Moderator to tackle child poverty with Scottish Party leaders

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has issued a fresh plea on the Scottish Government to top-up child benefit to help lift 30,000 children out of poverty.

Right Rev Dr Derek Browning said using recently devolved powers to increase payments by £5 per child a week would help families struggling to make ends meet.

Speaking ahead of an annual visit to the Scottish Parliament which starts today (Tuesday) he said the extra money could mean a week of proper breakfasts, a warm school coat or the ability to share in out-of-school activities.

Dr Browning, a supporter of the Give Me Five campaign, said:

“It is a political, social and moral imperative that we act now to effect change for the good.

“The Church of Scotland stands alongside people of all faith traditions, and none, in the move towards fairness for all our children.”

Dr Browning said the Church believes in a “God of justice” who speaks out for the disadvantaged, the left behind, the ignored and the voiceless.

Poverty currently affects one in four children in Scotland and 70% of them live in working families with low incomes.

Indicative costings suggest that topping up child benefit, which is not part of Universal Credit, by £5 for every child in Scotland would cost £256 million per year.

While this is a significant investment, it should be seen in the context of the Scottish Government’s overall budget of nearly £32 billion.

Over the next three-days, Dr Browning, is holding meetings with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard.

He is also engaging with Green Party co-convener, Patrick Harvie and Willie Rennie of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Other issues that will be discussed include loneliness and social isolation, Universal Credit and funeral poverty.

Dr Browning will share examples of some of the fantastic work that congregations are doing to alleviate loneliness in their communities.

He will also give party leaders a briefing about some of the services provided by the Church’s social care arm, CrossReach, to support people suffering from depression and substance misuse.

Dr Browning is delivering Time for Reflection, which heralds the beginning of the business week, in the debating chamber this afternoon (Tuesday).

In the evening he is hosting a parliamentary reception which will focus on celebrating the role of young people within the Church of Scotland.

Robin Downie, Moderator of the National Youth Assembly, will speak about a recent trip to the Middle East where he engaged with young people from different religious backgrounds.

And Gigha Lennox, a Children’s and Youth Worker at St David’s Broomhouse Parish Church in Edinburgh, will share her thoughts on an interfaith education trip to Rwanda.