Yousaf’s plans are a ‘timid step forward’ to tackle poverty, charity says

A leading children's charity said the Humza Yousaf Program for Government represented a “timid step forward” in the fight against poverty.

The First Minister said he would push to end the “scourge of poverty” as he announced his first legislative agenda since taking the top job, confirming £400m would be invested in Scotland's Child Payments and Social Care staff along with some in the childcare sector will see pay rise to at least £12 an hour from April.

But he did not announce the increase in the child payment, which some campaigners were calling for.

Fiona King, Save the Children's director of policy and public affairs, welcomed the commitment to social security investment but said research showed it should rise from £25 to £40.

The harsh reality is that there are currently 240,000 children living in poverty across Scotland and today's announcements represent just one timid step forward in tackling this devastating injustice

Fiona King, Save The Children

“The harsh reality is that there are currently 240,000 children living in poverty across Scotland and today's announcements represent just one timid step towards tackling this devastating injustice,” he said.

Ms King praised moves to expand the provision of the Best Start Foods program as well as efforts to see more children in childcare.

But he added: “We know that flexible, affordable, accessible childcare is a top priority for the parents we work with, but it is unclear how today's childcare announcements will address the needs of these families and whether the ambition it is quite large, we need to see the detail.

“Tackling childcare is key to sustainable poverty reduction, so we welcome the emphasis, but without decisive action to tackle the workplace barriers that parents – especially mothers – face, this will do little to help parents to return to work.”

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), meanwhile, expressed its disappointment that the payment will not increase.

Director John Dickie said: “Families with children are struggling under the pressure of a cost-of-living crisis which has followed years of UK cuts to in-work and out-of-work benefits.

“It is now vital that (Humza Yousaf) uses the forthcoming Budget to deliver on his campaign pledges and, at the very least, increase Child Payment in Scotland to £30 a week.

“There is no credible route to achieving the Government's child poverty targets that does not include further investment in social security alongside action to transform the childcare and employment opportunities available to parents.”

The Poverty Alliance also expressed its disappointment, with acting director David Reilly saying: “We are bitterly disappointed at the scale of today's actions.

“Currently, the Scottish Government is not on track to meet its legally binding child poverty targets. If we want to make poverty a thing of the past, we need the Scottish Government to go further and faster.”

The First Minister also set himself apart from his predecessor, Nicola Sturgeon, citing business interests, which angered STUC general secretary Roz Foyer.

Despite praising the pay rise for social care and childcare workers – Ms Foyer said it “sets out a misaligned Agenda for Government that promotes economic growth through a pro-business, pro-business lens profit and gives very little, if any, detail about the redistribution of wealth from the top of our society to those most in need.”

On the environmental front, the Prime Minister said he would reduce the time it takes to approve onshore wind farms and consult on a ban on single-use vaporizers.

But Friends of the Earth climate and energy campaigner Caroline Rance said: “This is an overwhelming program for more of the same when what is needed is radical change that can accelerate Scotland away from the damage caused by fossil fuel companies.

“The First Minister talked a good game about the importance of climate action and the just transition to net zero, but warm words won't stop a warming planet.”

Reaction from the business community was initially positive, with Scottish Federation of Small Business policy chair Andrew McRae welcoming the First Minister's recognition that a strong economy is needed to achieve issues such as net zero and child poverty, the £15 million package for entrepreneurs and the rapid growth of childcare.

He added: “While the First Minister had already accepted the recommendations of the New Deal for Business Group, we are pleased to hear him recommit to them this afternoon – in particular a specific Small Business Unit and a commitment to tackle the cumulative impact of regulations, including the removal of those no longer required'.