BY Amanda Connelly | September 1 2017 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Church backs poverty fight with call for £5 child benefit top-up

Bishop William Nolan supports campaign lobbying Scottish government to help struggling parents.

Bishop William Nolan of ­Galloway Diocese has urged the Scottish Government to take on the ‘great scandal’ of poverty that is ‘destroying’ the lives of children.

The bishop was speaking at a press conference on Wednesday to officially back the ‘Give Me Five’ campaign from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in ­Scotland.

The group, backed by charities and churches, is campaigning for an ­additional £5 per child to be given to families that receive child benefit—and Bishop Nolan is urging Catholics to support the campaign.

“This is a social movement not only to stop child poverty increasing but to start to reverse that trend,” Bishop Nolan said. “We really need to do something about that, to give these poor children not just a present childhood, but also a future.

“I would urge politicians of all ­parties to support this initiative and act now to reduce the number of our children for whom poverty is destroying their ­childhood and stifling their future.”


Alarming increase

Recent figures show an alarming increase in child poverty rates, from one in 15 children struggling to survive to one in four, with 260,000 children now deemed to be living in poverty in Scotland.

“It’s a bleak picture and it can ­sometimes seem overwhelming,” Hanna McCulloch, CPAG Scotland ­policy and parliamentary officer, said about the new statistics. “There’s a real temptation for us throw up our hands in frustration and defeat. After all, what can really be done here in Scotland to make a dent in such massive rises in poverty and such swinging cuts in spending?

“We should, however, steel ourselves and remember that, in reality, a huge amount can be done.”

Ms McCulloch said an extra £5 could make a significant difference to the lives of families, equating to seven breakfasts of cereal, milk, fruit juice and a banana for a child every day, a warm coat for the winter if saved over two months, or a week-long school trip for a child if saved over a year.

“These are real, tangible resources and experiences that could make a ­significant difference to the health, wellbeing and attainment of Scotland’s children,” she added.

Speaking at the campaign launch was Kerrie Friel from Fife, a 42-year-old mother of four children aged 7-17, one of whom is on the autistic spectrum. She said that although £5 a week might not seem a lot, it could in fact make a huge difference.

“An extra £5 a week to me is an extra £20 per week over my four children, so that would make a huge difference,” she said, adding that the small sum could allow a child to attend an after school club or extracurricular activity.

“It’s things like that that have to go,” she said.

“You can’t do that because once you’ve paid the heating and the food and the school supplies and just general living costs, these wee things that ­families who are wealthier take for granted, if you are struggling ­financially, these are the first things that have to go,” she said.

Unable to work full-time and care for her children, she stressed the big change an extra £5 could make for families who are struggling financially.

“I have worked all over the world and in lots of different backgrounds and I really actually didn’t want to give in,” she said. “More than once I’ve had to turn to the welfare system to stop me and my kids from being homeless and not having anything to eat.”


Healthy eating

She said that a little extra money could also help her children eat better.

“You obviously want them to eat healthy, but fruit and veg can be quite expensive, so its even just being able to have them eating a little bit healthier,” she said. “All families are different, but that £5 a week actually really can make a big difference. Every little helps ­basically. It should be seen as a good thing and it would make a big difference.”

The campaign has also received ­support from other Christian faiths in Scotland including the Church of ­Scotland.

“It is a political, social and moral imperative that we act now to effect change for good,” Right Rev Dr Derek Browning, moderator of the general assembly, said. “The Church of ­Scotland stands alongside people of all faith traditions and none in the move towards fairness for all our children.”

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