Publication - Publication

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

Published: 29 Mar 2018

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

156 page PDF

4.4 MB

156 page PDF

4.4 MB

Contents
Every child, every chance: tackling child poverty delivery plan 2018-2022
Chapter 3: Costs of Living

156 page PDF

4.4 MB

Chapter 3: Costs of Living

"Children would be worried about affording basic things."
Member of the Children's Parliament, age 9

For families on low incomes, costs of living can be high. Heating a family-sized home, feeding growing children, buying shoes, school uniforms and sports kit, equipment for school or hobbies, paying childcare and travel costs all add up.

What's more, families on low incomes often end up paying an unfair 'poverty premium' for essentials - for example, because they have a pre-payment energy meter or are paying over the odds to a rent-to-own scheme to replace broken white goods.

Costs of living impact in distressing ways for the lowest income households. We've all heard stories about parents skipping meals themselves so they can afford to feed their children. But we're hearing more about children being hungry in the school holidays because that's when they don't get a free school meal; not having the sanitary products they need and skipping school or college as a result; and families only heating one or two rooms in their home during winter. Costs of living can be particularly significant for our priority families and this Delivery Plan looks to make a positive contribution.

We're already doing a lot to help. For example:

  • Since August 2017 every new-born child in Scotland has been eligible for a baby box of essentials, such as clothes, nappies and books, to help ensure they get the best start in life. The baby box concept can also help expectant mothers engage with maternity and antenatal services.
  • We're also providing funding for healthy, nutritious free school meals which saves families around £380 per child per year. The introduction of universal free school meals in P1-3 has removed stigma associated with means-testing and led to increased take up amongst the most disadvantaged pupils, even where they were already entitled to a free meal.
  • We've delivered nearly 72,500 affordable homes since 2007 and have now made a new commitment to 50,000 more in this parliamentary term.
  • In addition, a Fairer Scotland for Disabled People - Our Delivery Plan to 2021 - sets out a number of housing related commitments including a requirement for targets within Local Housing Strategies for the delivery of wheelchair accessible housing across all tenures.

We're also providing significant support to the social enterprise sector. Although the sector is diverse, with thousands of organisations at work across the Scottish Economy, the Social Enterprise in Scotland Census 2017 identified the third largest area of social enterprise activity as 'Early Learning & Childcare' with 708 (13% of all social enterprises) providing these services.

Since the launch of S cotland's Social Enterprise Strategy in 2016, we have invested over £7.8 million to deliver in three priority areas: stimulating social enterprise activity, developing stronger organisations and realising market opportunity. Social enterprises, including the substantial number that provide childcare, have access to specialist business support, procurement advice and affordable social finance.

The Delivery Plan expands our offer on early learning and childcare and on housing - perhaps the most significant regular costs families have to bear. We're also doing more to reduce the costs of the school day. We're taking world-leading action to make sanitary products available to women and girls via educational establishments. And we are building on great local initiatives to tackle food insecurity.

All policies related to costs of living can impact on the low income and material deprivation measure, as these policies could free up significant sums of money to be spent on essential goods and services. In addition, some of these policies could impact on the other targets - for example, by reducing housing costs, or increasing benefits in kind which are counted as income.

Expanded Early Learning and Childcare

Universally accessible, high quality early learning and childcare ( ELC) is central to tackling child poverty in a number of ways. First, it helps provide children with skills and confidence to carry into school and is a cornerstone for closing the poverty-related attainment gap - so it has an important preventative dimension for adulthood. Second, it saves parents money - we estimate that the full ELC entitlement will save families over £4,500 per child per year. Third, ELC should also enable more parents to gain access to employment and training opportunities by giving them more flexibility and more time.

Our policy is truly transformational. Entitlement is now 600 hours. By 2020 - the mid-point of this Delivery Plan - this will almost double to 1,140 hours. The expansion is built upon four key principles: quality, accessibility, affordability, flexibility, with high quality provision at its heart.

The entitlement is available to all three- and four-year olds, and targeted to those two-year olds who would benefit most (around a quarter of two-year olds are eligible, based on free school meals criteria). Most two-year olds in our priority families should benefit. There is significant scope to improve the uptake of the two-year old targeted offer (currently sitting at around 10% of all two-year olds) and we have pledged to support local authorities in doing this. We'll also review the statutory framework to make sure that the eligibility criteria and service definitions meet the needs of this age group in full.

