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Last Updated: Monday, 4 February 2008, 12:27 GMT
Benefits 'should tackle poverty'
Graffiti on a housing estate
A quarter of a million children in Scotland live in poverty
The benefits system should be simplified to help tackle child poverty, according to MPs.

A report by members of Westminster's Scottish Affairs Committee said more needed to be done to meet the target of halving child poverty by 2010.

It highlighted the complexity of the benefits system and said the poorest children were not being helped by means tested benefits such as tax credits.

An estimated 250,000 children in Scotland are living in poverty.

However, greater progress has been made in tackling the issue in Scotland, compared with the rest of the UK.

With a significant proportion of children living in poverty having at least one parent who was in work, the committee said the tax and benefit system must "ensure that no-one in full time work is living in poverty".

Mohammad Sarwar
Action is urgently needed
Mohammad Sarwar MP

It called on the UK Government to do everything possible to make sure families know what help they are entitled to.

It highlighted the problems working parents can face, such as low pay and access to childcare.

Committee chairman Mohammad Sarwar said: "While we are pleased that some progress has been made in the last 10 years, much more must be done.

"There are 250,000 children still living in poverty in Scotland today so action is urgently needed.

"We look forward to continuing the historically close collaboration between the UK Government and the Scottish Executive in order to tackle child poverty and build on the work already done."

In 1997, the UK Government set targets of halving child poverty by 2010 and eliminating it altogether by 2020.

But the report claimed "significantly more resources" would be needed to reach the 2010 target.

'Serious concerns'

While MPs said the introduction of child tax credits had been a "key factor" in reducing child poverty, they also highlighted "serious concerns" about the take-up levels for these compared to child benefit, which is universally available.

They also claimed there was evidence the poorest children were not being helped by means tested benefits, arguing that in that context, increases in child benefit "seem attractive".

John Dickie, of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, claimed research showed that 4bn a year needed to be spent if the 2010 target was to be reached.

He said: "That might sound a lot, buts it's only 0.3% of GDP."

Douglas Hamilton, from Save the Children Scotland, said additional assistance should be targeted to children in the most severe poverty.

"The time for talking is over, the next thing we want to see from government is action," he said.

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