Commenting on the Scottish Government’s budget, Martin Dorchester, Chief Executive of includem added:
“Includem welcomes The Scottish Government’s 2021/22 budget commitments on bus travel, free school meals, and pandemic support payments which will impact positively on the children, young people, and families we support. However, more must be done in the next Parliament to tackle poverty and ensure that children, young people and families across Scotland are fully supported through the Covid-19 recovery.
“Our recent Poverty report found that the children and young people includem supports regularly struggle with transport costs, and we therefore welcome the extension of free bus travel to under 22s. We hope that this step forward will lead to the development of a longer-term plan to make public transport free to all, and for Scotland to ultimately embed a rights-based approach to transport as recommended by The Poverty and Inequality Commission.
“No family should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. As such we welcome the commitment to extend free school meal holiday support for families that are eligible, and to ensure the provision of free school meals for all children in primary schools by August 2022.
“Pandemic support payments for families with children qualifying for free school meals and households receiving council tax reduction will also give families a much-needed income boost at a time when many are struggling simply to make day-to-day costs and face issues with increasing debt.
“But while these budget commitments are positive, we ultimately need bolder change in the next Parliament. Without significant government action that tackles housing affordability, social security payments, and pay and working conditions, Scotland will not meet its child poverty targets as found by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
“The Social Renewal Advisory Board’s recent report ‘If Not Now, When?’ provides a blueprint for building a fairer Scotland, outlining ambitions to end digital exclusion within the next parliamentary term, develop debt write-off schemes, and establish a minimum income guarantee which includem fully supports.
“With the Scottish Parliament elections fast approaching, includem hopes to see party manifestos reflect the scale and urgency of changes that are required to #buildbackbetter – with commitments to act on recommendations from The Social Renewal Advisory Board and calls from Children in Scotland and the End Child Poverty Coalition in Scotland to invest in family support, significantly boost the value of the Scottish Child Payment and accelerate the roll-out for school-age children (or provide the equivalent financial support), and produce a comprehensive Wellbeing budget.
“We look forward to working with the next Scottish Parliament to create a fairer and bolder Scotland.”