In addition to the three main points made at the start of this section, the expansion in funded ELC will also create new employment opportunities across Scotland. We estimate that we need up to 11,000 new entrants to the sector by 2020 to support the expansion, which will also create training and employment opportunities for parents and carers. There are few more important jobs than caring for our youngest children, and we are seeking to create more professional development opportunities for those already working in the sector and to ensure that careers in early learning and childcare are attractive to new recruits. We launched the first phase of a national marketing recruitment campaign in October 2017, which highlights the range of jobs and opportunities available in the sector.

Pay is obviously crucial. We want to see all childcare workers delivering the funded entitlement across all sectors paid at least the Living Wage, and we have committed to providing sufficient funding to enable this by 2020. We estimate that this will benefit up to 8,000 existing members of the workforce, as well as those joining the workforce to support the expansion. Our Living Wage commitment will provide much needed additional income to households across Scotland, many of which will include children.

We'll also introduce a new 'funding follows the child' approach to delivering ELC, alongside the expanded entitlement. This will be underpinned by a new national standard which will ensure that children will have access to a high quality ELC experience across a range of types of provision, including nurseries provided by local authorities or the private and voluntary sectors, and child-minding. The standard will also ensure that funded ELC is free to parents and carers at the point of access, removing financial barriers to accessing provision.

As well as increasing statutory entitlement to ELC, we are taking action to support families of younger children with childcare costs. We are working with Early Years Scotland to pilot a childcare deposit guarantee scheme in three local authority areas. This will launch later this year and will reduce the burden of upfront childcare costs for low income families. The evaluation of this scheme will help us design new policies to provide wider help with such upfront costs in this parliamentary term.

Resources

The 2018-19 Scottish Budget allocates total funding of £243 million to support the near doubling of early learning and childcare, comprising £93 million revenue funding and £150 million capital funding.

Scottish Ministers are committed to fully funding the expansion and we are in the process of agreeing a multi-year funding package for local authorities with COSLA.

Impact Summary

Will impact on cost of living for those who currently use childcare and can transfer to free provision. May impact on earnings where it allows parents to work additional hours. Therefore, has the potential to impact on all four targets. Because women disproportionately take on unpaid caring responsibilities, they will benefit the most.

After School and Holiday Childcare

The Poverty and Inequality Commission recommended that the Scottish Government should be developing a strategic framework for after school and holiday childcare as a priority. This built on a recommendation from the First Minister's Independent Advisor on Poverty and Inequality, Naomi Eisenstadt, who argued in her 2016 report, Shifting the Curve, that there was potential for using school buildings to provide after school care. The lack of access to such care is considered a key barrier for many parents, particularly lone parents, entering work or being able to increase their hours to a sufficient level to make work pay.

We want to respond positively to this challenge. We have already made a commitment to develop a new strategic framework for after school and holiday childcare by the end of this Parliament. The Scottish Attainment Challenge is already delivering enhanced out of school care provision in some areas, ranging from homework clubs to family learning activities. We want to learn from and build on the success of these initiatives to ensure that more families across the country can benefit.

In 2018, we will assess the availability of existing provision, setting out what we will do to better meet the needs of families. Our resulting policies, which we'll report back on in our first progress report, will help meet the challenges of securing accessible, affordable and flexible childcare, maximising benefit for low income families.

The development of the new strategic framework will also consider how we can empower community-based solutions. There is also scope to integrate early learning and childcare ( ELC) provision with out of school childcare at local authority level, particularly (but not exclusively) where ELC is delivered in a primary school setting.

Resources

To be confirmed. Resources for this policy will be considered in future annual budget rounds.

Impact Summary

Policy being designed - has potential to impact on all four targets where it allows parents to work additional hours.

New Help With Costs of the School Day

"Education is free but a lot of school things are not."
Member of the Children's Parliament, age 11

In their submission to the Scottish Government on priorities for the Delivery Plan, the Education and Skills Committee highlighted the challenges to low income families of costs associated with the school day, including the variability in levels of school clothing grants across local areas. This was a theme that also came through strongly in engagement with parent groups, children and young people on priorities for the Delivery Plan.

Schools are already using the £120 million Pupil Equity Funding ( PEF) to take actions they think will lead to improvements in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing for pupils with experience of poverty. Some schools are using the funding directly to support costs of the school day by, for example, supplying resources and uniform or running after school homework clubs which support not only pupil learning, but assist parents with free child care. PEF is part of our £750 million investment in the Attainment Scotland Fund over the course of this parliament, which aims to close the gap in educational outcomes caused by poverty.

