The impact of using an income supplement to meet child poverty targets: evidence from Scotland

In 2017 the Scottish Government passed the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act with the commitment to significantly reduce the relative child poverty rate from the current prevailing level of around 25% to 10% by 2030/31. In response, the government introduced the Scottish Child Payment (SCP) that provides a direct transfer to households at a fixed rate per eligible child – currently £25 per week. In this paper we explore, using a micro to macro modelling approach, the effectiveness of using the SCP to achieve the Scottish child poverty targets. While we find that the ambitious child poverty targets can technically be met solely using the SCP, the necessary payment of £165 per week amounting to a total government cost of £3 billion per year, makes the political and economy-wide barriers significant. A key issue with only using the SCP is the non-linearity in the response to the payment; as the payment increases, the marginal gain in the reduction of child poverty decreases – this is particularly evident after payments of £80 per week. A ‘policy-mix’ option combining the SCP, targeted cash transfers and other policy levels (such as childcare provision) seems the most promising approach to reaching the child poverty targets.