A COUNTRY should be defined by how it cares for its children.

In parliament last week I spoke in the debate about tackling child poverty.

While we’ve taken strides to tackle the scourge of child poverty in recent years, there is still much work to do.

The Scottish Government has made tackling child poverty a national mission, one where people at all levels of politics, in the third-sector, business, and across our communities must pull together to make a real difference to the lives of all children.

I am clear in my position; no child should grow up in poverty.

As I said in that speech last week, child poverty must be eradicated to help see our young people thrive.

That is why it was significant that we announced a further £5 increase to the Scottish Child Payment, taking the total to £25 per child by the end of the year.

By the time a first child turns six, a low-income family will have received £10,000 in support from the Scottish Government, and £9,700 for second and subsequent children.

That stands in stark contrast to families in England and Wales who receive less than £1,800 for a first child and under £1,300 for subsequent children.

The Scottish Child Payment is a game-changing policy that is already making a significant difference to families in West Dunbartonshire, with 2,795 local children currently receiving the payment.

The announced increase will have an even greater impact, with 50,000 children across Scotland to be lifted out of poverty across Scotland by 2024.

It will be five times more than other political parties called for.

The Child Poverty Action Group said it is “a real lifeline for the families across Scotland who are facing a perfect storm of financial insecurity as the UK cut to universal credit bites, energy prices soar and the wider costs of living rise”.

This contrasts with a UK Government that has created an intolerable situation for hard-pressed families.

Energy costs are spiralling, social security has been cut, a welfare cap has been introduced, all creating a cost-of-living crisis that has seen the sharpest decline in living standards since records began.

The Scottish Government is forced to mitigate the UK Government’s mess to the tune of £9.6million in West Dunbartonshire each year, with a further £10million fund announced last week to stave off the worst of what Westminster throws at our communities.

Just think what that money could be used for locally.

But we must continue to stay focused and put our shoulders to the wheel in our national mission to lift children out of poverty.