Katy Clark puts child poverty levels under the microscope in the latest column from the West Scotland Labour MSP.

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The latest child poverty figures in Scotland make miserable, albeit unsurprising, reading.

A Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) report published last week revealed that of all Scotland's local authority areas, only Glasgow has a larger share of children living below the breadline than North Ayrshire.

In total, around one in five North Ayrshire residents live below the poverty line.

Many factors in this decline are obvious: deteriorating public health; underinvestment in local services; the decimation of industry and subsequent failure of the UK and Scottish Governments to rebuild wealth in communities like this.

This has been exacerbated by the Conservatives’ economic vandalism at a national level, which has seen income and wealth inequality accelerate dramatically over the past decade.

However, the most vindictive policy choice has been the treatment of those who need assistance.

You can tell a lot by how a government treats those in most need, and it is telling what was once called “social security” is now called “benefits”.

Universal Credit has been repeatedly cut in real terms over the past few years. The removal of the £20 uplift in 2021 was the single biggest reduction since World War II, and this has been followed-up with tightened sanctions for those not fulfilling severe work-search requirements.

It is why my party have enthusiastically supported using the Scottish Parliament’s powers to make different, fairer choices than those of a Tory government.

Scottish Labour fought for, and won, enhanced social security powers, allowing the Scottish Parliament to create new benefits in devolved areas and top-up reserved benefits.

The result has been the Scottish Child Payment, the Adult Disability Payment and the Young Carer Grant, among others.

That is why it has been so galling to see the Scottish Government under-delivering on what should be a priority, instead replicating the delays and chaos of the DWP system.

In some cases it is worse – the average waiting time for the Adult Disability Payment is now 16 weeks on average.

This is not an example of the SNP mitigating Tory austerity but piling on the misery at a time when people face destitution.

It is not just incompetence either. The new Winter Heating Payments system, where thousands of people will receive less money for fuel bills than they would have previously, is a political choice.

Most damningly, despite administrative costs for IT and staff spiralling, the Scottish Fiscal Commission estimates over half of devolved benefits for will remain in the hands of the DWP until the latter half of the decade.

Uprating social security is not the only mechanism for lifting people out poverty – we also need to rebuild our economy, tax progressively and invest in lifeline services.

But for too many people, it is the difference between getting by and struggling without the basics.

In the fifth richest country on earth, both the UK and Scottish Governments should be ensuring everyone has the support and dignity they deserve.