprated benefits.

While many of the commitments within the budget will go some way to help families, the decision to not increase the Scottish Welfare Fund is concerning at a time when families will need the combination of quick, short-term intervention, alongside wider progressive welfare policies.

While many of the Scottish Government’s budget’s commitments are welcome, especially at a time of such financial instability, we await further detail on how its commitments are realised in practice and how they directly improve the lives of children from armed forces and veteran families.

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