In addition to this investment, we're developing support on school-related costs in a number of new ways:

1. We're working with local authorities to introduce a new minimum level for School Clothing Grants.

2. We're already investing heavily in free school meals, saving parents £380 per year. But we recognise that there's an issue during the school holidays when these meals are not normally on offer. We are committing an additional £1 million over two years for our Fair Food Transformation Fund to help address that.

3. We're exploring how we can target support, incentives and rewards to children from low income families, using the Young Scot Card.

4. We're funding the Child Poverty Action Group to do some further work with schools and local authority on costs of the school day.

These actions are now described in more detail.

A new minimum level for School Clothing Grants

More support to cover the costs of school uniforms and sports kit

The Commission recommended that we should act now to increase the value of school clothing grants. We will therefore work to introduce, as soon as is practicable, a new minimum level of School Clothing Grant. We will work with COSLA to ensure this can apply to all local authorities in Scotland.

School uniforms can be a considerable cost for families, particularly for larger families and/or at stages when children are growing fast. This issue was raised consistently by groups of parents we spoke to when developing the Plan, and by a group of young people convened by Young Scot to discuss the challenges faced by low income families. The School Clothing Grant, offered by each local authority in Scotland to low income families as an annual payment, is therefore an important tool in tackling child poverty. It should help relieve pressure on families at crucial points in the school year, reducing costs of living and removing some of the stress and stigma associated with struggling to afford essential school items.

At the moment, however, the School Clothing Grant currently varies substantially depending on local authority area. The lowest amount on offer is currently £40, which is clearly not enough to buy what's needed. We will therefore work with COSLA to secure agreement with local authorities to set the grant at a new minimum level in line with current costs of living. This new minimum will give most low income families in Scotland more money for school clothing. The Scottish Government will work with COSLA to make sure this minimum level is provided; helping to ensure every child can go to school feeling comfortable, confident and ready to learn.

In addition, we are exploring what valuable lessons we could build on from current practice in some local authorities. Glasgow, for example, pays the school clothing grant automatically to low income parents. Highland has a single application form for all benefits - and a single data processing team. We think both these are good models that minimise stigma and boost take up, so we will highlight these examples of good practice in the guidance on local child poverty action reports, which will also address the issue of branded uniforms, which tend to be more expensive.

Resources

Costs will be finalised through negotiation between COSLA and the Scottish Government.

Impact Summary

Potential to impact on cost of living, and feed through to the low income and material deprivation target. If significant, may be considered as income due to being a benefit in kind, and could therefore impact on all four of the targets.

Reducing food insecurity in school holidays

"If a child doesn't have food, they won't have energy to go to school meaning that they won't be able to get a job and the chain will continue."
Member of the Children's Parliament, age 11

In the next two years, we will invest £1 million in providing help for children experiencing food insecurity during school holidays.

School holidays can be challenging times for families on low incomes. Research by the Child Poverty Action Group and others on the cost of the school holidays shows that for some families, children taking a break from school for several weeks of the year can lead to an increase in food insecurity. This can contribute to children having poor health and problems doing well in school. There is already some help in place to support families in this area:

  • We offer free school meals to all pupils in primary years 1 to 3 and to other pupils beyond P3 who meet relevant eligibility criteria in relation to their own or family financial circumstances. This makes sure that every child has every chance to succeed at school and in life. It also saves families around £380 every year.
  • Local authorities have the flexibility to provide meals and activities for children during school holidays where they think this is needed, and we know that some local authorities such as East Renfrewshire and North Ayrshire are already doing good work to support children in their areas.
  • Our £750 million Attainment Scotland Fund provides additional funding for schools and local authorities which will support children and young people most in need, and help reduce the poverty-related attainment gap. That support can include the provision of meals and activities during school holiday periods, where schools and local authorities feel that is a priority for their area.
  • The third sector also has a crucial role to play and we help to facilitate that through our Fair Food and Empowering Communities Funds which support community initiatives that provide food and other help to individuals, children and families throughout the year. Some of the projects supported through these funds focus on addressing food insecurity during school holiday periods.

