CHILD poverty in Scotland is "growing beyond anything which we've ever seen before" thanks to Covid and the "brutal" Universal Credit cut, the chief executive of Children 1st has said.

Mary Glasgow was addressing Holyrood's Health and Sport Committee when she and other experts highlighted poverty as one of the biggest issues facing children's health and wellbeing.

MSPs heard how the pandemic has increased the problem and exacerbated the stress and anxiety in struggling households.

And she criticised the "brutal" way in which the UK Government ended the £20 Universal Credit (UC) uplift brought in for low income families as a result of Covid.

The Conservative administration introduced that as a temporary measure but children's organisations were amongst those involved in unsuccessful campaigning for that to be made permanent.

Glasgow said the cut was "very brutal and very unfair" and sent a clear message to families that "their poverty did not matter", leading to more stigma, guilt and shame about being in-need.

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And she said: "Child poverty is just growing beyond anything which we've ever seen before. It was a problem before the apandemic, the pandemic's exacerbated it.

"I've been a social worker for 30 years, I've never known children and families to be in such dire circumstances. They simply do not have enough money in their pocket to manage a decent standard of living.

"We need to get money into the hands of children and families quickly."

Professor Hazel Borland, interim chief executive of NHS Ayrshire and Arran, said there are now serious concerns amongst her colleagues about developmental delays in infants, childhood obesity, mental health and other issues made worse by the pandemic.

On poverty, she said: "At times we seem to be compartmentalising poverty in our language. We talk about child poverty, we talk about period poverty, we talk about food and fuel poverty. Actually, it's all just poverty and we need to tackle it in that way."

On support for families, she went on: "This isn't a favour we're doing families, children and young people, this is what they should be able to expect in terms of expecting a standard of living that should be their right."

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Figures released last week show the number of young people waiting more than a year for child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) doubled between September 2020 and the same month last year to almost 2000 patients.

Due to extended lockdown periods, many services that would help young people to access mental health services were either overstretched or closed, while schools were closed and social interactions for young people curtailed.

Glasgow said: "It was really difficult before the pandemic. There was a lack of support to recover from the impact of trauma, it was very difficult to access quickly good quality support for children who were experiencing emotional distress or mental health difficulties.

"That got a lot worse through the pandemic, so we've seen children's challenges around their anxiety and their mental and emotional health being exacerbated, made worse.

"Parents and carers are really at the end of their tether, very distressed, not knowing where to turn.

"When universal services are not available as a first step into support, they've really been at a loss to try and access timely help for children."

Afterwards, SNP committee member Evelyn Tweed MSP said the Westminster government, which controls most of the welfare powers, has "failed to support these families through this most difficult of winters".

She said: "The harsh realities of Tory cuts have been laid bare by Mary Glasgow, where families have had to make tough choices on whether to heat their homes or feed their kids and it is a direct result of the callous decision from the Tories to cut support at a vital time.

"No one should have to feel embarrassed about money troubles, but as Mary Glasgow outlined, the Tory decision to cut UC has made families feel guilty about needing support to help their families."