Two child benefit limit should be scrapped
The two-child benefit limit implemented by the UK Government should be scrapped.
The latest statistics released on the number of people affected by the cap on Child Tax Credits and the Child Element of Universal Credit is sad reading.
Behind every number is a family denied and a child that has not received support they should be entitled to – pushing more families into poverty.
The Scottish Government is deeply opposed to this policy. The process that requires a woman to prove she was raped in order to access financial support for her child is particularly cruel.
We believe this will both traumatise women who have been raped and have a negative impact on their children.
Our repeated requests to the UK Government to end the two child limit continue to fall on deaf ears. And we are just one of countless voices to stand in opposition to this policy.
There is another approach to social security. The Scottish Child Payment we announced recently will make a massive difference to thousands of children across Scotland – and tackle child poverty head on.
Providing eligible families with £10 a week for every child under 16, it will give more immediate support to families who need it most. This is because almost 60% of all children in poverty live in a family with a child under the age of six.
Importantly, there will be no cap on the number of children entitled to the payment in families.
When delivered in full, 410,000 children could be eligible – over a third of all children. It is estimated it will lift 30,000 children out of relative poverty by 2023/24.
Unfortunately, while Universal Credit and Child Tax Credits remain reserved to Westminster, the Scottish Government does not have the power to reverse or stop the two child limit, despite calls for us to do so.
But we are doing what we can. This year we expect to spend over £125 million in 2018/19 on welfare mitigation from UK Government policies and measures to help protect those on low incomes.
This includes £38 million for the Scottish Welfare Fund – a vital lifeline for people across Scotland that has helped over 326,000 households, with total awards of over £190 million since 2013.
We have created Universal Credit Scottish Choices to give people the option to be paid either monthly or twice monthly and have the housing costs in their award of Universal Credit paid direct to their landlord. A person can make just one or both choices.
Split payments of the Universal Credit award in Scotland is another commitment we have made to ensure everyone has access to an independent income based on their individual circumstances.
With the devolved social security powers we do have, we are doing things differently in Scotland. This means treating people who need support with the dignity and respect they deserve.
That is why we are co-designing our service with individuals who have lived experience of the current benefit system.
We want to make sure that the benefits application process from start to finish is clear and accessible so people understand how and when their claim will be dealt with.
Another important element is to significantly reduce face-to-face assessments by using existing evidence where possible to make paper based decisions and introducing longer-term awards.
These are just some of the reasons why we should be given all the powers we need to deliver a social security system Scotland expects and deserves.