The leader of Scottish Labour has said the Scottish Government has a “moral obligation” to help low-income families.
Richard Leonard said an equivalent to the delayed Scottish Child Payment should be offered to those who are struggling immediately.
The payment, a new benefit to be delivered by Social Security Scotland as it takes over devolved benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions, was postponed until next year due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Mr Leonard said: “More and more families across Scotland are facing financial hardship but the SNP Government are failing to provide the direct and immediate support needed.
“Added to this, rising unemployment means that unless the furlough scheme is extended and a quality jobs guarantee scheme is introduced, even more households will find they cannot make ends meet.”
He added: “While the forthcoming Scottish Child Payment has been welcomed, it will not start to reach families until 2021, but so many families need help right now.
“Anti-poverty organisations from across Scotland have repeatedly called for the Scottish Government to bring forward a payment equivalent to the Scottish Child Payment as soon as possible.
“The Scottish Government has both the ability and moral obligation to do this.”
The call comes as recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show there has been a 98% increase in those claiming unemployment benefits over the past year, with an 88% rise taking place in the past three months.
In June 2019, 108,710 people in Scotland were claiming unemployment benefits.
By June 2020, 215,180 people were recorded as claiming similar benefits.
Figures collated in March, the same month when the coronavirus lockdown was imposed, show 114,650 people in receipt of payments.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We recognise that this is a difficult time for many families and more people are facing financial insecurity from the impacts of coronavirus.
“This is why we are prioritising the introduction of the new Scottish Child Payment which will tackle child poverty head on and will open to people by the end of the year.
“In addition as part of our £350 million community funding package to support those most at risk, we more than doubled the Scottish Welfare Fund to £80.5 million, paid carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance an additional supplement and increased Discretionary Housing Payments.”
He added: “Since the start of the pandemic we have provided over £110 million to tackle food insecurity, including the provision of free school meals and alternatives for 175,000 children and young people during the summer holidays.
“We are also taking action to support people into employment with a £100 million package to help those looking for work or at risk of redundancy, including a job guarantee for young people and a new national retraining scheme.
“It is now vital the UK Government matches our efforts, given that income replacement benefits are still reserved to Westminster, and take action to reverse welfare cuts which are hitting harder than ever – including the benefit cap, bedroom tax, and two child limit, as well as making fundamental alterations to Universal Credit.”