THE Scottish Government has not taken the “decisive steps” needed to tackle child poverty, campaigners have said, with a quarter of youngsters living with families that are struggling to get by.

Over the period 2014-15 to 2016-17, an average of 230,000 children in Scotland were living in relative poverty each year, the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said in its report Poverty in Scotland 2018.

While the Scottish Government has “made some progress towards loosening poverty’s grip” the report said it had “not taken the decisive steps needed to make the transformational change required for Scotland’s children”.

And, calling for changes to the controversial Universal Credit system that was brought in to replace a host of other welfare payments, it warned that “more families, especially lone parents, are likely to face higher rates of poverty in and out of work”.

One in four children live below the breadline and ministers have committed to cutting this to one in 10 by 2030.

The report said the decline in child poverty through the 1990s to early 2000s had been reversed “mainly due to UK Government-imposed social security cuts”.

Of the 230,000 children living in poverty, 90,000 were said to be in a family where someone – usually an adult – is disabled or has a medical condition that limits what they can do.

Meanwhile, 30,000 youngsters were living in a family where one adult was not in work, with a further 30,000 children in single parent households also affected.

Just over 15,000 children of lone parents who worked part-time were in poverty, as were almost 15,000 children of couples where one worked full time and the other worked part-time, the report added.

JRF chief executive Campbell Robb said: “In Scotland, we believe in protecting each other from harm and yet we are now seeing more children growing up in poverty. One in four – almost a quarter of a million children – are now exposed to this harmful reality.

“Families in Scotland are facing impossible situations such as deciding whether to pay the rent, put food on the table or pay for heating. There is consensus across the Scottish Parliament that this unacceptable situation of so many children in poverty will be brought to an end within a generation. This is achievable.

“But it means the Scottish Government needs to lead the way, working with and encouraging employers to open opportunities for parents with disabilities or caring commitments, so everyone can build a decent and secure life.”

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, stated: “We know what can be achieved when the right solutions are in place. But we also know that much more needs to be done. That’s why more concerted action is required from Scottish Government and business.”

Defending its record, the UK Government said: “Since 2010 over 3.3m more people are in work across the UK, and the proportion of people in Scotland living in absolute poverty is at a record low, including for children.

“The best way to help people improve their lives is to support them into work, and Universal Credit gives people the flexibility to increase their working hours while keeping more of their money.

“The Scottish Government now has significant welfare powers, including to top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits altogether.”

Meanwhile, not-for-profit lender Fair For You, which provides loans for essential items, is to expand its services in Scotland thanks to a £500,000 investment from a Carnegie UK Trust fund.

The cash will enable 3,000 more loans each year for the next decade and follows agreements worth more than £1.7m to 6000 Scots.

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell welcomed the development as a “clear alternative” to payday lenders.