Best Start, Bright Futures: tackling child poverty delivery plan 2022 to 2026

The second tackling child poverty delivery plan due under the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017. Outlining action for the period 2022 to 2026.


There have been significant changes in the four years since the publication of 'Every Child, Every Chance', which have impacted on the lives and experiences of children and families across Scotland. Our progress in developing a wellbeing economy in Scotland has faced considerable challenges.

Despite this through our concerted action we have delivered new support for families, including through devolved social security and employability support, and have come together as a nation to protect the most vulnerable from the impacts of COVID-19.

It is in this context that we outline this plan for Scotland, setting out the actions we will take together in the next four years to deliver on our shared national mission to tackle and reduce child poverty.

Best Start, Bright Futures focuses on delivering the national mission on Child Poverty

Achieving the targets set by the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 is imperative to improving the lives and outcomes of Scotland's children and young people, their families and wider communities. The First Minister has declared that tackling child poverty is the national mission of this Scottish Parliamentary term for the Government and we are committed to mobilising all of Scotland to work with us to deliver the change needed.

The interim targets below must be met during the life of this plan, with final targets to be met by 2030 - aligning with the timescales for Scotland to Keep the Promise:

Fewer than 18% of children living in families in relative poverty in 2023-24, reducing to fewer than 10% by 2030. This means fewer than one in ten children living in households on low incomes by 2030, compared to the average UK household.

Fewer than 14% of children living in families in absolute poverty in 2023-24, reducing to fewer than 5% by 2030. This means fewer than one in twenty children living in low income households where living standards are not increasing by 2030.

Fewer than 8% of children living in families living in combined low income and material deprivation in 2023-24, reducing to fewer than 5% by 2030. This means fewer than one in twenty children living in low income households who can't afford basic essential goods and services by 2030.

Fewer than 8% of children living in families in persistent poverty in 2023-24, reducing to fewer than 5% by 2030. This means fewer than one in twenty children living in households in poverty for three years out of four by 2030.

Best Start, Bright Futures builds on strong foundations, including action delivered through 'Every Child, Every Chance', the first Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan

In the past four years we have worked together to deliver a range of new and enhanced support for families in Scotland. These measures, which are increasing incomes, reducing costs and improving outcomes for families, include:

  • Establishing Social Security Scotland and delivering 12 benefits, seven of which are completely new, including Best Start Grants, Best Start Foods and the Scottish Child Payment – providing a range of benefits specifically focused on support for low income families with children which, by the end of 2022, will be worth over £10,000 by the time a families' first child turns six
  • Providing respectful person-centred employment support through new and distinctive Scottish services, including Fair Start Scotland and the Parental Employability Support Fund, and transforming the way we work with partners through our No One Left Behind Approach
  • Massively expanding the provision of fully funded high quality early learning and childcare, providing 1,140 hours for eligible children aged 2, 3 and 4
  • Delivering the Money Talk Team service, in partnership with Citizens Advice Scotland, putting almost £42 million into the pockets of Scottish households, and publishing two Benefit Uptake Strategies to ensure people can access the support they are entitled to
  • Increasing the School Clothing Grant to at least £120 per primary school child and £150 per secondary school child as well as expanding Free School Meal provision during school holidays for children who will benefit most
  • Continuing to lead the way on affordable housing with 105,755 affordable homes delivered since 2007, of which over 73,000 were for social rent
  • Publishing our National Transport Strategy and expanding our concessionary fares offer to deliver free bus travel for all children and young people under the age of 22, reducing costs for thousands of low income families;
  • Providing world-leading access to free period products across a range of settings including schools, colleges and universities, and targeted access for those on low incomes through community groups
  • Action through our Fair Work Action Plan, including driving high quality and fair work across the labour market in Scotland through our Fair Work First approach to public spending

We will publish our final progress report, setting out delivery against the targets and on implementing the actions committed within 'Every Child, Every Chance' by the end of June 2022.

This second plan represents the next chapter of our work to tackle and reduce child poverty in Scotland, moving forward with increased urgency, stepping up our action and ambition across all of Scotland.

Best Start, Bright Futures takes into account the wider factors impacting on poverty and the standard of living for families

The impact of COVID-19 on child poverty levels is still largely unknown, particularly the long term effects on families and our economy, however we know that the impacts have been felt most acutely by the most disadvantaged in our society.

The economic outlook is uncertain but could result in slow economic growth[1]. It is anticipated that typical incomes will fall most significantly at the lower end of the income distribution[2]. Compounding this families continue to face a range of pressures including the ongoing impacts of UK Government welfare reform and EU exit, and significant increases in the cost of living – with rising prices for essentials such as food and energy. All of these factors risk pushing those who are already struggling into crisis and destitution.

To drive progress in tackling child poverty and to support families through the cost of living crisis this second Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan focuses on: immediate action to support families now; sustained action to create the integrated support that families need to move into work; changing the system to provide the support parents need; and, investing long term in both children's outcomes and economic transformation that will create a fairer, more equal Scotland.

Best Start, Bright Futures underlines our shared commitment to working together to tackle child poverty

No Government alone can tackle and reduce child poverty, it takes all of us, across Scotland, working together - united in focus and purpose - to deliver the change to how public services are delivered, moving to a person-centred holistic approach to supporting families.

