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.

Part A: Providing the opportunities and integrated support parents need to enter, sustain and progress in work

Work offers a sustainable route out of poverty for many families and has a strong role to play in a balanced approach to tackling poverty.

For this to be possible a wide range of systems need to align. A strong labour market is needed which offers fair, flexible employment. Parents need access to the right employability and skills interventions to support them on their journey into and within work. These must be underpinned with the wider support families need – focusing on wellbeing, financial security and access to warm and affordable homes – set out in Part B of this plan.

Currently too many families are locked in working poverty and unable to progress in the labour market, whilst others are unable to access the labour market at all due to structural barriers. We are committed to changing this by ensuring that parents are supported to access, sustain and progress in employment where this is the right choice for their families through a new employability offer to parents.

Through the actions set out in this plan, we aim to support up to 12,000 parents to enter and sustain employment to achieve up to a 2 percentage point reduction in child poverty, subject to the effectiveness of any targeting, success rates of the interventions, and the time it takes to achieve outcomes. By further enhancing our holistic support to parents, we hope to further stretch this ambition over the lifetime of the plan. This will require a huge increase in the scale and intensity of our current approach, alongside new partnerships to support this ambition. We will do this through action in:

  • A strengthened employment offer to parents
  • Connectivity and childcare to enable access to employment
  • Transforming our economy

Part A - Summary of Action, Impact and Resources

Within this section we commit to the following key actions to strengthen Scotland's offer to families:

  • Developing a new offer to parents providing access to holistic support through a dedicated employability keyworker with local employability partnerships providing access to upskilling and supported opportunities
  • Making child poverty a central pillar of our Lifetime Skills Offer, with enhanced support for the priority groups
  • Working to further develop our funded offers for early learning and childcare for children aged one and two, starting with low-income households within this Parliament
  • Building a system of school age childcare, offering care before and after school, and during the holidays, by the end of this Parliament
  • Reviewing how Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) can be used to support low income families
  • Stepping up our ambition on Connecting Scotland to bring 300,000 people online by the end of 2026
  • Targeting new public and third sector employment opportunities, including up to 200 funded placements for parents in the NHS in 2022-23
  • Stepping up our ambition on tackling low pay and employment inequalities, setting out our refreshed approach in the Fair Work Action Plan

We anticipate that these actions will have the following impact:

  • Up to 12,000 parents supported to ultimately access and sustain employment, and up to 3,000 in-work parents supported to ultimately increase their earning. For more detail on impact, see Annexes 4 and 5

Anticipated financial resource for 2023-26 will be subject to conclusion of the resource spending review and confirmation in the relevant budget. The following will be allocated to support key measures in 2022-23:

  • Up to £81 million to deliver a new employability offer to parents, including keyworker, upskilling and supported opportunities
  • Up to £2 million to deliver a new Challenge Fund, to test out new approaches to supporting parents into work
  • Up to £15 million to deliver a new Parental Transition Fund to tackle financial barriers to entering the labour market, particularly in the initial period of employment
  • £13 million for the Summer 2022 holiday programme and initial investment to support development of school age childcare
  • £1.5 million of resource for Connecting Scotland, capital resources will be confirmed later in 2022
  • Up to £800,000 to work with employers to reduce labour market barriers and address inequalities for disabled workers, minority ethnic workers, women and the over 50s workforce
  • Up to £1 million to support women who have taken a break from paid work back into jobs that match their skills and experience

A strengthened employment offer to parents

To enable parents to take up employment and progress within the labour market we must ensure they are equipped with the holistic support, skills and confidence they need to thrive.

We heard strongly through our consultation about the need to ensure that skills and training respond to the needs of the individual, economy and environment, and that support provided creates pathways to high quality jobs. Those we spoke to were also clear on the need to invest in parent and carer specific employability services, backed by specialist support services that met their whole needs, and which provide peer and relational support from people who understand the specific barriers faced by the priority families.

The following actions focus on how, with partners, we will support parents to access and progress in work through a new single integrated service offer for parents focusing on:

  • Significantly increasing the scale of support available
  • Increasing awareness and uptake of support
  • Access to training, skills and opportunities

Significantly increasing the scale of support available

In Scotland we are already delivering unique devolved employment services, built on the principles of dignity and respect, and without fear of sanctions for those participating. Developed and delivered over the life of 'Every Child, Every Chance' our Fair Start Scotland and Parental Employability Support Fund services have provided new and enhanced support for thousands of parents.

