THE Scottish Child Payment – a benefit unique to Scotland that sees every child under 16 given £25 a week in support – is making a “real difference” to food bank use in the country, a leading charity has said.

The Trussell Trust, which provides emergency food parcels across the UK, said its data suggested that the payment was having a positive impact on children’s poverty rates.

In England, the number of children forced to turn to the charity’s services in the period ending March 2023 was 42% higher than it had been. In Scotland, the rates also rose, but by only 17%.

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Polly Jones, the Trussell Trust’s head of Scotland, said: “We know that when the Scottish Government does things differently, it makes a real difference. We are seeing this with the Scottish Child Payment which is starting to make an impact in reducing the need for food banks for families with children.

“While last year, our network distributed the most parcels ever provided for children in Scotland, we saw a smaller percentage increase in the number of parcels provided for children from November 2022 to March 2023 in comparison with the same period in 2021/22 than Northern Ireland, Wales, or England.

“There was a 17% increase in Scotland compared to 42% in England, suggesting that the extension of eligibility for Scottish Child Payment from age 6 to age 16, and the £5 increase to £25 a week, has made an impact.”

Jones added: “We already have enough evidence to show what changes are needed to tackle poverty and end destitution in Scotland. It’s time to get on with this work now, making full use of the Scottish Parliament’s powers, to ensure everyone can afford the essentials.”

In total from April 2022 to March 2023, the Trussell Trust said it handed out 2,986,203 emergency food parcels across the UK, a 37% increase on the previous year.

In Scotland, 259,744 emergency food parcels were provided, the charity said. This was also a record high but a lower overall increase of 30% on the previous year.

Government figures published in March showed that 24% of Scotland’s children were living in poverty, compared to the UK-wide rate of 29%.

However, those figures covered the period from April 2019 to March 2022, meaning they pre-dated the full roll-out of the Scottish Child Payment. This was increased to £20 a week from April 2022 and £25 weekly from November that same year.

Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Tackling poverty and protecting people from harm is one of the Scottish Government’s three critical missions. The Trussell Trust suggests that our Scottish Child Payment may have helped to slow the pace of demand for emergency food parcels last year.

“Without the full economic and fiscal powers of an independent nation we can’t eradicate poverty, but we are taking all the action we can to support people within our limited powers and fixed budget.”

The news comes as the Trussell Trust praised the Scottish Government for a newly published plan looking to reduce the number of people being forced to use food banks.