DAVID Cameron came under attack yesterday for saying hard-up families should be encouraged to save money in a bid to tackle poverty.

John Dickie, director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, spoke out after the Prime Minster revealed the Tory Government was to set out plans to encourage poorer households to save in order to build up their “financial resilience” if they suffered a setback.

“We will bring forward a help-to-save scheme to help those on low incomes to build up a rainy day fund,” he said in a keynote speech yesterday, adding that details of the scheme will be announced in George Osborne’s next budget.

Dickie pointed out many households don’t have enough money to feed themselves and pay the bills, never mind save for a rainy day.

“The bottom line is that because of low wages, insecure work and inadequate social security, too many families don’t even have enough money to put food on the table and pay the bills, never mind save,” he told The National.

“The Prime Minister needs to prioritise investing in family incomes if he’s serious about tackling poverty and improving children’s life chances.”

He added: “Research evidence shows overwhelmingly that low family incomes damage children’s life chances, yet the UK Government is planning to cut universal credit for low-paid working parents – in much the same way as it wanted to cut tax credits for hard-up working families.

“Any credible plan to improve children’s life chances must ensure families have a decent income. It was wrong to try and cut tax credits for hard-up families, and it is just as wrong to cut universal credit for those very same low-paid families.

“If the PM wants to improve children’s life chances, rather than taking money away from parents on modest incomes, the government should be investing in financial support for families.”

Dickie added that unless the Welfare Reform and Work Bill is amended, the UK would no longer have a target for reducing income poverty – introduced by Labour PM Gordon Brown -– following a proposal in the legislation to remove it.

Ian Murray, the Labour MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, added: “David Cameron talks about tacking poverty but the evidence shows that his government’s policies are exacerbating it.

“There were 60,000 visits to food banks in Scotland over the last six months, including thousands of people who work full time but were still unable to support their families, and we have seen a rise in poverty among children and among all those aged under thirty. No wonder David Cameron is scrapping Labour’s poverty targets.”

He added that the Tory government may have u-turned on tax credit cuts but it was hitting the poor in other ways.

Ewan Gurr, Scotland Network manager of the food bank charity, the Trussell Trust, which recorded its busiest month in December, said: “The UK Government is trying to find ways of eating into the national debt, while many people are just trying to find ways to eat.”

Benefits sanctions and welfare reforms are among the most common reasons why people turn to emergency food providers, the Trust has found.

The savings plan emerged yesterday when the PM gave a keynote speech in Islington, north London, to launch a campaign to encourage high-flying mentors to pass on their experiences to youngsters at risk of dropping out of school.

The National View: Cameron’s empty promises on poverty will not solve anything