Through Scotland's No One Left Behind approach, we are placing people at the centre of the design and delivery of employability services. No One Left Behind offers a long-term, scalable and flexible place based model of delivery where Scottish and Local Government work with partners from across the public, third and private sectors to deliver person-centred solutions to labour market challenges as they arise. This approach delivers an all-age approach to employability support that is flexible and person-centred and which aims to integrate and align with other key services including health, justice, children's services social work, education, housing provision and advice services.

However, to deliver the change needed for parents we must expand the reach and impact of services – enabling them to deliver at the pace and scale required to tackle child poverty.

Our investment in 2022-23 will support delivery of a new offer to parents. This will include additional investment for our No One Left Behind approach with Local Government to provide integrated support for parents from the priority family types. Led by Local Employability Partnerships (LEPs) this will enable the provision of locally tailored responses, focusing on meeting the range of complex needs that parents from priority families often experience as barriers to employment and providing further enhancement of holistic keyworker support for parents. This will provide support to access to the training and skills parents need to enter and progress in work, as well as the ability for LEPs to create supported labour market opportunities. Through this approach we will seek to create a 'no-wrong door' that links families to wider elements of our offer including accessible childcare, support to access transport, whole family wellbeing and financial advice.

As an immediate step, national and local governments will also work with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to deliver Test and Learn Pilots for lone parents. Through this work we will seek to develop stronger relationships between partners to better align support and inform our future activity.

To complement these actions, we will work with Local Government and partners including the third sector to reach those who are economically inactive and are not currently supported by either the Scottish Government or the UK Government to access work.

We will deliver a new £2 million Challenge Fund, to test innovative approaches to supporting parents from priority family types into work, to learn from these approaches and embed them into No One Left Behind in the future.

We have heard from both parents and employers that, despite supports available, many parents will face financial barriers when transitioning into work, which will be hard to overcome for many on the lowest incomes – this includes meeting upfront childcare costs, travel to work and wider costs of living. 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 in this support each year. In 2022 we will work with Local Government and partners to develop and implement this new fund, ensuring that financial barriers are removed for parents as quickly as possible.

We will build on our Governance structure and agreements between the national and local governments and DWP to observe and absorb knowledge from local activity, to apply knowledge concurrently across Scotland and to continuously improve delivery and outcomes. This will complement a robust approach to evaluation and learning, ensuring the rapid sharing and use of best practice.

In taking this action it is important that we get it right and meet the needs of parents. To do so we will establish a dedicated lived experience panel by summer 2022 to inform the development of employability activity. This will include parents from across the six priority family types, including disabled parents and parents with long term health conditions, those caring for a disabled person and parents from minority ethnic communities – ensuring these users are at the heart of policy and service design.

Case study: North Lanarkshire Council's Employability Services

North Lanarkshire Council's Employability Service launched Prospects for Parents during June 2020. Having noticed the impact COVID-19 restrictions were having on the lives of parents, this initiative aimed to provide additional peer support to build confidence, increase engagement and improve parents' wellbeing.

By focusing on building these soft skills, project case workers created a safe space for parents to engage with services, introducing Economic Development and Welfare Rights officers to the group to create personal connections and allow parents to feel more comfortable to share more about their lives and the personal challenges they and their families are facing, including the impact of employment.

The employment service is already seeing a marked difference in their clients' journeys, with greater engagement leading to more confidence, in turn leading to more positive steps towards employment. This has included accessing skills training, securing job interviews and job offers, with parents having overcome some of their fears around moving into, or back into, work. This has seen parents engage more with services and encourage one another to take small but crucial steps to start to get employability support, and feel ready to progress into the labour market.

Increasing awareness and uptake of support

In order for our approach to be successful we will need to engage the parents who stand to benefit most from the integrated service offer available. To support local partners in their engagement with families in their areas we will take the following actions:

To enable better targeting of support locally, we will work work with LEPs to help them to identify and exploit available data. This will help to ensure that services reach families in poverty in local communities and are better informed about the type of support they may need and will inform co-design and delivery of services through each area's Children's Services Plan – linking to the joint Strategic Needs Assessment undertaken to inform each three year Children's Services Plan based on the local needs of children and families.

