MORE than 100 health experts have written an open letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying more still needs to be done to tackle child poverty.

The call came the day after the Scottish Child Payment increased to from £20 to £25 per week and was extended to include eligible children between the ages of six and fifteen.

The letter’s 136 signatories insist a clearer commitment to reduce child poverty and inequalities is needed.

In 2019, more than one in four of Scotland’s children were found to be living in poverty, according to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

Analysis by the think tank Resolution Foundation suggests this figure will increase to 29% by 2023-24 – the highest rate in more than 20 years.

These predictions were made before the current cost of living crisis, which means the figures could be higher. The letter outlines recommendations that include ensuring all measures in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act – which sets out targets for reducing the number of children living in poverty – are appropriately resourced and funded.

Signatories insisted long-term, stable funding must be provided for community-based services to support children, young people and their families.

The paper also called for greater detail on how the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2022-26 will contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of children and young people.

The letter said evidence shows that child poverty is a key driving factor behind health inequalities, with data consistently showing it impacts young people’s education, housing and social environment and, in turn, their health outcomes.

Dr Mairi Stark, RCPCH officer for Scotland, said: “Poverty and deprivation have a real and lifelong impact on children and includes higher rates of asthma, diabetes, obesity, stunted growth, low immunity, anxiety, and depression.

“These children are placed at a huge disadvantage even before entering adulthood. We know that is not a new phenomenon – health inequalities and poverty were pressing matters pre-pandemic – but Covid-19, rising costs of living and lengthening NHS waiting times are exacerbating the problem and further impacting the lives of Scotland’s children.”

Stark said the right funding will help close the gap, adding: “Our government has the opportunity to shift the dial on children’s lives chances in Scotland – 136 members of the Scottish child health workforce are urging them to seize it.”

In response, Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said: “Tackling child poverty is a national mission for us and we are already using all the powers and resources available to support families and tackle the underlying causes, which are so crucial to improving health inequalities too.

“The Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan sets out our priorities, and we have allocated almost £3 billion this financial year towards mitigating the increased costs crisis.

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“More than £1bn of this is only available in Scotland with the remainder being more generous than that provided elsewhere in the UK, including investment in the Scottish Child Payment.

“We’re increasing GP access to mental health and wellbeing services, through our commitment to new multidisciplinary mental health and wellbeing services in primary care, and introducing Welfare Rights Advisers in 150 practices in our most deprived communities to offer advice to patients on social security eligibility, debt resolution, housing and employability issues.”