Despite this work we know that increased food insecurity during the school holidays can still affect children in Scotland. We must therefore do more, working with stakeholders and partners, to address this. To achieve that we will:

  • Increase our Fair Food Fund from £1 million to £1.5 million in 2018-19 to support activity that addresses food insecurity in dignified ways.
  • Invest £500,000 of that in specific activities that will increase the practical support available to children experiencing food insecurity during school holidays, working with local authorities and other partners. An additional £500,000 will then be provided in 2019-20 to bring our total investment in this area to £1 million over the next two years.
  • Undertake research during the first half of this year, working with COSLA and other partners, to map the provision already in place to tackle food insecurity during school holidays, and help us identify what delivers effective solutions.
  • Use the results of that work to define whether any further actions are needed at national level to address food insecurity during school holidays, and if so, work with partners to put a plan of action in place to address that from 2019 onwards.

Resources

In 2018-19, £500,000 new investment is available for activity to address food insecurity during school holidays. The Tackling Child Poverty Fund budget will provide an additional £500,000 in 2019-20, taking the total investment to £1 million.

Impact Summary

Potential to impact on cost of living, and feed through to the low income and material deprivation target. If significant, may be considered as income due to being a benefit in kind, and could therefore impact on all four of the targets.

Further support on costs of the school day

We have agreed to provide £31,500 to the Child Poverty Action Group ( CPAG) in 201819 so that they can continue to work with schools and authorities to promote awareness of the financial barriers that pupils from low income families face at school, the ways in which these barriers prevent full participation and undermine achievement, and the practical steps that can be taken by schools and others to reduce and remove them. CPAG's Cost of the School Day project has run for four years, supporting local authorities and schools, developing resources, including an online toolkit for schools, and sharing evidence and good practice to drive change.

Resources

£31,500 additional funding for CPAG for 2018‑19.

Impact Summary

Potential to impact on cost of living, and feed through to the low income and material deprivation target. Some aspects of these actions may feed through to income if uptake of benefits in kind ( e.g. free school meals) or other financial transfers are improved.

New support, incentives and rewards with the Young Scot Card

We're funding a pilot with Young Scot to consider how we can use the Young Scot National Entitlement Card to provide targeted additional support, incentives and rewards to children and young people (aged 11-26) affected by poverty.

This could mean, for example, offering access to free or reduced-priced transport, leisure, sports or extra-curricular activities, and rewards and discounts (including for clothes) with local retailers, as well as targeted information and advice. These areas for potential support were identified by young people themselves as priorities for action during the engagement programme which informed the development of this Plan.

We'll also be exploring how the smart technology in the National Entitlement Card can be used to ensure that children and young people can access support in a non-stigmatising way; for example to take advantage of free school meals, or discounts on sanitary products.

The pilot is currently taking place in three local authority areas and, if there is emerging evidence of impact, it will be expanded to a further three areas in 2019-20.

Resources

Up to £300,000 will be provided in 2018-19 through the Challenge Authority and a direct grant to Young Scot and Highland Council.

Impact Summary

Longer term funding will be determined depending on emerging evidence from the fund. Likely to impact on cost of living, and feed through to the low income and material deprivation target.

New Help with Fuel Poverty and Housing Costs

Housing is a very significant - and unavoidable - household cost that our child poverty targets take into account. Parents we spoke to while developing this Plan reported challenges with rent and fuel affordability, particularly where they were living in private rented accommodation. The Scottish Government is committed to using all its housing levers to help reduce child poverty - for families now, and in its longer term investment decisions for the future. We'll also work with tenants and housing partners in Scotland to improve our understanding of how current and future policy and funding decisions impact on reducing child poverty.

We'll take the following actions, with partners, across a range of housing policies to reduce child poverty in Scotland by 2030.

In summary, we will:

1. Increase uptake of our Warmer Homes Scotland programme amongst low income families, with average cost savings of around £350 per year

2. Target fuel poverty and energy efficiency measures on those most in need, including low income families, now and in the future

3. Work with the social housing sector in 2018 to agree the best ways to keep rents affordable

4. Ensure that future affordable housing supply decisions support our objective to achieve a real and sustained impact on child poverty

5. Evaluate the impact of the new private residential tenancy on families with children

We're also considering new campaigns on Council Tax Reduction and Housing Benefit, with a specific target audience of families with children. See 'Income maximisation' section.

Actions 1 and 2 together will help tackle fuel poverty, while actions 3, 4 and 5 look at ways of keeping rents affordable, ensuring future affordable housing supply policy supports this Plan and that current actions are effective. These actions are now described in more detail.