Linked to our focus on whole family wellbeing, we will develop an Every Contact Counts Pledge. Focusing on delivering a 'no wrong door' approach, the pledge will encourage key-workers to unlock access to the full range of support and interventions required not only to address the symptoms of poverty but also to tackle the causes for families. For parents, this will provide a holistic approach for them to access the support they need, including employability support, job opportunities, childcare and financial and benefits advice.

To improve the reach and engagement of services with the most excluded groups we will build on good practices such as a peer ambassador approach. We will work with partners to engage with grassroots and community-led organisations to help enhance this approach to help ensure experts with experience can support their peers to engage with the new offer to parents.

Through the new Challenge Fund, we will extend our successful relational based approaches and enable greater creativity and innovation across delivery partners, including the third sector, to reach more parents experiencing poverty. This will provide crucial support to families now and generate the partnerships, evidence and learning needed to scale up effective systems change across Scotland.

Training, skills and opportunities

We want to ensure that parents – both in and out of work – are able to access the training and skills they need to progress in their career. We are already delivering a range of support, including through the Individual Training Accounts (ITAs) and Flexible Workforce Development Fund (FWDF), however we are committed to strengthening the impact of skills provision on child poverty.

The following actions are focused on maximising the impact of our investment in training and skills for parents experiencing poverty. They will sit alongside and complement the bespoke support available for helping around 2,500 parents to access skills opportunities as part of our enhanced employment offer.

We will make child poverty a central pillar of our new Lifetime Skills Offer being developed as part of the Skilled Workforce programme in our National Strategy for Economic Transformation. Access to training support can help individuals transition to higher paid jobs, lifting them out of household poverty. We will target our support for upskilling and reskilling on those who need it most including the six priority family types.

Following the results of evaluations of our ITAs and FWDF programmes, due in summer 2022, we will develop and set out our plans for strengthening our adult upskilling and reskilling offer including how this will support parents experiencing household poverty and target better outcomes. We will specifically consider what changes to eligibility could be introduced as well as the level of funding available to priority families to enable parents to access higher level skills training through these routes.

We will publish a new Adult Learning Strategy for Scotland in spring 2022. Through this we will increase access to, and support for, accredited learning and connect community-based adult learners with employability services to help increase incomes from work and earnings. This will focus on a targeted approach to supporting priority families and delivering specific key programmes and services based on local needs.

We will consider how the delivery of the Adult Learning Strategy can maximise the impact of our investment in Community Learning and Development interventions for parents and priority families.

In addition to these measures to provide parents with the skills they need, we will create additional subsidised opportunities for parents to enter the labour market, easing the path between employability support and good quality employment.

Levels of funding for our employment offer to parents could support around 600 parents to enter opportunities in the third and public sectors, and 2,500 to benefit from bespoke support to access our skills offer focused on sectors with growing demand. This funding recognises the additional barriers many parents experiencing poverty face in accessing skills opportunities, and could provide for example, mentoring support as they participate in training. In 2022 we will work with the third and public sectors to create supported opportunities and bespoke support to access our skills offer, focusing on sectors with growing labour market opportunities, including Health & Social Care, Green jobs and sectors where there are replacement demands.

Over the course of 2022-23 we will work with health boards and local authorities to provide up to 200 funded placements for parents on a new NHS Demonstrator Project for those experiencing long-term unemployment, and up to 500 Apprenticeship opportunities, as well as continuing our partnership with the Prince's Trust to support those furthest from the labour market into the NHS. We will provide additional funding of £1 million to support boards to help create the right infrastructure to support delivery of these placements.

We acknowledge the structural economic changes that are needed to meet our net zero ambition. We will ensure that these changes create new opportunities for low income families, working collaboratively to pilot new ideas and test solutions that contribute to our net zero and child poverty targets – starting in 2022-23 as part of our £20 million investment in the North East and Moray through the Just Transition Fund. We have committed to develop a series of Just Transition plans across all sectors and regions in Scotland. The National Just Transition Planning Framework explicitly requires these plans to set out their contribution to tackling child poverty, and we will work across government, with sector and regional stakeholders and the Just Transition Commission, to ensure these plans support meaningful action on child poverty. Learning from initial pilots will inform future investment to maximize the impact of just transition on child poverty.

Connectivity and Childcare

We recognise that for parents to take advantage of the wider support available, and to engage in training, learning and employment, it is essential that the right infrastructure is in place to support them. This includes high quality affordable and accessible childcare that meets the needs of both children and their carers, affordable and accessible public transport which connects parents to essential services, employment centres and schools, and digital connectivity to access online services and information.

