Rise in child poverty in Falkirk area as study reveals extent of problem
The number of children living in poverty in Falkirk district has risen to almost one in four since 2015, new research has revealed.
A study conducted on behalf of the End Child Poverty coalition shows the level of child poverty in the region increased by 2.1 per cent between 2015 and 2020.
Estimates indicated 6430 youngsters (22.7 per cent) in the Falkirk area were living in poverty in 2014/15 – households which had a median income below 60 per cent after housing costs were taken into account.
However, in 2019/20 that figure shot up to 6980, or 24.8 per cent.
The research, by Loughborough University, showed child poverty has been increasing in every Scottish council area since 2015.
The biggest rise – 5.1 per cent – was seen in Glasgow, where 32,480 children were deemed to be living in poverty in 2019/20, compared to 26,223 five years previously.
The new data shows the scale of the challenge faced by the Scottish and local government if commitments to end child poverty in the country are to be met.
The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act requires the new Scottish Government to ensure fewer than 18 per cent of children are living in poverty by 2023/24, on course to fewer than 10 per cent by 2030.
Scotland has lower levels of child poverty (24 per cent) than England (30 per cent) or Wales (31 per cent).
However, campaigners say there can be no room for complacency if statutory child poverty targets are to be met.
Sandra Rankin, Home-Start Falkirk manager, believes the benefit system and job opportunities must be addressed.
She said: “We have seen a rise in child poverty for many years.
“For families, the main causes have been changes to the benefit system and a lack of opportunity for training and employment for parents.
“We support the most vulnerable and disadvantaged families across Falkirk and they are the ones who are being disproportionately affected financially.
“No parent should face a decision on whether to heat their home or feed their child, buy shoes for school or stay at home so the family can all eat for the next few days. This is often the choice faced by parents experiencing real financial hardship.
“Working with our partners across Falkirk, Home-Start offers practical support to access information and help on benefits and debt, food and clothes banks, study and employment opportunities, along with a high level of emotional support to help mitigate the despair and fear families feel when caught in this poverty trap.
“Families need dignity, opportunity and enough money to live on, whether from employment or benefits. If they don't have this then we are looking at increasing numbers of children growing up in poverty in Falkirk.”
End Child Poverty campaigners are demanding local powers over economic development, housing and financial support are used to maximise family incomes and reduce the costs parents face.
They say the impact of Covid on women’s employment in particular is now pushing many women and children into greater poverty.
Given the extent to which families are already struggling, the £20-per-week cut to Universal Credit planned in October should also be revoked, the coalition says, with support extended to those still receiving financial assistance from the old benefit system.