Best Start, Bright Futures sets out how we will work together to deliver on Scotland's national mission to tackle child poverty. It is not solely a plan for the Scottish Government, it is a plan for all of Scotland, recognising the contribution all parts of society must make to deliver the change needed for children and families.
Successfully tackling child poverty requires our approach to evolve, to focus on outcomes rather than inputs, and to deliver evidence-informed wide ranging action across Scotland, which works together to wraparound and support families. It will require the transformation of our economy, further investment in key infrastructure such as childcare and transport, and provision of the right high-quality support at the right time in order to help families to move out of poverty.
No one action in isolation can make the change needed. It is the cumulative impact of action across sectors, by all partners, in all parts of Scotland, which will make the difference for children and families.
Best Start, Bright Futures sets out a vision for Scotland, the changes that are needed to achieve this, and the actions we will take with partners to deliver that change. The plan outlines Scotland's offer to families in order to tackle child poverty head on.
This plan is built on the foundations of the work we have undertaken together over the last four years, since the publication of 'Every Child, Every Chance'. That includes new and improved supports such as those delivered through Social Security Scotland, including the Scottish Child Payment and Best Start Grant, Scotland's unique approach to employability through the No One Left Behind, our commitment to deliver more warm and affordable homes and action to strengthen the impact of public sector spend through Fair Work First.
Importantly, it also builds on the work we have taken through our response to COVID-19, which has seen us work together in new ways – breaking down barriers to progress, and putting people at the heart of decision making. Throughout this plan we highlight the progress we have already made, and what more is needed.
In delivering our national mission we are building on the available evidence of what works and focusing efforts on the three drivers of child poverty reduction and the six priority family types at greatest risk of poverty. Focusing in this way will ensure that our actions make the difference needed.
We do not underestimate the challenge in front of us. When the child poverty targets were set by the Scottish Parliament in 2017 they were ambitious. Since then, the impacts of EU Exit and COVID-19, compounded by the current cost of living crisis and rising inflation, make these targets even more challenging.
But these challenges have not reduced our ambition, rather, they have strengthened our resolve to work together to make an even greater impact on the lives of children and their families.
To provide the immediate support families need, and to deliver further progress against the interim targets, we will further enhance investment in social security support over the coming year. This includes increasing the Scottish Child Payment to £25 per week per child by the end of 2022 and taking steps to mitigate the Benefit Cap as fully as we can within the scope of devolved powers, taking immediate steps to support as many families as possible in 2022.
We will also take immediate steps to significantly scale up employment support for parents, with the aim of supporting up to 12,000 parents to ultimately enter and sustain employment.
In large part due to the actions we have taken to date, together with those set out in this plan, using current projections we anticipate that around 17% of children will live in relative poverty in 2023, with over 60,000 fewer children living in poverty since the Act was passed in 2017. Whilst economic modelling cannot precisely account for what may happen, particularly in the context of the cost of living crisis, inflation rises and increasing international instability, we anticipate on the basis of current information that over 50,000 fewer children will live in absolute poverty compared to 2017, with around 16% of children projected to live in absolute poverty in 2023. However, as the impact of the economic situation becomes clearer, this Government will continue to consider further actions required over the lifetime of this plan to achieve these targets, to support families, and break the cycle of child poverty.
In addition to their direct impact on the child poverty targets, the actions set out in this plan will lay the foundation for the transformation in our economy and public services that will be required to meet the 2030 targets, and to set Scotland on a path for sustained poverty reduction.
We recognise the challenge in front of us, and call on all of our partners, and all of Scotland to get behind these actions, and to take further steps to contribute to tackling child poverty.
A short summary of the actions we will take together is set out below.
Scotland's Offer to Families – a short summary
Working together to deliver differently
We are committed to working together to ensure that systems work for the people who need them most, trialling and evaluating new approaches, adapting our ways of working, and investing in rigorous monitoring to understand how changes are impacting on priority families.
In the coming year we will identify a small number of pathfinder areas to commence work on a new phased approach to whole system change. We will invest up to £5 million in 2022-23 from the Tackling Child Poverty Fund and leverage the full package of funding set out throughout this plan, to support the work of pathfinders, bringing together partners in a locality to overcome barriers and maximise the use of resources to provide holistic support tailored to the individual needs of families.