"People who do not have heating will get cold and ill. They will not focus in school because they are cold and unwell when they are doing work."
Member of the Children's Parliament, age 10

1. Increase uptake of our Warmer Homes Scotland programme amongst low income families, with average cost savings of around £350 per year

To help families living in poverty now, we will work to increase their uptake of our national fuel poverty scheme, Warmer Homes Scotland. This scheme provides energy efficiency assessments and targeted improvement interventions to low income and vulnerable households in the private sector (owning or renting) to make their homes warmer and cheaper to heat. Average annual energy cost savings for households are around £350 - so this is help worth having.

We'll take sustained action to boost applications from low income families to Warmer Homes Scotland. We'll achieve this through targeted advertising and by partnering with key stakeholder organisations such as One Parent Families Scotland and the Child Poverty Action Group, ensuring a specific focus on this Plan's priority groups.

We will report back on how we have increased support to low income families in our 2019 progress report.

2. Target fuel poverty and energy efficiency measures on those most in need, including low income families

The Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee and the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee highlighted in their submissions to the Scottish Government on priorities for the Delivery Plan that fuel poverty was a key issue we must address .

Through the new Warm Homes Bill, to be introduced in 2018, we commit to targeting fuel poverty and energy efficiency measures on those most in need, including low income families with children.

A warm and well insulated house can help keep fuel costs affordable. By 2021, the Scottish Government will have invested more than £1 billion in tackling fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency. Scotland is one of only a handful of European countries to define fuel poverty, and this year we will bring forward legislation - the Warm Homes Bill - including a new statutory fuel poverty target which focuses on those most in need.

The Commission has welcomed the proposed changes to the definition of fuel poverty to strengthen the relationship with low income. Initial analysis of the proposed new fuel poverty definition suggests that, in 2015, around 221,000 children were living in households considered fuel poor. There is therefore a clear link between child poverty and fuel poverty, and we will ensure that our plans to tackle both of these issues remain aligned and connected.

We have recently consulted on a new fuel poverty strategy, including proposals on new targets and putting in place a revised definition of fuel poverty. Our new definition will focus on those most vulnerable to cold-related health impacts and low income households, targeting support to those most in need, including families with children. Based on 2015 data, the fuel poverty rate for families with children would increase from 16% (under the current definition) to 23% under the proposed new definition.

The new definition would also include a move to measuring income after housing costs. This means that a household may be considered fuel poor based on a lower fuel bill than under the current definition, if that household's income (after housing, fuel and childcare costs) were also lower than 90% of the UK's Minimum Income Standard.

These proposed changes to the definition are expected to lead to greater numbers of families being identified as fuel poor and therefore eligible in the medium- and long-term for support to improve their energy efficiency and lower fuel bills.

Scotland's Energy Efficiency Programme ( SEEP) will set out the long-term goals for the energy efficiency of all buildings in Scotland. This will build upon the work of Warmer Homes Scotland and our area based energy efficiency schemes which have proved effective for tenants in social housing in areas of low income and multiple deprivation. As SEEP is developed, and its intervention programmes designed we will ensure that the reduction of child poverty is prioritised, with interventions targeted appropriately, and with the impact upon child poverty levels being a key part of the evaluation of their impact.

Resources

£24 million investment in the overall budget for Warmer Homes Scotland in 2018-19; a demand led programme.

Circa £9 million investment in 2018-19 for advice and support, including a provision for Home Energy Scotland advice and support services which will focus on engaging with families with children.

Impact Summary

Fuel costs impact on cost of living. These actions have the potential to impact on the low income and material deprivation target.

3. Work with the social housing sector in 2018 to agree the best ways to keep rents affordable

We will look at what's driving costs for social landlords and examine together opportunities to reduce these. We will support the sector to expand its own improvement, innovation and efficiency work. And we will work with social housing partners to understand how savings can be made within the affordable housing supply programme and other areas of spend, which social landlords can reinvest towards keeping rents affordable.

Councils, housing associations and the Scottish Government all understand the importance of keeping rents affordable. However, this is not easy to do. Landlords need to provide services, maintain and improve properties and invest in the new homes and community facilities for the future, all of which cost money. Despite these challenges, many landlords go further and find other ways to help alleviate the impacts of poverty on their tenants with children. This includes early years provision, supporting parents, working with local schools or helping to address children going hungry.

