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Poverty,

Impact of the Scottish Child Payment on the need for food banks

Scottish Child Payment is a key policy in reducing child poverty and food insecurity

Rates of food insecurity have risen in recent years in Scotland. Food banks in the Trussell Trust network in Scotland provided 86,000 emergency food parcels for children in 2023/24 – this represents a 20% increase since 2018/19. Six in ten (60%) of all food parcels provided in 2023/24 were for families with children.

Social security policies like the Scottish Child Payment (SCP) are crucial to reducing both poverty and food insecurity. As such, SCP is a key part of the Scottish Government strategies to reduce child poverty and to end the need for food banks in Scotland.

SCP was piloted in February 2021 for children under 6 in qualifying households. The benefit was extended to children under 16 in qualifying households in November 2022. Over that period, the amount of the payment increased from £10 to £25 per week, per child.

SCP has decreased food bank usage for some types of households

In a new report commissioned by the Trussell Trust, FAI analysis of administrative food bank data evaluates the impact of SCP on the share of food parcels delivered to different types of households.

A number of factors beyond SCP might have changed food bank usage in the period covered by the data (April 2019 to September 2023). We use methods that compare how trends in food bank usage actually turned out in Scotland to a “counterfactual” – an estimate of how food bank usage would have changed in Scotland during this time without SCP. We use data from England and Wales to create this counterfactual. Using these methods yields more accurate estimates of SCP’s impacts than looking at overall trends in usage over time.

Chart 1: Effects of SCP on food bank usage (pp) – Difference-in-differences estimates

A chart showing estimates and confidence intervals for the impact of Scottish Child Payment on food bank usage for given household groups.

Source: FAI calculations
Notes: Controls include labour market conditions and characteristics of the social security system. Red boxes indicate statistically significant estimates.

We find that SCP caused statistically significant decreases in food bank usage for some, but not all, types of households (see Chart 1). We estimate that due to SCP, the share of food parcels has:

  • Fallen by 1.2 percentage points for single-parent households with children under 5, and
  • Fallen by 1.8 percentage points for households with children aged 5-16 (without younger children).

Figure 1: Effects of SCP on food bank usage (pp) – Event study estimates for selected household types

Two charts showing event study results for the effects of Scottish Child Payment on food bank usage by single-adult and large households with children 0-4.

Source: FAI calculations
Notes: Controls include labour market conditions and characteristics of the social security system. Red boxes indicate statistically significant estimates.

Decreases in food bank usage for priority household groups due to SCP are concentrated after the payment amount rose to £25 per week, per child in November 2022 (see Figure 1). This evidence suggests that higher rates of SCP may result in larger reductions in food bank usage or reductions for more households.

Continued research on SCP is needed

Despite seeing decreases in food bank usage for some groups, we don’t see evidence of a decrease across all households with young children, or for priority households with older children.

Our analysis is limited by several factors, particularly a sample that extends only through September 2023. We therefore encourage the interpretation of these results as preliminary evidence.

As more data become available, continued evaluation of SCP will help us to fully understand its effects. Further research on changes to household spending after receiving SCP will also give insight into how the benefit is being used by recipient households.

You can read the full report here, and explore the latest statistics from the Trussell Trust here.

Authors

Hannah is an Associate at the Fraser of Allander Institute. She specialises in applied social policy analysis with a focus on income, poverty, and inequality.

Emma Congreve is a Principal Knowledge Exchange Fellow and Deputy Director at the Fraser of Allander Institute. Emma's work at the Institute is focussed on policy analysis, covering a wide range of areas of social and economic policy.  Emma is an experienced economist and has previously held roles as a senior economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and as an economic adviser within the Scottish Government.

Kate is a Knowledge Exchange Assistant at the FAI working across a number of project areas. She is currently studying for her MSc in Economics at the University of Edinburgh and has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Strathclyde. Kate is also the Outreach Coordinator at the Women in Economics Initiative which aims to encourage equal opportunity and improve representation in the field.