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.

Executive Summary

This report captures progress in implementing Best Start, Bright Futures across 2023-24, which reflects the mid-point of the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan for 2022-26. Across 2023-24, families have continued to be impacted by the ongoing cost of living crisis, with our fixed budget significantly impacted by the need to mitigate UK Government welfare policies, a hard Brexit and the cost of living crisis. Despite operating in one of the most challenging fiscal contexts since devolution, action on child poverty remained a key priority and we have continued to direct resources to those in greatest need and invest in key measures to tackle child poverty now and in the future.

The policies in place during this period will determine whether the interim targets, for 2023-24, set in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 have been met. Child poverty rates have shown little change in recent years, however the latest modelling estimates that Scottish Government policies will keep 100,000 children out of relative poverty in 2024-25, with poverty levels forecast to be around the level of the interim targets for relative and absolute poverty. Statistics to be published in Spring 2025 will confirm if the interim targets have been met.

Across the past year we have continued to monitor the implementation of actions through the Child Poverty Programme, with our approach further strengthened by the establishment of a new Ministerial Oversight Group in October 2023. As this report sets out, we have seen good progress being made across a wide range of policies that support poverty reduction. However, because of difficult decisions taken as a result of cuts to our resource and capital budgets, it has not yet been possible to fully implement all of the policies set out within Best Start, Bright Futures, or to progress as quickly as had been envisaged in March 2022. We have always been clear that our approach would need to adapt and evolve to respond to circumstances, and this report sets out how we will continue to drive progress in the coming year.

Despite the challenging fiscal position, we have continued to build on our progress to date and to strengthen the support offered to families. This includes by:

  • Expanding eligibility for Best Start Foods by removing income thresholds for all qualifying benefits from February 2024. It is estimated that an additional 20,000 pregnant women and young children are now eligible.
  • Launching Carer Support Payment in November 2023, with a pilot in three Local Authority areas ahead of a national roll out by Autumn 2024.
  • Providing £2 million of investment to 25 football clubs through the Extra Time programme, delivering over 2,700 places per week to primary school children from low income families to access sports and activity clubs around the school day and during the holidays.
  • Establishing new childcare Early Adopter Communities in Fife and Shetland, while continuing to support children and their families through provision of accessible, affordable before and after school clubs and holiday childcare in our existing early adopter community areas.
  • Publishing the Fair Fares Review, considering the cost and availability of public transport across Scotland and setting out short and longer-term actions to ensure a sustainable and integrated transport system for the future.
  • Increasing all Scottish benefits by 10.1% from 1 April 2023 at a cost of around £430 million in 2023-24, with the exception of Scottish Child Payment which was increased by 25% from November 2022.
  • Tripling the Fuel Insecurity Fund to £30 million in 2023-24, using a proven delivery model to harness our established third sector partner network to provide a direct lifeline for many thousands of households.
  • Launching our Child Poverty Practice Accelerator Fund to strengthen local delivery, and support local efforts, to eradicate child poverty.

We have also continued to deliver key actions across our child poverty programme, strengthening our approach where possible. This includes:

  • Awarding almost £430 million to families through our Scottish Child Payment, with more than 329,000 children benefitting from the payment worth £25 per child per week as of 31 March 2024. The payment is expected to keep 60,000 children out of relative poverty in 2024-25.
  • Publishing new guidance to support Local Authorities in continuing to mitigate the benefit cap as fully as possible through improved and more targeted support – helping over 2,500 families with over 8,900 children, almost three quarters of which are lone parent families.
  • Making almost £103 million available to support continued delivery of key employability commitments, with 4,748 parents supported through No One Left Behind services between April and December 2023.
  • Taking action to improve uptake of funded childcare hours for eligible two year olds, including by establishing a digital platform for Local Authorities to access lists of eligible households and by providing targeted support through the Improvement Service.
  • Providing free bus travel to over 2.3 million people through our concessionary schemes, with 727,000 children and young people registered for free bus travel through the scheme as of March 2024 – a 20% increase from March 2023.
  • Increasing the take home pay of 6,700 employees through support for real Living Wage accreditation and further strengthening our approach to improving pay and working conditions by requiring all public sector grant recipients to pay at least the real Living Wage from 1 July 2023.
  • Delivering 6,045 affordable homes across Scotland, between April and December 2023, of which 4,358 were for social rent – estimated to have helped 2,015 households with children into affordable housing.
  • Ensuring stability for tenants through the emergency rent cap in place across 2023-24 and working to introduce temporary changes to the rent adjudication process that came into effect from 1 April 2024.
  • Distributing a further £32 million across all Children’s Services Planning Partnerships through the Whole Family Wellbeing Funding programme, allowing them autonomy and flexibility to tailor whole family support activities to local needs and align them with broader children’s services planning work.
  • Supporting transformational change by investing around £2.9 million from the Tackling Child Poverty Fund to support our place based collaborations, bringing together partners to deliver more cohesive and holistic services and enable service redesign to deliver preventative, person-centred support.

Following his appointment in May 2024, the First Minister confirmed eradicating child poverty as the single most important policy objective for the government he leads. This can only be achieved by working in collaboration with Scotland’s Local Authorities, the public sector, the third sector, businesses and communities. In 2024-25 we will continue to drive forward action to eradicate child poverty, with priorities for the year ahead including:

  • Investing £6.3 billion in benefit expenditure in 2024-25, £1.1 billion more than the level of funding from the UK Government for social security. This includes uprating all Scottish benefits by 6.7% and investing £457 million in the Scottish Child Payment, which increased in value to £26.70 per child, per week from 1 April 2024.
  • Supporting the passage of the Housing (Scotland) Bill through Parliament, working with stakeholders including landlords, tenants, Local Authorities and third sector organisations to deliver a package of reforms which delivers effective change.
  • Further strengthening our Fair Work First criteria to better reflect priority action required to address labour market inequalities faced by disabled people, women, and people from racialised minorities, ensuring that people can enter, remain and progress in work.
  • Delivering further progress toward an improved childcare system for Scotland by expanding access to childcare for low income families within our six Early Adopter Communities and learning more about what younger children and their families need, focusing on those who will benefit most.
  • Taking forward actions from our Fair Fares Review, including maintaining existing eligibility to the National Concessionary Travel Schemes for those groups who currently benefit.
  • Beginning distribution of a one-off emergency fund of £1.5 million to assist Local Authorities in removing the impact of school meal debt on families.
  • Enhancing access to advice and support, in places where families already go, by expanding the Advice in Accessible Settings Fund and continuing investment in the Welfare Advice and Health Partnerships initiative.
  • Delivering an expansion to our place based programme by establishing partnerships with additional Local Authorities.



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