We will also build on the learning of our Social Innovation Partnership to work with up to 300 people in 2022-23, providing deep, adaptable, person-centred support that strengthens wellbeing, while addressing short-term needs and supporting long-term aspirations including employment and other positive destinations. Backed by investment of up to £9.75 million in 2022-23, alongside investment from The Hunter Foundation, this will include relational support, delivery of accessible funded childcare options and close working with employers to promote flexible working and wellbeing in the workplace.
Part A: Providing the opportunities and integrated support parents need to enter, sustain and progress in work
We are committed to supporting parents to access, sustain and progress in employment where this is their choice. We will do this through:
- A strengthened employment offer to parents
- Connectivity and childcare to enable access to employment
- Transforming our economy
Key actions – a strengthened employment offer to parents
To meet the needs of parents, we will significantly increase investment in employability support, making up to £81 million available in 2022-23. This will support delivery of a new offer to parents, providing support tailored to their needs through a dedicated keyworker – including support to access childcare and transport – and access to skills and training. Investment will also support the creation of up to 600 funded opportunities in 2022-23 for parents.
To complement this, we will launch a £2 million Challenge Fund, to test out new approaches to supporting parents into work.
As a part of the package of enhanced support, we will deliver a new Parental Transition Fund to tackle the financial barriers parents face in entering the labour market, particularly over the initial period of employment, investing up to £15 million each year.
Over the course of 2022-23 we will work with health boards and local authorities to provide up to 200 funded placements for parents through a new NHS Demonstrator Project for those experiencing long-term unemployment.
We will make child poverty a central pillar of our Lifetime Skills Offer, with enhanced support for the priority groups. We will also publish a new Adult Learning Strategy for Scotland in spring 2022.
Through these actions we aim to support up to 12,000 parents into work, helping to increase household incomes from employment.
Key actions – connectivity and childcare
In summer 2022, we will develop and publish a strategic plan for all of our childcare commitments for the remainder of this Parliament.
This will set out our approach to further develop our funded offers of early learning and childcare for children aged one and two, starting with low-income households within this Parliament, and to build a system of school age childcare, offering care before and after school, and during the holidays by the end of this Parliament.
We will work to improve availability of buses, introducing a £1 million community bus fund, supporting local authorities to improve the availability of public transport in their areas. We will also review how Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) can be used to support low income families.
We will step up our ambition on Connecting Scotland and will bring 300,000 people online by the end of 2026, backed by £200 million. The new programme will focus efforts initially on digitally excluded low income families from the six priority groups, working with key partners across the public and third sector to reach those who need it most.
Through these actions we will tackle household costs for families and support parents to engage with the employment support.
Key actions – transforming our economy
To ensure that enhanced employability and skills support is matched with fair work opportunities, we will work in partnership with public, private and third sector employers to identify and overcome barriers to parental employment. This includes progressing fair work actions in low paid sectors and ensuring investment in Just Transition supports meaningful action on child poverty.
We will build on our existing work to remove barriers to employment, taking a strategic and intersectional approach to tackling employment inequalities. We will publish our refreshed Fair Work Action Plan in 2022, including commitments relating to structural barriers and inequalities, as well as discrete focus on the Gender Pay Gap, the disability employment gap and a new Ethnicity Pay Gap strategy.
We will promote fair work practices through public procurement policy and practice. By this summer, we will introduce a requirement on public sector grant recipients to pay at least the real living Wage to all employees.
To connect this dual action on fair work and public investment to local and regional economies, we will develop Community Wealth Building action plans with every local authority and take forward plans for the introduction of a Community Wealth Building Bill during this session of Parliament.
Through these actions we will support the creation of new sustainable fair work opportunities for parents, tackling structural inequalities which prevent priority families from participating in the labour market.
Part B: Maximising the support available for families to live dignified lives and meet their basic needs
We are committed to delivering public services in a holistic way that enables choice and support for everyone to flourish in thriving communities.
