Best Start, Bright Futures - tackling child poverty: progress report 2023 to 2024

The second annual progress report for 'Best Start, Bright Futures: Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2022-2026'. Outlining action for the period 2023 to 2024.

Ministerial foreword – First Minister

Eradicating child poverty in Scotland is my top priority as First Minister. I am under no illusions this will be an easy task and it is not a challenge that the Scottish Government can meet on its own. That is why I am committed to working with our Local Authorities, the wider public sector, the third sector and businesses to drive action forward. Only by working together can we achieve our priorities to improve public services, grow our economy, tackle climate change, and ultimately eradicate child poverty.

So many in Scotland are still experiencing the consequences of a cost of living crisis which is making it so much harder for many families to make ends meet. This year, we are operating under the most challenging budget settlement in devolution, which is preventing us from investing as much as we would like in vital public services and anti-poverty measures.

Despite the significant headwinds we are still making good progress. It is estimated that Scottish Government policies will keep 100,000 children out of poverty in 2024-25. Levels of child poverty in Scotland, whilst still too high, remain considerably below levels of the UK as a whole. This divergence is expected to increase in the coming years as a result of our positive decisions and actions to prioritise support for children such as our five family payments, including the Scottish Child Payment.

The impacts of our action are already being felt. Analysis from the Child Poverty Action Group estimates that low income families in Scotland will be around £28,000 better off by the time their child turns 18 as a result of more generous support, and lower costs for childcare. The latest data available from the Trussell Trust also found that our policy choices have helped to slow the pace of demand for food parcels, with Scotland the only part of the UK not to see an increase in the number of parcels distributed through their network last year.

Despite these green shoots, we know that the challenge we face is considerable. Scotland is leading the way across the UK in the fight against child poverty, but too many children are living in temporary accommodation and far too many families are reliant on emergency food aid. This is unacceptable in a country as wealthy as Scotland, and I will leave no stone unturned across government as we seek to build on progress to date and eradicate child poverty.

Poverty impacts every single aspect of a child’s life and those of their family. It impacts health outcomes, educational attainment, their likelihood to interact with the justice system and much more. We also know that to tackle poverty effectively we must tackle the structural inequalities which allow it to persist, including those faced by women, disabled people and people from a minority ethnic background.

For me, and for my government, eradicating child poverty and boosting economic growth, go hand in hand. We will focus on growing Scotland’s economy and creating jobs which will, in turn, support investment in our vital public services and ambitious anti-poverty measures. It is estimated that child poverty cost the Scottish economy over £3 billion in 2023 as a result of lower productivity of those who have grown up in poverty, and the investment required to mitigate its harmful effects. However, there is no price that can be put on the human cost of poverty, and the life-changing impacts it has on children and their families.

We are clear in our actions that we want Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up, and for every single child to be able to meet their full potential. In doing so, we can achieve our shared ambition for a fairer Scotland and our long-term economic potential. That is why I will focus on ensuring that every part of government plays its part, and that we support our partners to do the same. We are building on strong action to date and robust evidence. By focusing on the drivers of poverty reduction and ensuring that systems and services work for the families at greatest risk of poverty, we can deliver the change needed.

The government I lead is unequivocally committed to eradicating child poverty. However, with substantial powers over the economy and social security remaining reserved, that means we need the UK Government to work collaboratively with us and to follow our lead in taking ambitious anti-poverty action.

Eradicating child poverty is a national mission, and one that needs the support of all parties in the Scottish Parliament. As First Minister, I will work across Parliament, across governments and across the country to make progress. I will listen to and consider any ideas offered in good faith, no matter where they come from and I will ensure that the full force of the Scottish Government is brought to bear in this effort.

Eradicating child poverty is a moral imperative and essential to realising our ambition for a stronger, growing Wellbeing Economy. By working together across Scotland, we can make it happen and ensure that there are the opportunities for all to flourish.

John Swinney

First Minister



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