Church in Society
THE General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church has called on the Scottish government to back the “Give me five” campaign to top up Universal Child Benefit by £5 every week, and help to abolish child poverty in Scotland by 2030.
The motion (13) was moved by the Revd Professor David Atkinson, the convener of the Church in Society Committee. The issue of child poverty had been a focus of the committee this year, he said, because “it is a subject that all Christians agree on, and [can] take action.”
Currently, first-born children in Scotland who are eligible for Universal Child Credit received £20.70 a week: this would rise to £25.70 under the proposed scheme.
In his supportive address, the RC Bishop of Galloway, the Rt Revd William Nolan, said: “The poor in society tend to be voiceless. . . We need to hear the cry of the poor. Child poverty is too big an issue to leave to the politicians: we have to act now.”
The Vice-provost of Inverness Cathedral, the Very Revd Sarah Murray, spoke of the work being done by its initiative Inspire to combat shocking levels of child poverty in the popular tourist destination.
Of all the children living in the central area around Inverness Cathedral, 31 per cent were living in poverty, she said. Inspire was launched last summer with a “Holiday hunger” club to provide three meals a week to families.
The burden on families to feed during the summer holidays children who receive free school meals during term time was huge, she said. By the close of the summer, 45 families were being fed by the scheme.
Inspire had also provided 450 breakfast boxes a week, school uniform, and 300 coats, hats, and scarfs for children returning to school. This had been funded by grants, gifts, and individual donations.
Responding to the report, Colin Gregory (Moray, Ross & Caithness) said that many people were unable to receive the money to which they were entitled. A review of Universal Credit and the way it operated, particularly in rural areas, should also be considered, he said.
Colin Sibley (Argyll & The Isles) said that the work in Inverness was “giving a man a fish to feed him for a day” rather than teaching him how to fish. “It is poverty of education, training, love, role models, ambition, and confidence.”
Jim Gibson (Glasgow & Galloway) said that the motion was about more than giving children an extra £5 a week: “It is about helping families to budget, cook, and manage money better.”
Helen Hood (Edinburgh), who is a trustee of Church Action on Poverty, disagreed. People in poverty were experts by experience, she said. “Do not think that because someone buys a carry-out meal it is because they don’t know how to cook. Some of these families have no money to pay for fuel in order to cook. We should never speak on behalf of these people.”
The Revd David Mackenzie Mills (St Andrews) said that his local authority had budget cuts of £7 million, which had drawn families deeper into poverty. Free music lessons for children had been withdrawn, he said. “It is also about the poverty of experience.”
The Revd Professor Annalu Waller (Brechin) said that child poverty was one area where the Church had “an ecumenical responsibility to go to the Government and say that this is not acceptable in the 21st century. People of faith need to stand up and say, as a group, enough is enough. Otherwise children will not be able to fulfil their potential.”
Motion 13 to support the campaign was carried.
Read further coverage of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church here.