THE families of more than 300,000 under-16s are benefitting from the Scottish Child Payment, new figures show, as charities have called for the payment to be increased.

The payment of £25 was reaching 323,315 children at the end of September, an increase of more than 7000 compared to June this year, according to Scottish Government statistics.

Scotland’s social justice secretary said the payment was in “stark contrast” with the UK Government’s approach of “continued austerity”.

However more than than 150 charities, faith groups, trade unions and community organisations from across Scotland have signed an open letter asking First Minister Humza Yousaf to make good on his leadership campaign commitment to raise the Scottish Child Payment from £25 to £30 a week “as a first step” to meet child poverty targets.

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The Scottish Government has previously twice increased Scottish Child Payment; first from £10 to £20 per week per child then £25 when it extended to include all eligible children under 16 in November last year.

But the letter highlights the payment has not been increased for 16 months despite hard-pressed families facing inflation rates that have not been experienced for decades, with low-income households being the worst affected.

Signatories to the letter include the Archbishop of Glasgow, the Children’s Commissioner, the general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), and the heads of dozens of children’s charities and anti-poverty groups.

They say tens of thousands of children across Scotland are currently locked in poverty and the looming budget is a “critical test” of the Scottish Government’s willingness to match its stated ambition of shifting the dial on the problem.

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said: “Today’s letter to the First Minister demonstrates the largest yet coalition of support for a furtherR increase to the Scottish Child Payment and a prioritising of child poverty across government spending.

“The First Minister himself has said his defining mission is to shift the dial on child poverty and that he wants to see the child payment increased to £30 in his first budget. It’s now critical for Scotland’s children that his tax and spending plans deliver on those commitments.”

Roz Foyer, general secretary of the STUC, said: “Child poverty is an absolute scandal that should shame those in positions of power.

“The STUC is proud to support the call for significant additional investment to tackle child poverty in the upcoming budget.

“During this cost-of-living crisis, raising the Scottish Child Payment from £25 to £30 per week is imperative to ensure that families have enough to live on.

“We need to see significant investment to improve the lives of millions and loosen the grip of poverty.”

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The statistics from the Scottish Government also show that the combined overall amount paid out across Social Security Scotland’s five family payments, since they launched, is more than £596 million.

The majority - £458.5 million – is the Scottish Child Payment with £138.1 million for the rest of the five family payments - Best Start Foods and three Best Start Grants combined.

Social justice secretary Shirley Anne-Sommerville said: “As the First Minister has made clear, tackling child poverty is a key mission for the Scottish Government and these figures show we are reaching more of the children and young people who need our help. We’re doing it more quickly too.

“It is estimated that Scottish Child Payment will lift around 50,000 children out of poverty in the current financial year.

“Our work with this uniquely Scottish benefit is in stark contrast with the UK Government’s approach of continued austerity, further outlined in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement last week.”

“Scottish Child Payment, Best Start Foods and our Best Start Grants provide a robust safety net and are among many actions we are taking in government to lift people out of poverty.

“However, I would continue to encourage people to spread the word as we want all eligible people to get the help they are entitled to.”

The draft Scottish budget for 2024-2025 will be published on December 19.