The following actions focus on how, with partners, we will strengthen the support on offer to families by:

  • Improving access and availability of childcare
  • Enhancing access and affordability of public transport
  • Expanding Connecting Scotland

Improving access and availability of childcare

As of August 2021, 1,140 hours of high quality funded early learning and childcare (ELC) is available to all three and four year olds, and to eligible two year olds. As well as benefitting children themselves, this significant expansion of ELC is already making a direct contribution to reducing household costs, with the full offer of 1,140 hours saving households up to £4,900 per eligible child in 2021. It also gives parents greater opportunity to access training, employment and learning. Through the 1,140 hours programme, we will continue to work in close partnership with local authorities and the wider childcare sector to maximise the opportunities to support parents and carers to develop their skills and experience, to find a job or to expand their hours when they are ready.

We know how important accessible and affordable childcare is in supporting parents to take up these opportunities to the fullest extent possible. That is why we are going further.

In summer 2022, once the outcome of the Resource Spending Review is known, we will develop and publish a strategic plan for the remainder of this Parliament. This will set out our approach to delivering all of our ELC commitments, including those set out below.

We will further develop our funded offers for ELC for children aged one and two, starting with low-income households within this Parliament. In the coming year we will engage with families, the sector and academics to design how the new offer will work.

We will continue to work with partners to maximise uptake of the existing offer of funded ELC for eligible two year olds. This includes considering where we can adapt the offer and who can access it. In 2022-23, once necessary data sharing regulations and mechanisms are in place, local authorities will be able to access data on eligible households in their area for the first time, enabling them to reach out to more families with specific information on the local offer in their area. As part of our ongoing work with local authorities and partners, we will provide support to make best use of this new data and the discretionary powers available to local authorities to provide families in need of particular support early access to funded ELC.

We will also build a system of school age childcare, offering care before and after school, and during the holidays, by the end of this Parliament. Those on the lowest incomes will pay nothing. This will remove one of the key barriers preventing parents - particularly those on low incomes - from gaining access to training, study or secure and stable employment.

Backed by initial investment of £3 million, we will begin work in 2022-23 to understand the demand for services and the delivery capacity within the existing system. This early work will build on learning from our Access to Childcare Fund projects, which are testing innovative models of school age childcare for families most at risk of poverty and focusing on addressing the specific needs of priority families. Input from our People Panel will help us test and understand how we can build a system of school age childcare to support a community. We will seek to scale this model nationally over the remainder of this Parliament, aligning with wider support for families.

We will also invest £10 million in a summer 2022 holiday programme, aligning funding in this first year to support the priority family types in particular. We will scale this offer progressively, adapting to meet families' needs, over the course of the parliamentary term as part of our wider year-round school age childcare offer.

In developing our future system of school age childcare, we are taking a person-centred approach to designing services - working collaboratively with families, childcare providers and the wider public sector - to build a system that meets individual needs. We will also take a place-based approach, recognising that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to providing childcare solutions within communities.

To guide this significant new expansion, we will undertake an eligibility review that will identify the best approach to expanding access to funded childcare for more of the priority groups. As part of this, we will consider how to develop consistent approaches to eligibility for all of our childcare offers that will ensure a simple, joined up approach for families, maximise the opportunities to support children and families out of poverty, and respond to evidenced, place-based need.

Case study: Supporting access to School Age Childcare: SHIP

Sara's* parents needed to find an after-school club that would be able to cater for her complex support needs. Her dad is self-employed, working long hours to help provide for the family, and her mum wanted to return to work now Sara had started school.

The family really struggled to find an out of school club that would be able to provide adequate care for Sara as she requires one to one supervision and support to keep her safe and included. Sara's mum thought that she might not be able to go back to work as she couldn't find suitable childcare, but was then recommended SHIP.

Following a visit, Sara's mum knew that she had found a suitable place for her to be safe and happy, and Sara joined the SHIP after school club in 2020.

Sara is now collected from school and attends the SHIP after school club four days a week (term time), and attends the holiday club programme. Sara's mum has said:

"If I had not found SHIP, I would not have been able to go back to work. If the After School Club were to stop, I would have to give up my job as I cannot send my daughter to mainstream after school clubs as I'd have huge concerns over her safety. This would be a massive financial issue for our family and we would be under a lot of pressure. At SHIP, my daughter feels safe, included and has made some good friendships (which she struggles to do in her mainstream school class). There are so few services out there specifically for children with additional support needs, and I'm so glad we have SHIP. For us as a family it has meant that I can work and add to the household income, without this we would be struggling. Life is stressful enough looking after Sara without having to worry about money or worrying about the care she is receiving from a childcare provision."

