Scottish Labour leadership candidate Richard Leonard outlines his commitments to children and families. This builds on his raft of policies to end poverty in Scotland.
These plans include increasing child benefit by £5 for every child, removing the exemption that mean private schools get away with not paying rates and extending free school meals to all primary school pupils.
On announcing his commitments focused on helping children, Scottish Labour leadership contender Richard Leonard said:
“We all want to see happy, healthy children in our schools and our communities. I will commit to delivering the resources to ensure that no child goes without.
“Today 260,000 Scottish children live in poverty, an increase of 40,000 from the previous year and our poorest children are among some of the least healthy in Europe - these statistics should shame the current SNP Scottish Government.
“Ending child poverty is the challenge this generation must meet as our legacy to the next. Far too many of our children have their life chances diminished as a result of the economic circumstances they are born into.
“We need to provide a basic platform for every child and ensure each Scottish child feels secure and able to realise their potential at school and then as they enter adulthood. Their learning and their futures should not be hindered due to a hungry stomach, or missing out on the life experiences that their peers, who come from more economically advantaged backgrounds, routinely enjoy.
“I will commit to making sure independent schools are not exempted from non-domestic rates and that they will pay the same rates as state schools. Removing this unfair and unequal situation should raise around £5m a year. This is money that will make sure every child is provided the opportunity to enjoy school trips in the same way that their better off peers do. This transferring of wealth, symbolises the more equal Scotland we need to be.
“These innovative and necessary measures will of course take considerable investment, but this is investment for our future generations which will have both great social and economic gains. We need to look at how a progressive tax system, the end to austerity driven budget cuts to local government and growth in our economy could best be targeted to help all children in Scotland succeed, and not just the few.”
When elected Scottish Labour leader I pledge the following:
Help in School
- Extend the current Scottish provision of free school meals to include primary years 4-7. This would benefit up to 183,000 Scottish pupils currently not in receipt of a free school meal, end the stigma of free school meals and help close the shameful educational attainment gap.
- End the exemption of private schools from non-domestic rates and use the money saved - around £5m a year – to pay for school trips for all: ensuring the least well-off are able to enjoy school trips in the same way as their peers. This transferring of wealth symbolises the more equal Scotland we need to be.
- Provide grants to help families pay for school uniforms.
Happy, Healthy Children
- Increase child benefit by £5 per for every Scottish Child, which will lift 30 thousand Scottish kids out of poverty. This will help children of those both in work and out of work.
- Give local authorities the additional resources to make sure that no child goes hungry during school holidays.
- Creating a network of Community Hubs that provides a host of services, leisure and statutory, under one roof creating a coordinated community resource that will enhance the social infrastructure in our most disadvantaged communities.
- Provide local authorities with the resources to set up holiday recreational and leisure activities to ensure those children unable to go on holiday have stimulating and fulfilling summer times.
- Make local authority sports and recreational facilities affordable and accessible for all children, no matter their economic circumstances.
- Ensuring there is better-resourced support for credit unions and community banks, who are ethical credit agents which can help veer people from sourcing credit from exploitative pay day loan and credit companies and shops who prey on the poor.
- Provide local authorities with the resources and freedoms necessary to help them lead the fight against child poverty.
- I will campaign against the benefit freeze, the benefit cap and to halt the roll out of universal credit; these are harming our poorest people and harming far too many children in the process
- 70% of children in Scotland living in poverty live in households where at least one person is working. I will drive up pay by ensuring that every public pound spent compels employers to pay their workers the real living wage.
- I will initiate a massive housebuilding programme that ensures the over 6000 children currently considered homeless have a house they can all call home.
- According to DWP figures, between 19 and 23% of families in the UK are not claiming the means-tested benefits (such as income support and employment support allowance) which they are entitled to. I will Increase the number of active advice shops, which offers an income maximisation service, in each local authority area to ensure that every person is getting the benefits that they are entitled to.