We will do this through action focused on:
- A transformational approach to people and place
- Enhanced support through social security
- Income maximisation
- Access to warm and affordable homes
Key actions – people and place
We will invest at least £500 million of Whole Family Wellbeing Funding over the next five years, with the first £50 million of this transformational funding in 2022-23. This will help transform services that support families to ensure that all families can access preventative, holistic support which is wrapped around their needs, and provided when they need it and for as long as they need it.
Recognising the connection between child poverty and health inequalities, we will commence delivery of our new Getting it Right Together approach by June 2022, focusing on a range of settings. Through this new approach we will support the most deprived communities and develop a 'no wrong door' approach to support, linking into wider elements of action across this Plan.
To enable better access to the support families need, we are investing £36 million over two years through our Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund.
Whilst we are constrained by UK budgeting arrangements, we will use the ongoing Resource Spending Review to provide multi-year funding for the third sector where possible to do so, enabling more sustainable, joined up, strategic planning for the sector.
We will invest £325 million over the course of the Parliament in the Place Based Investment Programme (PBIP), which includes continuation of the £25 million Regeneration Capital Grant Fund. We will also continue to deliver the Empowering Communities Programme, with up to £18 million per year complementing the capital investment programme.
Through these actions we will provide financial, practical and emotional support, helping to tackle and mitigate the impact of poverty as well as preventing it.
Key actions – social security
We will double the value of the Scottish Child Payment (SCP) to £20 per week per child from April 2022, and will roll out the SCP in full to children under 16, and further increase the payment to £25 per week per child by the end of 2022. To further support families, we will increase the value of 8 Scottish social security benefits by 6%, including Best Start Grants and Carer's Allowance Supplement, to keep pace with rising costs.
We will also legislate to remove the income thresholds from Best Start Foods by 2023-24, bringing eligibility in line with both Best Start Grant and Scottish Child Payment.
We will improve how support is provided to carers and make links to wider services. To better recognise the different impacts of different caring situations, we plan to introduce an extra payment of £10 a week for people who will get Scottish Carer's Assistance who are caring for more than one disabled person.
We will also work with local authorities to mitigate the Benefit Cap as fully as we can within the scope of devolved powers, taking immediate steps to support as many families as possible in 2022, with this support targeted at families and the child poverty priority family types in particular.
Through these measures we will put money directly in the pockets of low income households, lifting children out of poverty and combatting the cost of living crisis.
Key actions – income maximisation
We will shift more of the complexity of navigating the benefits system away from potential applicants, making it easier for people to access support when they need it. This includes further exploring systems of automated payment, beginning with the Scottish Child Payment and Best Start Grant, and delivering more person centred referral and handover processes.
We will take targeted action to overcome the additional barriers faced by the priority family types. This includes: working with seldom-heard groups to better understand and address non take-up of benefits, expanding access to the Family Nurse Partnership and strengthening the Health Visitor Pathway.
We will also enhance access to advice and support, in places where families already go, investing up to £10 million to increase access to holistic advice services in the current parliamentary term, including expanding access to advice in health and education settings.
Through these measures we will help to ensure families receive the financial support they are entitled to, putting more money in the pockets of families.
Key actions – warm and affordable homes
Over the next four years, we will continue to invest in the Affordable Housing Supply Programme, in line with our commitment to deliver 110,000 more affordable energy efficient homes by 2032, including 70% available for social rent, and 10% in our remote, rural and island communities. We will place the prioritisation of tackling child poverty at the heart of the Affordable Housing Supply Programme through further strengthening housing planning processes to ensure larger family homes are delivered where they are needed.
We will take action to reduce costs for families in the private rented sector, investing £2.75 million in 2022-23 to begin private rented sector reforms which will aim to reduce child poverty by improving the quality of provision and housing affordability for families.
We will provide a further £10 million to continue our Fuel Insecurity Fund in 2022-23 to tackle the cost of living crisis, helping households at risk of self-disconnection, or of self-rationing their energy use.
We will work in partnership with housing associations to break the cycle of homelessness, funding Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans for 2022-23 and 2023-24 to enable local authorities to scale up Housing First for Families in their areas.