* Name changed. SHIP – Support Help and Integration in Perthshire – is a parent led charity that has been running since 1986, providing youth clubs, sports groups, holiday and after school clubs for children with complex additional support needs. SHIP is being supported through the Scottish Government's Access to Childcare Fund – informing development of our school age childcare offer.

Enhancing access and affordability of public transport

Our National Transport Strategy, published in February 2020, outlines our ambitious vision for Scotland's transport system for the next 20 years and sets out our commitment for the transport system to play a key part in tackling child poverty. We are currently investing over £500 million to improve bus priority infrastructure to tackle the negative effects of congestion, so that bus journeys are quicker and more reliable. This includes grants through the Bus Partnership Fund, which is supporting local authorities in partnership with bus operators, to deliver bus priority infrastructure to encourage more people to travel by bus. In addition, our Network Support Grant will provide up to £93.5 million over the next financial year to benefit passengers by protecting the bus network whilst passenger numbers and revenue remain suppressed due to the pandemic. The additional subsidy allows operators to run more services at lower fares than might be otherwise be possible.

However, despite considerable investment we know that more must be done to deliver the services families need, where and when they need them. Research, commissioned by Transport Scotland exploring the relationship between priority families and transport[3], and reinforced by the consultation for this plan, highlights that access to public transport is critical in terms of shaping families' experience of poverty and supporting them to move out of poverty.

To deliver the change needed, we are taking a range of action focused on improving the affordability, availability and connectivity of our transport system.

To improve affordability, we will continue to deliver support through concessionary fares for eligible groups. This includes providing free bus travel for all under 22s, supporting young mothers and larger families in particular, and for disabled people. This will help connect these priority families to essential services, training, employment and childcare and also reduce the costs they face in making these journeys.

To ensure a sustainable and integrated approach to transport fares for others, we are taking forward our Fair Fares Review. The review is being undertaken to ensure a sustainable and integrated approach to public transport fares and services for the future. It will look at the range of discounts and concessionary schemes which are available on all modes including bus, rail and ferry. It will also take into account the cost and availability of services, and will consider options against a background where the cost of car travel has declined and public transport costs have increased. Findings will be shared as they emerge during the review.

To improve the connectivity of public transport, we are procuring the next generation digital travel data systems needed for users to plan their journey across all public transport. This service will provide open data to third party providers, like Traveline Scotland, to include enhanced information around different journey options, including cost, as well as available routes, timetabling and duration – helping parents and carers to get where they need to go.

We will work to improve availability, introducing a £1 million Community Bus Fund to support local authorities to improve public transport in their areas. This will also support transport authorities to explore the full range of options set out in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019, including local authority run bus services.

And, in recognition that public transport is not always available where and when it is needed, we will review how Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) can be used to support low income families. Together with partners we will consider how we take forward the second Strategic Transport Projects Review recommendation to invest in sustainable DRT that meets people's needs and circumstances. We will invest an initial £120,000 to support two projects: a feasibility study exploring the potential for flexible Demand Responsive Transport to improve public transport network coverage and accessibility for the residents of and visitors to Shetland; and the development of a DRT software application suite that will simplify the booking and management of current DRT services on the islands and also increase awareness and accessibility of the services to all potential users. This work is delivered alongside our wider DRT review and through a shared Islands, Rural and Transport Scotland commitment to identify carefully considered, evidence-based, and practical solutions with the potential to positively affect children and young people and their life chances.

Expanding Connecting Scotland

Digital access links families to a wide range of services essential to reducing household costs, increasing earnings and improving wellbeing but we know that the costs can be prohibitive for some families. Access to a device and connectivity gives opportunities to improve digital skills, access online financial and benefits information, training and education, and to get access to better deals on good and services.

Delivered in partnership with the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), Connecting Scotland has already delivered over 60,000 packages of support to users by the end of 2021. This has provided individuals with a device; connectivity; and training and support through the Digital Champions model.

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.

In targeting this support we will help to maximise the impact of other interventions across this plan, connecting families to the range of support available. We will seek to challenge the programme to find innovative new ways of opening up the digital world for people.

