NEW powers over welfare should be used to tackle poverty and target help at people on low incomes, according to campaigners.

The Scottish Government will have greater than ever control over social security and ministers are being urged to use them to boost the incomes of the poorest in society.

The Poverty Alliance wants child benefit to be increased in Scotland to put more cash in people’s pockets to help pay for essentials.

In the next year a new Social Security Bill will establish the new system in Scotland for administering the benefits which are now devolved.

A Child Poverty Act will be published and a Poverty and Inequality Commission set up to devise strategies for tackling what the Scottish Government has said is one of its top priorities.

The government is being urged to sue the powers it has available to improve lives.

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance, said poverty and in-work poverty has to be tackled with the new powers.

He said: “The levels of poverty that still exist in Scotland are unacceptable. With more than 900,000 people living in poverty, and over half of them in working households, something needs to change.

“We believe the new powers coming to Scotland provide the perfect opportunity to make a real difference in the fight against poverty.

“We are calling on the Scottish Government to use these powers to top up child benefits and means tested benefits for working age adults.”

The Poverty Alliance also organises the Living Wage campaign calling for an £8.25 an hour minimum rate.

The Poverty Alliance has set up a Community Activist Group to allow people with direct experience of poverty and the benefits system a voice in efforts to influence government policy.

Nuala Watt, a part-time university lecturer who receives disability benefits and member of the panel said the Scottish system must be markedly different from the UK’s. She said: “In Scotland, we have a chance to re-think our approach to social security, and the Scottish Government have committed to designing a system based on dignity and respect.

“These values must be made meaningful. Too often interactions with the current social security system are needlessly complicated and often start from the position that people are trying to cheat the system.

“I hope that 2017 will be the year that public attitudes shift towards those reliant on social security, and that people recognise that social security is an investment in us all.”