Politicians warn more children in West Dunbartonshire will be pushed into poverty by the cost-of-living crisis – after new figures revealed as many as one in four are living below the breadline.
New statistics show there were 3,463 children in West Dunbartonshire living in poverty in March 2021.
That number has dipped from 4,184 in March 2020 partly due to financial support from the government during the start of the pandemic.
However, with the £20 uplift to Universal Credit gone, living costs soaring, and benefits not keeping up, the situation is feared to get worse over the coming months, with the area’s MSP and MP uniting in calling for more action.
The figures mean that, on average, one in six children in West Dunbartonshire were living in poverty last year (18 per cent) – and in some neighborhoods the situation is even more stark.
As the government only publishes local data on child poverty before housing costs, in some cases these figures are likely to underestimate the number of children living in poverty – particularly in areas with high rents.
Shockingly, the figures also suggest that work isn’t a reliable route out of poverty, with 1,862 of the children living below the breadline in West Dunbartonshire having at least one working parent.
The proportions are estimates based on Department for Work and Pensions figures on the number of children living in families with a household income of less than 60 per cent of the UK average and population estimates.
They include teenagers up to the age of 19 who are still living at home with their parents or carers and are in full-time education or training.
The 10 areas in West Dunbartonshire with the highest rates of child poverty comprised five parts of Clydebank, four from the Vale of Leven and one from Dumbarton.
In Bonhill and Alexandria the figure sat at 20 per cent of children, whilst in Leven and Lomond it was 18 per cent. West Dunbartonshire MP Martin Docherty-Hughes slammed the UK Government for a lack of support for those living on the breadline.
The SNP member said: “As the price of food, fuel and energy rises, the Tory cost-of-living crisis continues to spiral out of control with no sign of the UK Government stepping up to the challenge to protect families and households.
“In Scotland, the SNP Government is using its limited powers to tackle poverty, including by doubling the Scottish Child Payment and uplifting returned social security payments by six per cent. But efforts to tackle child poverty in Scotland are being undermined by a Westminster Government which has chosen to slash Universal Credit and impose real-terms cuts to benefits and state pensions.
“Far too many of my constituents in West Dunbartonshire are already struggling, and thousands more face being pushed into hardship as in-work poverty reaches its highest levels in decades.”
Meanwhile, Jackie Baillie MSP fears the situation will get worse with the cost-of-living crisis.
The Labor politician said: “These figures are a stark reminder that we must do more to support those living in poverty, particularly in light of the cost of living crisis which will have a severe impact on everyone locally. The decisions taken by the Tories to cut the £20 Universal Credit uplift and increase National Insurance will only deepen these inequalities.
“The SNP could do much more to help children in poverty, and families experiencing a cost of living crisis, right now.
“We would double the child payment again by April 2023 in order to reduce child poverty at a much quicker pace than is currently proposed by the SNP.”
Scottish Government Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said: “Tackling child poverty is our national mission and we are helping to lift thousands of children out of poverty in Scotland within our limited powers.
“We invested almost £6 billion from 2018-21 to support low-income households, including around £2.18 billion to directly support children.”
A UK Government spokesperson said work is the best route out of poverty with the focus on filling a record number of
He said: “We continue to provide extensive support to help families with the cost of living, backed up by over £22billion of targeted investment to help low-income households.
“This includes putting an average of £1,000 more per year into the pockets of working families via changes to Universal Credit, cutting fuel duty and helping households with their energy bills through our £9.1bn energy bills