The programme will equip priority families with the kit and the skills, training and support they need to take advantage of essential online services and key interventions such as childcare, transport, employability services.

Case study: Connecting Scotland

"The device is wonderful; I can do the things I need to so much more easily. I've been able to change providers to help save money at home. Look at the benefits that the kids are entitled to, and my kids are able to do the same activities their friends are doing online for school. They are happier and that helps. I don't feel so useless or powerless."

Michael is a 45-year-old man living in Arbroath. He has a wife and two children aged 7 and 14. He has been out of full time work for the past 10 years due to a physical disability caused by an accident in his workplace. He experiences periods of significant challenge with his mental health. He is very technically minded and understands a lot about computers and general IT.

He volunteers his digital skills whenever possible, but has been finding this more difficult recently as his old personal device has broken and requires a new hard drive. The cost of a second hand hard drive is more than he could save in a year.

His wife works but is on minimum wage and is not able to look for better paid work as there is no time available and the only access they had to the internet was through a single smart phone. They live day to day and occasionally rely on foodbanks when faced with unexpected or very high bills.

Michael's biggest challenge has been trying to apply for suitable jobs through his old phone, whilst also trying to support his children to complete homework and lessons through the same device. It's impossible to put together a CV, undertake training or to attend interviews from this one device.

He was provided with a device from Connecting Scotland and two years of mifi service. This has reduced the household outgoings by covering the cost of internet connectivity and has provided a usable device through which Michael can support his children's learning. In addition, it allows him and his wife to explore roles where their expertise would be valued and could aid others.

Transforming our economy

Strengthening our employment offer will enable parents and their older children transitioning out of education to take advantage of employment opportunities, however, we know that it is not enough for parents to enter any job. To sustainably reduce poverty all jobs must offer the wages, hours and conditions needed to allow parents to support their families, these jobs must be available to all, regardless of gender, race or disability, and these jobs must be available throughout all of Scotland's urban, rural and island communities.

We heard from our consultation that providing individuals with employability and skills support will be of limited use if the jobs they are moving into are poor quality, underpaid and undervalued. This is particularly the case for minority ethnic parents, especially women, who are more likely to experience insecure contracts, underemployment, low pay and discrimination.

With the cost of child poverty in Scotland estimated to be more than £3 billion in 2021[4], including lower productivity and higher unemployment levels of those who have grown up in poverty, we cannot afford to continue with the status quo. Scotland needs a strong future economy where secure and well-paid jobs and thriving businesses help drive a reduction in child poverty.

Our National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) sets the vision and roadmap for the actions we will take, with partners, over the next ten years to create a wellbeing economy, thriving across economic, social and environmental dimensions. Central to that is how economic transformation can support our national mission to tackle child poverty. NSET makes clear that we are taking a broader view of what it means to be a successful economy, society and country and putting people and the planet at the heart of our economy.

The following actions focus on how we will strengthen Scotland's economy to ensure that parents have fair work employment prospects – contributing to Scotland's economic future with their skills and expertise – by:

  • Working in partnership with employers
  • Tackling structural inequality in employment
  • Becoming a Fair Work Nation
  • Ensuring the public sector plays our part

Working in partnership with employers

In December we published our Business Principles Agreement, committing to work with business in co-development, collaborative delivery and collective assessment of policies impacting business, and to work collaboratively with business and employers to address challenges that impact across Scotland. We have heard from employers that tackling child poverty is an important issue for them, as both an economic and social imperative, and we agree that we need to be bold and ambitious to deliver on our national mission.

We will build on our existing strategic engagement with business to develop a shared vision for tackling child poverty in partnership with business and employers from the private, public and third sectors and from small enterprise through to multinational companies operating in Scotland. Tackling child poverty is a national mission, and we will work with business across Scotland to better understand how we can create the right conditions to collectively support parents to get closer to the labour market, create more fair work opportunities, and support low income parents to sustain and progress within work. In turn, this will unlock a valuable resource to a labour market struggling to keep pace with demand. We will increase the impact of our partnership with business, reviewing existing forums and engagement platforms and, where appropriate, amending these to reflect our national mission.

We will showcase good practice where businesses are already contributing to tackling child poverty, and recognise leaders in this space, such as those signed up to the Scottish Business Pledge. We will seek to build on existing partnerships to foster a community of businesses who are actively pursuing their part in the national mission to tackle child poverty, and through this share good practice and learning, surface any additional barriers and collectively identify solutions to strengthen the role of business in tackling child poverty.