Our collective response to COVID-19 demonstrates clearly that ambitious action, delivered at pace and scale, can be achieved across Scotland when all partners are delivering against shared outcomes. It is this spirit which is encapsulated in Scotland's Covid Recovery Strategy, setting out a vision for recovery which tackles inequalities and calls for urgency and action across all of society to deliver the change needed.

There is a clear role for government in setting the strategic direction and ensuring that our actions and resources deliver the positive progress needed. We are committed to working differently with the public sector, business and the third sector to achieve our ambitions and to tackle child poverty in Scotland.

That is why, alongside the action that the Scottish Government will take, this plan sets out how we are working with others to deliver the change needed – building on the strong action reflected in Local Child Poverty Action Reports published since 2019 and wider strategic approaches.

By changing how we work with others, and making clear the impact that all parts of society can have, we can maximise our collective impact on child poverty.

Best Start, Bright Futures strengthens the focus on the families at greatest risk of poverty

To tackle child poverty successfully, we will ensure that our actions deliver for the families at greatest risk of poverty.

We remain firmly focused on supporting the six priority family types identified within our first Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan. Almost 90% of all children in poverty in Scotland live within these six priority family types and we have built our knowledge and understanding of the barriers that these families face in moving out of poverty.

These groups are set out below, with each more likely to experience poverty than all children in Scotland (24%) and households which do not have any of the priority family characteristics (10%).

Figure 1: Priority families children in relative poverty:
Figure 1 shows that:

38% of children in Lone Parent families are in relative poverty
29% of children in families with a disabled adult or child are in relative poverty
32% of children in families with three or more children are in relative poverty
38% of children in minority ethnic families are in relative poverty
34% of children in families with a child under one year old are in relative poverty
55% of children in families where the mother is under 25 years of age are in relative poverty

Whilst quantitative data will enable us to track progress towards our outcomes, families will often not fall into one priority group and in reality many face a combination of barriers and discrimination. We will ensure we use lived experience and a deeper understanding of the impact of intersection of characteristics in the design, implementation and monitoring of our actions and policies to ensure delivery of approaches which are increasing tailored and, ultimately, more effective.

By focusing on the impact of all interventions through the lens of our priority families and seeking to ensure that systems work for these families in particular, we will be able to drive down levels of child poverty whilst delivering significant progress on our wider equality and human rights ambitions – particularly in relation to advancing equality and human rights for women, disabled people and minority ethnic people.

Best Start, Bright Futures is rooted in dignity, equality and respect for human rights

Whilst we will focus our efforts on those most at risk of experiencing child poverty, we will use these as lenses through which we address the key barriers and struggles experienced by different groups.

We acknowledge that poverty and inequality are the outcomes of interconnected social categories and power relations, and that child poverty impacts most on people whose lives are shaped by deep rooted power imbalances.

The commitments set out in this plan will be strengthened by our Human Rights Bill, which will incorporate the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as specific UN treaties for the protection of women, disabled people and minority ethnic people into Scots Law, as far as possible within devolved competence. This will ensure that the right to an adequate standard of living, which relates to poverty, adequate food and housing, will be at the heart of Scottish law, policy and services. The Bill will strengthen domestic legal protections by making these economic and social rights enforceable in Scots law.

We also remain committed to the incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law to the maximum extent possible as soon as practicable – strengthening the protection and enforcement of children's rights across Scotland.

We will further embed a human rights approach to tackling child poverty through the development of a strategy to better mainstream equality and human rights through policy and delivery. The strategy will focus on improving leadership and accountability, the collation and use of evidence, and strengthening policy coherence including through reforming the operation of the Public Sector Equality Duty in Scotland, and embedding equality and human rights throughout the Scottish Budget process. Action in this space will help deliver impact of policy on those with protected characteristics, including the six priority family types.

Across the four years of this plan we will seek to strengthen our evidence, evaluation and understanding in order to better understand the impact of our interventions on the priority families, to refine our approach and ensure we deliver for those at greatest risk of poverty.

Best Start, Bright Futures focuses on action to tackle the drivers of poverty reduction and improve the lives and outcomes of families

The evidence underpinning our approach has not changed, and we remain firmly focused on impacting on the three drivers of child poverty reduction. However, we also recognise the need to strengthen the wider supports provided to families, providing the holistic services families need to move out of poverty, and the need to mitigate the impact of poverty on children today in order to improve their lifelong outcomes and stop them becoming the parents of children in poverty.

Figure 2: Drivers of child poverty reduction
Figure 2 shows that there are three direct drivers of child poverty reduction – income from employment, cost of living and income from social security and benefits in kind. 

The factors impacting income from employment, are hourly pay and hours worked per household. These are impacted by skills and qualifications, the Labour Market and availability of affordable and accessible transport and childcare. 

The factors impacting Cost of Living are housing costs; other cost of living; and debts. These are impacted by availability of affordable and accessible transport and child care; and other enablers such as access to affordable credit, internet access, savings and assets.

