Every child, every chance: tackling child poverty delivery plan 2018-2022

The first Child Poverty Delivery Plan due under the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017. Outlining action for the period 2018-22.

Chapter 1: Introduction

"Children born into poverty - it's not fair in any way."
Member of the Children's Parliament, age 11

Two scenarios for 2030

Our child poverty ambitions suggest two very different 2030 scenarios for Scotland.

Scenario 1 - If we do nothing, projections suggest that more than one in three children could be growing up in Scotland in poverty by 2030. The reasons for these trends are complex and hard to change. They include the UK Government's welfare reforms, changes to the world of work, patterns of global trade and growing inequalities between the richest and poorest in society and between the older and younger generations. Unless we take action, a third of our children will grow up poor and that crisis would damage our society and bring huge costs to our economy.

Scenario 2 - If we take the right action in the right ways, 2030 could see a Scotland where our child poverty targets have been met. This would mean that any child's experience of poverty would likely be short because parents' access to employment and training is responsive and effective. What's more, the consequences of poverty should be neither as deep nor as impactful as now, because the poverty premium has been tackled, social security offers a genuine safety net for people in hard times, and the stigma of low income has been properly and finally addressed. If we deliver on our ambition, poverty will never have been so low in Scotland's history. This is the future we want for all of Scotland's children by 2030.

This Plan sets out a clear direction of travel towards that better future

The Plan represents our first comprehensive and impactful programme towards achieving the child poverty reduction targets, covering the period 2018-22.

Based on the best available evidence to date, we have developed a theory of change - a theoretical underpinning for how we expect to meet our targets. This is based on four elements:

First, to make progress, we will focus on the three main drivers of child poverty:

  • Employment. Income from parents' work and earnings is insufficient to lift them from poverty.
  • Household costs. The costs of living that households have to cover are too high.
  • Social Security. Income from social security has been cut back significantly by the UK Government, particularly for families with children, and is now inadequate to lift families from poverty.

We focus our efforts in this Delivery Plan on these three drivers - identified through our own analytical work and recommendations from the Poverty and Inequality Commission - and underpinned by our focus on inclusive growth.

The drivers are unlikely to change for future delivery plans because the evidence base is clear about their importance. But there is more to do to understand what kinds of interventions in these areas will deliver the scale and kind of impacts we want. That's why we're investing in a range of piloting work in this Plan - so we can build the evidence base we need. We're also setting aside approximately half of the Tackling Child Poverty Fund for use in 2020 and 2021; in part, this will be used to roll out the pilot programmes that prove successful.

The second point in our theory of change is that our actions need to prevent children and young people in poverty now becoming poor parents by 2030. This means taking preventative action to improve children's quality of life and helping families manage the impacts of poverty. Even if these actions have no immediate impact on the targets, building children's resilience in the face of poverty and other adversity should boost their long-term outcomes. So we will help children and families to participate in their communities, take action to address adverse childhood experiences, and provide support in mental health and other settings. This kind of support can help children and families better cope with adversity and build resilience. Again, knowing which interventions are particularly effective will be important.

Third, we will only meet our child poverty targets if we work in partnership. We have already legislated for local government and health boards to produce their own annual planning and reporting on child poverty. But we must also work closely with employers across sectors so that we maximise our collective effort on fair work and earnings. We must work with energy companies, financial services providers and schools - and they must work with us - to minimise household costs for families. We must work intensively with the UK Government so it understands the impacts of child poverty and the costs it brings to the economy, now and for the long-term. We must work with communities and our services and institutions to make sure children's quality of life is protected and assured.

Fourth, meeting the targets will require radical change and this Plan is only the beginning. The Child Poverty Act sets two target milestones: the final target date of 2030, and an interim target date in 2023. This Plan sets out actions we will take over the period to 2022, with a view to meeting those targets. The actions it contains are aimed at reducing child poverty both in the short and long term. The 2030 targets, which all take housing costs into account, aim to deliver:

  • Fewer than 10% of children living in families in relative poverty. This means fewer than one in ten children living in households on low incomes, compared to the average UK household.
  • Fewer than 5% of children living in families in absolute poverty. This means fewer than one in twenty children living in low income households where living standards are not increasing.
  • Fewer than 5% of children living in families in combined low income and material deprivation. This means fewer than one in twenty children living in households which can't afford basic essential goods and services.
  • Fewer than 5% of children living in families in persistent poverty. This means fewer than one in twenty children living in households in poverty for three years out of four.

We acknowledge that meeting these targets will be very difficult. The backdrop to meeting them includes some unprecedented challenges, not just on Brexit and on-going austerity, but in terms of structural and intergenerational change. The actions in this Plan include starting points for developing the kind of smarter thinking we need, including a £7.5 million Innovation Fund with The Hunter Foundation to drive systems change. But we will need to do more - this Plan is a starting point only, one we will need to revisit and reshape using the best evidence as we move forward through to 2030.