Through these actions we will help to keep housing costs low, provide support with rising energy bills and tackle homelessness for families.
Part C: Supporting the next generation to thrive
Best Start, Bright Futures focuses on the action needed to address the three drivers of child poverty. However, we know that tackling child poverty requires wider action, enhancing children's wellbeing and outcomes, and supporting them to achieve their potential and avoid becoming parents in poverty in the future.
We want Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up, and for every child to grow up safe, loved and respected.
Together with partners we will strengthen Scotland's offer to children and young people through action focused on:
- Best start to life
- Supporting children to learn and grow
- Post school transitions
Key actions – Best start to life
We will deliver on our commitment to invest £60 million in renewing play parks in Scotland over the lifetime of this Parliament, to ensure all children have access to quality play in their own community.
Throughout 2022, we will publish a suite of refreshed materials to provide practitioners with the confidence, clarity and practical support to continue to implement GIRFEC in well-planned, joined-up and streamlined ways, helping to prevent or mitigate childhood adversity and trauma.
We will also continue to invest £4 million each year until 2025 for The Promise Partnership Fund, to help organisations with early intervention and to deliver changes to better support children, young people and families in, or on the edges of care - helping drive forward change that matters to children, young people and families.
Through these and existing measures we will provide the right support at the right time for children and improve their health and wellbeing from birth.
Key actions – Supporting children to learn and grow
Working together with local authorities, Education Scotland and schools themselves, we will invest a further and increased investment of £1 billion over the course of the Parliamentary term in the refreshed Scottish Attainment Challenge programme.
In recognition of the importance of digital technology in education, we will ensure access to a device for every school aged child by 2026.
We will also publish a new Youth Work Strategy focused on providing services to young people most in need. A renewed focus on delivering outcomes through youth work will help to alleviate poverty by ensuring young people have the support they need to make informed positive life choices that lead to a better future.
Through these measures we will tackle the poverty related attainment gap and continue to support the health and wellbeing of our children and young people.
Key actions – Post school transitions
To support young people after they leave school, and throughout their transition into the adult world, we will develop a School Leavers' Toolkit. The toolkit will bring together practical information about budgeting and finances, as well as guidance for school leavers on how to exercise their full democratic rights as citizens.
We will invest up to £45 million in the Young Person's Guarantee, including Our Future Now and Discovering Your Potential, in 2022-23. This will provide new and enhanced education, skills, employability and employment opportunities as well as relationship based support to young people who are at risk of not participating in opportunities and face significant barriers in entering the labour market.
Over the next three years, we will enhance the total student support package so that it reaches the equivalent of the Living Wage, including for estranged students. Scotland already provides the most generous bursary support in the UK for college students, and delivering this increase will provide even greater support for those in need.
These actions will support young people to achieve better life long outcomes, preventing them becoming the parents of children in poverty in future.
A Vision for Scotland
Taken together, the actions detailed in this plan can propel Scotland towards meeting the interim targets, and set us on track to achieve the 2030 child poverty targets.
Best Start, Bright Futures builds on the strong foundations of 'Every Child, Every Chance' and goes further in policy ambition, resource and accountability to step up our work on tackling child poverty.
Through direct efforts to get more cash in the pockets of families now, alongside a genuinely holistic, person-centred package of family support, we can help to ensure families receive the right support at the right time, for as long as they need it, creating the conditions for families to navigate their way out of poverty.
From this foundation, enhanced employability and skills support, alongside the connectivity and childcare to enable parents to take up good quality employment, will sustainably increase incomes for families across Scotland.
This is not a plan for the Scottish Government, but a plan for Scotland. This package of policies will not deliver the transformation we set out to achieve without a new focus on delivery: working in partnership across the public, private and third sectors; listening to and learning from priority families; testing, learning, adapting and scaling interventions that will make the biggest difference to those who need it most.
The publication of this plan marks the start of a new phase of our approach to tackling child poverty. As we move to implement the actions set out in the plan, we will work closely with all partners to refine, deliver and evaluate our work on child poverty, learning and improving as we go forward.
We call on everyone in Scotland to play their part, taking action to support our national mission, to create a fairer, more equal country where all children and families are supported to flourish.
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