MORE than 4,500 children are living in poverty in the Borders, new figures have shown.
A report published by the End Child Poverty campaign shows that 23.9 per cent of youngsters under the age of 16 were living in low-income families – those earning less than 60 per cent of the median income after housing costs.
‘After housing costs’ is the income available to a household once rent, mortgage interest payments, buildings insurance payments and ground rent and service charges are paid.
For a family of one adult and one child, 60 per cent of median income in 2018/19 was £268 a week.
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The Borders’ figure represents an increase of 2.3 per cent of children living in poverty in the area, compared to 2014/15’s figure of 21.6 per cent.
In total, 4,544 children were living in poverty in the region in 2018/19, up from 4,132 four years previously.
John Tucker is the chairman at Galashiels Foodbank, one of the organisations trying to support children in the area.
He said: “On average, we help about 20 children every week. Benefits are quite tight, there’s not much room for a treat.
“Our clients are so grateful [for our help]. We are dealing with people who literally have nothing in the house.”
Mr Tucker says there has also been an increase in the number of children using the foodbank since the start of the pandemic.
The service, based at St Peter’s Church, put together three-day emergency food parcels consisting of dried and tinned foods, as well as fresh goods to help ensure that local children are receiving some form of nutrition.
Previously, the foodbank helped people who were referred to them, but that stopped at the start of the pandemic, which Mr Tucker says has contributed to an increase in children using the service.
“People refer themselves now,” he said. “Access is easier. We are not in the position to question a need.”
On November 3, the Scottish Government announced that it would introduce a Scottish Child Payment for low-income families with children under six years of age.
Those who qualify will be able to apply for £10 per child, per week with no limit on the number of children the benefit applies for.
The first payments are being targeted for the beginning of February 2021, with all low-income families who have children under 16 benefitting by the end of 2022.
Director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, John Dickie, says the plans to tackle child poverty in Scotland are “hugely welcome”.
“These new figures highlight the importance of keeping housing costs affordable, the importance of reviewing the value of the Scottish Child Payment and the urgent need to use existing payment mechanisms, like local authority school clothing grants, to provide extra financial support to families right now,” said Mr Dickie.