In Scotland, individual social landlords strike a balance between rent levels and meeting the housing needs of their local communities, but rents must not be increased without regard for the importance of affordability for tenants. Information on rent levels is monitored and published by the Scottish Housing Regulator.

To help landlords secure best value for money when developing new homes, the Scottish Government is offering support through its Achieving Excellence in Housing Development programme. One area of support is procurement and early results suggest that there is scope for savings by procuring goods, services and construction more effectively. This programme is also seeking to establish clearer measurement of performance and quality in new affordable homes. As performance improves, councils and housing associations will also be able to deliver new homes with increasing efficiency and this too will help to reduce costs. We will report on the progress of this work in 2019.

4. Ensure that future affordable housing supply decisions support our objective to achieve a real and sustained impact on child poverty

Many low income families live in a rented home in the social sector, provided by a housing association or the local council. Scotland has a relatively high proportion of social housing stock (23% - from Social Tenants in Scotland 2016) compared to England (17%) and Wales (16%). Average rents in Scotland last year were just under £75 a week, lower than in both England and Wales. Scotland also has a lower proportion of social rented households spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs when compared to England or Wales.

Since 2007, working with housing partners across Scotland, nearly 72,500 affordable homes have already been delivered by the Scottish Government. We are committed to investing more than £3 billion in this parliamentary term to deliver more than 50,000 affordable homes, of which 35,000 will be for social rent - we are on track to deliver this by 2021.

The Scottish Government's relatively high level of capital investment in delivering social rented homes is designed to help councils and housing associations keep their rents affordable. The levels of subsidy, which were increased in 2016, were set in consultation with partners in the sector with that explicit aim. The Scottish Housing Regulator promotes the interests of tenants, and publishes annual information about the cost of social rents across Scotland as part of its measurement of the Scottish Social Housing Charter.

In addition, a Fairer Scotland for Disabled People - Our Delivery Plan to 2021 - sets out a number of housing related commitments. These include working with local authorities, disabled people and other stakeholders to ensure that realistic targets are set within Local Housing Strategies for the delivery of wheelchair accessible housing across all tenures; and ensuring that the grant subsidy arrangements for the Affordable Housing Supply Programme do not prevent specialist housing identified by local authorities as a priority from being built.

And finally, the Race Equality Action Plan set out a number of commitments to ensure that ethnic minority communities are fully considered in housing plans and supported in the Private Rented Sector (see below).

The Scottish Government's forthcoming Local Housing Strategy guidance will ensure that local authorities continue to take a robust, evidence-based approach to the identification of specific housing needs. This will reinforce the importance of reporting against the delivery of local authorities' housing supply investment priorities on an annual basis.

We will also produce an evidence base to inform options for Ministers on affordable housing in Scotland from 2021 on. That will include an assessment of, for example, the impact of current housing investment decisions, our understanding of future need and demand, and the opportunities for innovation. Using that information, we will work with housing partners and tenants to ensure future affordable housing programmes for 2021 and beyond are designed to reduce child poverty. We will report on the progress of this work in 2019.

5. Evaluate the impact of the private residential tenancy on families with children

We know that larger numbers of families with children are now choosing the Private Rented Sector ( PRS) as a long-term housing option. The number of children in the PRS has increased from 42,000 in 1999 to 145,000 in 2016. We also know that nearly a third of children in the PRS in Scotland are in poverty.

Our recent significant reforms of the PRS in Scotland have been introduced to help many more families. From 1 December 2017, all new tenancies in the PRS are a new form of tenancy - the 'Private Residential Tenancy'. This provides security, stability and predictability for tenants, as well as appropriate safeguards for landlords, lenders and investors. Tenants now have the following protections:

  • Rent protection for tenants. The new tenancy offers protection from frequent and unfair rent rises as rents can only be increased once a year, with the tenant being given at least three months' notice of any increase. A tenant can also refer any rent increase to a rent officer, who will decide if it is fair.
  • Rent protection for areas. New legislation also gives local authorities discretionary powers to apply to Scottish Ministers to cap the levels of rent increases in areas where rents are rising too much.
  • Longer notice periods. If a tenant has lived in a property for more than six months, landlords must give 84 days' notice to leave (unless it's because a tenant has broken a term of their tenancy agreement).
  • Compensation. If tenants think they have been misled into moving out, they can apply to the First-tier Tribunal for a 'wrongful termination order' which can be for up to six months' rent in compensation.

