WORK is “no longer a route out of poverty” for families as more children grow up under the breadline, it is claimed.

More than one quarter of all youngsters in Scotland are now said to be living in relative poverty – 40,000 more than last year.

The majority were in households where at least one member was in paid employment.

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Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “Too often when we think about poverty, it is about those who are out of work.

“However, these statistics show that for too many families in Scotland work is no longer a route out of poverty.

“With 70 per cent of children in poverty living in households where someone is in work, there is also a clear role for employers to play their part in tackling poverty.”

The latest figures show 26 per cent of minors were in relative poverty after housing costs in 2015-16.

Meanwhile, figures from the Department for Work and Pensions showed almost one third of youngsters across the UK are living in such circumstances.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance warned Scottish Government action to address the issue could be affected by budget cuts from Westminster.

However, John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said both administrations must act now.

He said: “We cannot afford to lose sight of the tens of thousands of children across Scotland that lie behind these statistics and the devastating impact that poverty will too often have on their health, wellbeing and life chances.

“The Scottish Government must now act quickly to implement the kind of concrete, practical policies that would make a significant dent in these figures.

“The latest modelling suggests that using new powers to top up child benefit by £5 a week would, for example, reduce child poverty in Scotland by up to 14 per cent, lifting around 30,000 children out of poverty.

“The UK Chancellor completely ignored the plight of low-income families in Scotland and across the UK in last week’s Budget.

“Today’s statistics are a stark reminder why he needs to end the freeze on family benefits and reverse cuts to Universal Credit for working families if the UK Government’s rhetoric on supporting ‘ordinary families’ is to mean anything.”

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said he is “committed to tackling disadvantage”.

The Scottish Government’s Child Poverty Bill aims to cut the amount of affected youngsters to 10 per cent by 2030.

Constance said: “These figures clearly reflect a UK economic model that does not work for Scotland.

“The UK Government’s failed austerity agenda and its broken tax and benefits system is pushing more people into hardship and poverty.

“Around £1 billion will be cut from welfare spending in Scotland each and every year by 2021, with a £0.2bn cut coming with new changes on April 1.

“This only serves to hit the most vulnerable members of our society hardest and hampers the Scottish Government’s work to maximise incomes and protect the vulnerable through more than £100m in welfare mitigation every year.”

Meanwhile, Alison Watson, deputy director of housing charity Shelter Scotland, warned the issue has wider implications.

She said: “Poverty and homelessness are closely linked – it doesn’t take too much to tip a family over the edge into a spiral of debt, arrears and homelessness.”