Some 400,000 children in Scotland are now thought to be eligible for the Scottish Child Payment. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said if the scheme was replicated across the rest of the UK, 5.3 million youngsters in England, Wales and Northern Ireland could benefit.
Chris Birt, associate director for the think-tank in Scotland, said the benefit should show the UK Government that “prioritising those on low incomes is possible”.
It also shows other devolved governments the “constraints” on their powers are “no barrier to compassionate and significant action to support families”, he added.
The Scottish Child Payment was previously paid to low-income families with younger children, but is now available to all eligible households with youngsters under the age of 16.
At the same time, the payment – hailed by First Minster Nicola Sturgeon as the “most ambitious child poverty reduction measure in the UK” – has now been increased from £20 a week per child to £25.
It means eligible families will receive £1,300 a year per child, which Mr Birt described as a “welcome boost” at time when many household budgets were “stretched to breaking point”.
He said: “The full rollout of the Scottish Child Payment is a watershed moment for tackling poverty in Scotland, and the rest of the UK should take notice. At £1,300 per child per year, it will be a welcome boost to family budgets that are stretched to breaking point already.
“No child should live in poverty so there is clearly more to do, but the Scottish Government should be commended for prioritising spend on this vital measure at this time. But this is not just a cost-of-living crisis measure, it is an enduring investment in our children.”
Mr Birt acknowledged governments faced “difficult financial decisions at the moment”, but said these were “nothing compared to the impossible choices that families across the UK face in this crisis”.
One mother, identified only as Laura, said the payment would help with the cost of feeding her family and heating their home. She will receive the payment for her ten-year-old and her 14-year-old, saying the £200 extra every four weeks “really is the difference between heating and eating”.
She said: “I’ll be able to put extra gas in the meter for heating and hot water and extra food in the cupboards. My kids, especially my two teenage boys, won’t be feeling hungry as often and I’ll be able to make the house warm for them coming in from school, which is a really great feeling.”
The charity One Parent Families Scotland also urged the UK Government to follow the Scottish Government’s example.
Chief executive Satwat Rehman said: “WThe increase in financial support via the new Scottish Child Payment and its availability to parents and carers of older children will provide a much-needed lifeline to families on a low income. We hope the UK Government will follow suit and provide further support to low-income families in its upcoming autumn budget on Thursday.”
John Dickie, director of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland also made a similar plea, telling politicians at Westminster: “If the Scottish Government can make this kind of serious investment in protecting our children from poverty, then so too can the UK Government.”
A UK Government spokeswoman said: “Our priority will always be to support the most vulnerable and we recognise that people are struggling with rising prices, which is why we are protecting millions of those most in need with at least £1,200 of direct payments.”