MSPs clash over child poverty stats

ALMOST 3,000 Borders children were living in poverty last year, according to figures compiled by the End Child Poverty campaign.

It also estimated that one in four children in the Hawick and Denholm council ward were living in homes where families were in receipt of benefits and/or the total income was less than 60 per cent of median income before housing costs were included.

At the other end of the scale, just eight per cent of children in the two Tweeddale wards and in Leaderdale and Melrose were in the same position.

Across the region, an average of 13 per cent of children were living below the poverty line in 2012.

Bronwyn Coggan, chair of the Borders Children’s Charity, told TheSouthern: “It seems clear the Government needs to be putting not only more resources into tackling poverty, but a clearer, longer-term plan into tackling the child poverty numbers.

“The Borders Children’s Charity was set up 47 years ago to help children who find themselves in desperate situations through no fault of their own. Sadly, the need for this is still greater than ever.”

She added: “A large number of requests for help we receive are for basics that no child should be without, such as beds, bedroom furniture, clothes, shoes – which sounds incredibly Third World, not Scottish Borders.”

Borders Tory MSP John Lamont said: “Growing up in poverty can severely reduce the chances of a child having a bright future. It often means growing up in a cold home, not having enough money to eat healthily and falling behind in school, as statistics show that the poorest children often do worse than their better-off classmates.”

He added: “While we might have a lower proportion than other regions, this is no excuse to sit back and do nothing, and I would urge the Scottish Government to do more to tackle this problem.”

However, the SNP’s Christine Grahame, another local MSP, responded: “John Lamont should be awarded an Oscar for his breathtaking hypocrisy in his comments on child poverty in the Borders.

“The Tories, together with their Lib Dem partners in crime, have cut the Scottish Government budget by millions, are introducing the unfair Universal Credit, are stigmatising the disabled as workshy and now are set on introducing a ‘bedroom tax’ which will force many to either fall into rent arrears and then homelessness, or drive them from their homes and their communities.”