Tackling structural inequality in employment

We know it is not enough to create new jobs, when existing data shows that parents from priority families are least likely to benefit from them. Women, minority ethnic people - in particular minority ethnic women - and disabled people all face disadvantage in the labour market, with challenges in entering and sustaining employment, lower pay, more precarious work and discriminatory hiring and firing practices. Intersectional experience of employment inequality further exacerbates these challenges.

We will build on our existing work to remove barriers to employment, taking a strategic and intersectional approach to tackling employment inequalities in 2022. We will do this through the coordinated implementation of the refresh of the Fair Work Action Plan – as part of becoming a Fair Work Nation – which will include commitments focusing on tackling structural barriers and inequalities, specifically on the Gender Pay Gap, Disability Employment and halving the disability employment gap, as well as a new ethnicity pay gap strategy.

This action plan will support employers to understand the issues driving labour market disparities for women, disabled people and minority ethnic communities and improve equalities data management and pay gap reporting to better inform actions and outcomes that will drive change. It will also help employers to understand if there are unfair pay disparities and disparities in employee experience and help drive improvement for the better recruitment, retention and progression of disabled people, women, and minority ethnic groups.

The Workplace Equality Fund will invest up to £800,000 per year from 2022-2024 to fund projects to support employers to reduce labour market barriers and address inequalities for disabled workers, minority ethnic workers, women and the over 50s workforce.

We will continue to take targeted action to tackle the gender pay gap, raise family incomes and grow our economy through the Women Returners Programme. We will invest up to £1 million in 2022-23 to support women who have taken a break from paid work back into jobs that match their skills and experience. Through our expanded partnership with the SIP, we will continue to encourage more employers to adopt flexible working practices, and support employees to secure more flexible working agreements.

We will raise the profile of Supported Businesses[5] and take action to realise the potential of Supported Businesses to access public contracts. We will continue to help these businesses make an important contribution to the economy, not only through the goods and services they deliver, but also by providing meaningful employment, training and social support. We will continue to strengthen their commercial viability. Through sourcing goods and services from these businesses, public and private sector organisations alike can play an influential role in supporting those most disadvantaged in the workplace and in turn supporting the national mission to tackle child poverty.

Becoming a Fair Work Nation

Our actions to create more opportunities and tackle structural inequality will help more parents, particularly from the six priority families, to enter and sustain employment, but this must be matched by more action to tackle low wages and in-work poverty if it is to have the desired impact in reducing child poverty. We will step up our Fair Work actions to ensure that the work parents are moving into increasingly offers the wages and conditions necessary to exit poverty.

The number of accredited Living Wage employers in Scotland has increased from 14 in 2014 to over 2,500 in 2021, with over 52,000 workers getting a pay uplift to at least the real Living Wage. We will work with business leaders to expand the number of employers paying at least the real Living Wage and offering Living Hours through the Scottish living Wage Employer Accreditation Scheme and the Scottish Business Pledge, and offering security of working contract through the Living Hours Accreditation Scheme for Scotland.

We will take specific action to improve pay and conditions in low paid sectors, including delivering a Fair Work Agreement in the forthcoming Retail Strategy, and working with employers and trade unions in sectors where many low income parents work, and where low pay and poor conditions can be most prevalent. This will have a positive impact on our priority families, working in sectors where women and minority ethnic people are overrepresented.

We are committed to Fair Work as a key aspect of our approach to delivering funded ELC. To support this, we are providing the funding to enable all private and third sector providers delivering funded ELC to pay at least the real Living Wage to all childcare workers delivering the funded entitlement. We will build on this through the Fair Work Action Plan commitment to create an ELC forum to explore sectoral bargaining as a long-term aim.

The proposed National Care Service will be developed with Fair Work Principles at its heart, including a commitment to delivering national pay and sectoral bargaining. In the 2022-23 Scottish Budget we increased the hourly rate for those providing Adult Social Care to £10.50 per hour, representing a 12.9% increase for these workers in the course of a year.

In collaboration with key stakeholders, we are taking forward recommendations from the Fair Work in Social Care Group as part of our commitment to improving the terms and conditions of the adult social care workforce. These include recommendations for minimum standards for terms and conditions reflecting Fair Work principles, and the development of local standards that employees should expect.