The factors impacting Income from social security and benefits in kind are generosity and reach of benefits. These are impacted by eligibility criteria and take up.

By continuing to focus on increasing household incomes and reducing household costs we will improve families' standard of living and deliver progress against the ambitious targets.

Best Start, Bright Futures is clear on the impact of actions

Alongside this plan we have published our updated evaluation strategy and measurement framework. This includes the first outputs of our Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA), estimating the impact on child poverty of key actions we have taken to date, and selected actions that we have committed to within this plan. Whilst this analysis cannot include all of the action we have taken, it is the first analysis of its kind produced by the Scottish Government.

Our overall evaluation strategy is based on several elements. The targets are assessed annually through published statistics and changes in the drivers are assessed through the child poverty measurement framework. Action is also taken to monitor the delivery, and evaluate the impact of individual policies. But, in addition to understanding individual policy impact we fully recognise the need for policies to work seamlessly together. We are increasingly using innovative modelling and qualitative system assessment to help us understand the cumulative impact of policies in theory and in practice. Full details of our evaluation strategy, measurement framework and summary of the impacts of policies on child poverty are set out in Annexes 2, 3, and 5.

Economic modelling can provide us with an indication of what impact policies may have on child poverty but, given the complexities – particularly in the context of the cost of living crisis and inflation rises coupled with increasing international instability - cannot precisely account for what may or may not happen. The absolute poverty target, which measures whether household incomes keep pace with inflation over time, is particularly subject to these types of changes – as changes to inflation, beyond those currently projected, could result is significant changes to projections undertaken.

Our current modelling projects that, based on measures announced to date and included within this plan, we anticipate that relative child poverty will fall to around 17% by 2023-24, in line with the target, with over 60,000 fewer children living in relative poverty compared to 2017-20. However, in part due to significant rises in inflation, on current projections around 16% of children are expected to live in absolute poverty by 2023-24, over 50,000 fewer compared to 2017-20. Both of these results are subject to a degree of uncertainty as is the case with any economic modelling. Full detail of our Cumulative Impacts Assessment is set out at Annex 4.

Best Start, Bright Futures is informed by what children, parents and our partners have told us

In developing this plan we have heard from partners across Scotland, including parents with experience of living on low incomes and from children and young people themselves. They have shared their thoughts on what progress has been made, and their frustration where this has not been enough, their concerns about the barriers faced by too many families in Scotland, and, crucially, their ideas for what can make a difference.

Whilst those we spoke to welcomed the action taken to date, they were clear that more needs to be done, and that we must be bolder and operate at greater scale if we are to deliver the change needed.

Our consultation highlighted the desire for more holistic family support services, bringing together financial, practical and emotional support in one place, which ensure families receive the right support at the right time. Those we spoke to also made clear the need for greater support into quality employment, linked to the key enablers and infrastructure needed to make this possible; tailored employment support for priority groups and a greater focus on how public spending can help drive the changes needed in our labour market.

Those we spoke to were also clear about the need to ensure that the action we take has the impact needed on the priority families identified – helping to tackle the inequalities they face, including discrimination, through immediate action and long term structural transformation.

This, and wider feedback, has been critical in shaping our offer to families, but this is not the end of the story – we will continue to engage and ensure our partners, and families themselves, help to shape the delivery of the ambitious actions this Plan commits to.

Best Start, Bright Futures will drive forward progress toward 2030

This Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan is for 2022-26. It sets out new policies and proposals to help us make strong progress towards the targets and to sustain reductions in child poverty over the longer term.

The way in which actions are delivered will be critical to the plan's success.

That is why we are putting in place improved processes to support and embed Scotland's unique approach and oversee the delivery of the plan. We will bring together leaders, decision-makers, delivery partners and those who will champion change across Scotland to ensure we hold ourselves to account on our performance against the plan, challenge our ambition, maintain a focus on our priority families and implement learning from the new approaches we are taking and testing. This will ensure that not only do we collectively deliver on our responsibilities but we keep a continuous focus on outcomes, leading and driving the step change needed to break the cycle of child poverty.

Partnerships across all levels of government, the public, private, and third sector will play a key role in driving progress on our national mission. Local and regional partnerships in particular – including Community Planning Partnerships, Children's Services Planning Partnerships, Local Employability Partnerships – will be essential to delivering greater alignment between and across support systems for families. Children's Services Planning Partnerships will also have a central role in driving local collaborative approaches which will deliver on the ambitions of this Plan and our shared work to Keep The Promise.

The Plan is set in the context of uncertainty and following a period of shocks and shifts which have changed the world we live in, with significant financial implications.

The 2022-23 budget settlement for Scotland is challenging, and modelling detailed in our Resource Spending Review Framework (published in December 2021) outlines immediate and longer-term pressures on public spending. Tough choices must be made in order to resource the ambitious action needed to deliver on our statutory commitments, including those in relation to child poverty and climate change, as well as core government priorities. Our Resource Spending Review includes tackling child poverty as one of the priorities set out in the framework to guide the process and inform decisions about the allocation of funding. We will set out more detail on our spending plans once the Spending Review concludes later in spring 2022.

The action we will take together is set out in 'Scotland's offer to families'.



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