Finally, it's in everyone's interests that we meet these targets. Tackling child poverty is the ultimate in preventative spending - if we invest now, we invest for everyone's future, whether we have children or not. Billions of pounds go towards mitigating the life-long damage done to children by poverty. If we work together to tackle child poverty now, we can deliver the transformed society we want to see in 2030.

Our Plan is based on the best advice

The content of the Plan is based on the evidence base and on feedback from a great many different stakeholder groups - we've listed these in Annex 1.

Perhaps most importantly, we've heard from children - whose voices are threaded through the Plan - young people and parents. We asked equality representative groups and Scottish Parliament Committees to tell us what their child poverty priorities were too. Finally, we asked the new Poverty and Inequality Commission for its detailed advice.

As set out throughout the Plan, we've responded positively to the Commission's recommendations. The Commission set out general principles for the Delivery Plan and we have taken these into account by:

  • Taking a strategic, cross-portfolio approach.
  • Including actions on quality of life and helping families manage the impacts of poverty.
  • Reflecting the geography of poverty across Scotland.
  • Developing our partnership working.

Our Plan is serious about equality, prioritising families at high risk

Another Commission recommendation was to focus on families most at risk of poverty and this is the approach we have taken. Our assessment of the evidence base showed the extent to which child poverty and equality overlap, with strong age, gender, ethnicity and disability dimensions. Our Plan therefore has targeted its actions towards these families:

  • Lone parent families, the large majority of which are headed by women.
  • Families which include a disabled adult or child.
  • Larger families.
  • Minority ethnic families.
  • Families with a child under one year old.
  • Families where the mother is under 25 years of age.

More details on our priority families are provided in Annex 2.

We know that structural factors outwith the control of these households can lead to many becoming trapped in poverty. Often, the main issue is lack of flexibility around work and care, but there are many factors at play including discrimination, which leads to the far higher poverty rates [1] for children in these families, as shown below.

priority groups

Our Plan will tackle poverty now and also help prevent poverty for the future

The Commission also asked us to base our actions on the drivers of child and family poverty and develop actions based on these. We have therefore focused on work and earnings, costs of living and social security ( chapters 2, 3 and 4) as key ways to make progress on our targets now.

The Commission also recommended that the Delivery Plan should focus on quality of life and helping parents lessen the impacts of poverty on children, even if these have no effect on the targets. Our thinking is that meeting the targets in 2030 means that we have to take a preventative approach now and that includes quality of life. Children living in Scotland now will be young adults in 2030, when these targets are due to be met. So we've set out a range of actions to help lessen the damage poverty can do to children ( chapter 5), and reduce the risk that any impacts will be life-long.

We also recognise that government can't end child poverty on its own, so a range of actions working in partnership are set out ( chapter 6), including support for local areas that are required by the Child Poverty Act to produce their own plans.

Our Plan is serious about understanding and assessing impact

Understanding the impacts of our interventions is crucial. Initial assessments of impacts and costs are set out in brief below each action. More detailed assessments are provided for interventions tackling the main drivers of poverty in chapter 7.

In some cases, we will need to develop pilots and proposals into policies and programmes and put these into place. And we need to be ready to explore and respond positively to new thinking.

Some of this will inevitably be challenging. We will need to work with all our partners to get interventions, and implementation, right. We will use our progress reports - every year from 2019 on - to feed back on how we're doing.

Going forward, we will work with partners to develop our modelling capabilities further. This will help us show the collective impact of actions against the targets where we can. A crucial part of this is our evaluation and monitoring approach, so we can demonstrate that the policies in this Plan are making a positive difference, and that we can learn from our actions to inform future delivery plans.

Our Plan thinks about place

We know that some places are more likely to experience multiple disadvantage than others. We also know that some local authorities are much closer to meeting our national child poverty targets than others. So our Plan thinks about place and geography and looks to test particular interventions and ideas where they're likely to have the biggest impact. The Plan recognises the specific barriers experienced in remote rural and island communities and acknowledges that implementation solutions will need to be tailored to help families in child poverty in rural areas access the range of support and help on offer.

Our Plan does not accept that poverty is inevitable

The child poverty targets are highly challenging. But the UN sustainable development goal of 'Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere' is even more challenging, as are our commitments on children's rights [2] . Poverty is not inevitable - it is ultimately a policy choice.

There are, however, key policy levers that the Scottish Government has little control over. We will only be responsible for 15% of social security spend and crucially this doesn't include the main aspects that affect children. We don't have employment powers either and we can't, for example, raise the National Minimum Wage.

In all these cases and more, we will continue to try and influence the agenda, making the case for why having very low levels of child poverty makes economic sense and is good for people and society too.


Back to top