Ensuring the public sector plays our part

Our consultations were clear on the desire for the Scottish Government, and the public sector more broadly, to use our position as an employer and funder to deliver greater impact on child poverty in Scotland, and we are committed to maximising the impact of all government spend on our national mission.

We will promote fair work practices through public procurement policy and practice. Fair Work First has been a core element of our public procurement policy since 2015. In October 2021 we announced that companies bidding to win Scottish Government contracts must pay at least the real Living Wage to those involved in delivering contracts. Our forthcoming construction frameworks, including the £600 million Civil Engineering Framework, will pay workers at least the real Living Wage. Fair Work First criteria is also being applied to grants and other funding across the affordable housing sector.

Building on Fair Work First implementation, by summer 2022, we will go further and introduce a requirement on public sector grant recipients to pay at least the real living Wage to all employees and also to provide appropriate channels for effective workers' voice, such as trade union recognition – within the limits on devolved competence.

We will connect this dual action on fair work and public investment in all of our local and regional economies, through the development of Community Wealth Building (CWB) action plans in each Local Authority area. These will implement tangible actions that will direct and retain wealth generation in local economies so that wealth is not extracted, but is held locally and income is recirculated for the benefit of local people and communities. To further enable this we will introduce CWB legislation that builds on the successes and learning of all five Scottish Government CWB pilot areas.

As a significant employer and major procurer of goods and services our health and social care providers can play a significant role in tackling child poverty. We are supporting Scotland's Health and Social Care providers to become active 'anchor institutions' as part of CWB to mitigate some of the drivers of socioeconomic inequalities within their local community. This includes encouraging a greater focus on employment opportunities for the six priority family types.

We will seek to build child poverty into our processes for assessing and planning future major events, Themed Years and Scotland's Winter Festivals from the earliest stages, ensuring that Fair Work principles are embedded in the development and delivery of Scottish Government funded major events, and that we can capitalise on opportunities any major events that we host present in tackling child poverty.

Through the Public Sector Pay Policy we will help reduce inequalities and promote wellbeing. The policy directly applies to 50 public bodies, and acts as a reference point for all major public sector workforce groups, including NHS Scotland, fire, police and education workers. In 2022-23, the public sector wage floor and £775 basic pay increase for those earning less than £25,000 will help to protect the lowest paid and most vulnerable as we work towards rebalancing our economy. From the data available there is a higher proportion of women, disabled people, minority ethnic people and younger employees as well as part-time workers among lower paid employees.

We will further strengthen the role of the public sector, including the Scottish Government, as a fair work employer offering quality jobs to priority families. We will work with Fair Start Scotland (FSS) to support participants to apply for employment within the Civil Service via the Going Forward into Employment Programme, with a streamlined recruitment process and 12 months of in-work support from FSS to both the candidate and line manager. To date, 56 FSS participants have had Civil Service job offers, we will seek to grow this number and expand the programme to include No One Left Behind participants.

Case study: Civil Service employment offers an important route out of poverty for families, particularly the six priority family types.

As an employer, the Scottish Government actively targets opportunities to individuals who are in the child poverty priority family types. We are an accredited Living Wage, Disability Confident, Recruit with Conviction and Carer Positive employer, and have set a corporate objective of having a workforce that is representative of the people of Scotland.

We aim to prioritise work placement opportunities for disabled people, those from minority ethnic backgrounds and people experiencing poverty, and have established a range of opportunities that specifically target those most at risk of child poverty. This includes our Care Leavers Internship, offering 12 month paid internships for care experienced 18-30 year olds. Last year we facilitated 13 internships and will be offering 15 this year. We offered 17 Career Ready mentoring and summer work placements for school pupils facing potential barriers in education and employment in 2021, and will be offering 33 in 2022. We also offer over 100 Modern Apprenticeships each year, appointing people on a permanent basis, providing vital job security for individuals with fewer qualifications or who are at the start of their careers.

Our biannual Graduate Development Programme actively targets disabled people and individuals from minority ethnic backgrounds, and we have a strong ambition to expand and improve on this work. This will include updating recruitment methods to ensure all early career entry points to the Scottish Government are accessible and attractive to minority ethnic and disabled people and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

We also work with Fair Start Scotland, supporting people facing barriers to work with real world paid work experience for 12 months, with the option for a permanent contract at the end of this period. In 2021 we offered 43 Fair Start Scotland placements.



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