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Report reveals multi-billion-pound cost of child poverty in Scotland

Glasgow Council spends £395m a year on the problem, the third most in the UK.

Poverty: Organisation seeking answers
© Deadline

Child poverty costs Scotland's largest council almost £400m a year, a new report has claimed.

Researchers calculated the impact of the problem as being £395m annually in the Glasgow City Council area - the third highest in the UK after Birmingham and Manchester.

An estimated 36,367 children in the Glasgow City Council area are living below the poverty line, according to the research.

As the figures were revealed, John Dickie, head of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, urged councils to do everything they could to "protect families in their area from poverty".

Statistics from the Scottish Government last month revealed 710,000 people north of the border - including 150,000 children - were living in relative poverty in 2011-12.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said it was "not clear from the report how figures about projected costs were arrived at".

But he stressed child poverty was "well recognised by the council" and said: "Improvements are being made to the lives of those most affected by deprivation."

CPAG commissioned experts at Loughborough University - who have already estimated the national cost of child poverty - to produce a breakdown of its financial impact on every local authority in the UK.

Across the UK, child poverty is said to cost £29bn a year, including £15bn spent on services to deal with the consequences of the problem, £3.5bn in lost tax receipts from people earning less as a result of having grown up in poverty, £2bn on benefits for people spending more time out of work as a result of having grown up in poverty and £8.5bn lost from people's earnings as a result of having grown up in poverty.

Researchers put the cost of the problem in the Edinburgh City Council area at £156m a year, with the impact in Fife said to be slightly higher at £158m.

In North Lanarkshire child poverty was estimated to cost the council £170m but in Perth and Kinross it was £33m and in Stirling it was calculated to be £26m.

In both the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands, the cost was said to be £4m a year.

Mr Dickie urged: "It is vital that local authorities do all within their powers to protect families in their area against poverty by, for example, removing childcare barriers to work, ensuring families have access to benefits and tax credits advice, and investing in reducing the costs families face by extending free school meals and increasing school clothing grants."

He stated: "The good news is that reducing child poverty benefits everyone by cutting the costs to local authority services and boosting the local economy, but many people will be shocked to hear that so many children in every local area in Scotland are living in poverty."

The Glasgow City Council spokesman said: "A wide range of initiatives is being undertaken to support children and families in Glasgow, and many of the recommendations in the report, such as a living wage, have already been introduced by the council.

"We are committed to tackling poverty and health inequalities and through our long-term strategy of focusing on jobs and the economy, targeted support for the vulnerable, the early years and education, we hope to bring lasting change to the city."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "This Government is doing all it can, with the powers it has, to address the social inequalities which exist in our society."

While the 2011-12 figures showed a fall in the number of children in poverty, she stated there was "no room for complacency", adding that "changes introduced since then through the UK Government's cuts to capital budgets and welfare reform agenda threaten to have a significant impact on Scotland's children".

The spokeswoman said the Scottish Government was "working to strengthen the economy and to secure new jobs and opportunities to our communities" and added: "We are also improving the quality and flexibility of early learning and childcare support, through the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill.

"This will amount to savings equivalent to around £700 a year per child and the increased flexibility will remove barriers that parents and carers can face in taking up education, training and employment."

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