We want to make sure that these major changes are having the effects intended. So we commit - as the Poverty and Inequality Commission recommends - to putting in place an evaluation framework to assess the impact of all these reforms for everyone whose home is in the PRS. The evaluation will consider how the changes affect families with children, so that we understand more clearly the impacts on security of tenure and housing quality, for example, which we know are important for family well-being. We will also monitor the impact in respect of rural areas and race equality.

In addition to these PRS reforms, we recently consulted on proposals to increase quality and energy efficiency standards in the PRS, which we will design to make sure they have a positive impact for low income families.

Resources

£206,000 will be invested in the procurement support element of the Achieving Excellence in Housing Development programme in 2018-19.

We are directing £756.145 m in 2018-19 to direct to affordable housing supply

£3.8 million will be available in 2018-19 to drive higher standards in the PRS.

Impact Summary

As well as impact on cost of living, housing costs directly affect net income in the definition of poverty. These measures have the potential to impact on all four of the targets.

New Help on Income Maximisation and the Poverty Premium

Many of the parents we consulted with on priorities for the Plan stated that they would welcome advice on financial issues, including the range of entitlements that might be available to them. The Delivery Plan offers a range of new and extended programmes to help parents maximise household incomes and avoid some of the additional costs of the poverty premium. These programmes are:

  • A new Financial Health Check Guarantee for low income families with children.
  • A new campaign to help parents claim council tax reduction.
  • A new campaign on benefit uptake.

A new Financial Health Check

A new £1.5 million personalised advice service starting in 2018 for low income parents to help with the poverty premium and benefit uptake.

Personalised advice is a key way for families with children to increase their incomes. This could be getting better access to cheaper deals on energy or other utilities; advice on government programmes that can help; or help with benefits that haven't been claimed in full or at all.

To make sure parents can access this advice, we're introducing a new Financial Health Check Guarantee for low income families with children. This is a major two year programme with a £1.5 million budget each year. The programme will offer low income parents the opportunity for personalised advice on income maximisation and how to avoid paying the 'poverty premium' where people on low incomes pay more for basic services because they have limited choices. The Health Check will also refer people to the Home Energy Scotland Advice network for free impartial advice and support on saving energy and making their home cheaper to heat. This service is also a route to access our energy efficiency programmes and support with switching supplier through our partnership with the social enterprise Citrus Energy.

Our priority families will be entitled to a tailored adviser conversation - face to face or over the phone. We will also develop an online Financial Health Check resource which will be accessible to everyone. This will give parents choice, particularly in terms of ease of access; it is also likely to be valuable for those in some rural areas or for those who can't access the service in daytime when it's most likely to be available. The programme will begin to be rolled out in 2018.

The Poverty and Inequality Commission has welcomed the Financial Health Check, and recommends monitoring who is being reached and considering action needed to ensure it is accessible to those who might benefit. So, while we're developing the programme, we'll be considering carefully how we can ensure our priority families benefit. Our consultation had already identified a strong need for holistic and timely financial advice for minority ethnic communities, with refugees and asylum seekers being particularly in need of support. So we will work with organisations representing those communities to promote the Financial Health Check offer, taking into account any additional support that may be required - for example, around language support and travel costs.

Resources

£1.5 million is available in both 2018-19 and 2019-20 for this work.

Impact Summary

Potential to impact on cost of living, and feed through to the low income and material deprivation target. If significant, may be considered as income due to being a benefit in kind, and could therefore impact on all four of the targets.

A new campaign on Council Tax Reduction

We're providing help for low income families and others to claim Council Tax Reduction.

We will also run a targeted campaign to improve the take up of the Council Tax Reduction ( CTR) Scheme. This will increase the available income of lower income families and potentially reduce child poverty.

Around 490,000 households receive CTR, of which 77% get full CTR. Of those on full CTR over two thirds are on passported benefits, all of which for working age people are being replaced by Universal Credit. We know anecdotally that CTR take up rates for those on Universal Credit can be less as people are not aware they need to apply separately for CTR.

The number of CTR recipients has fallen by just over 12% since CTR began in April 2013 to December 2017, probably due to a range of factors, including an improving economy but also the roll out of Universal Credit.

We will work with local authorities, who administer CTR, and other appropriate stakeholders to take forward this campaign during 2018. We will also work with them to assess the impact of this activity.

Resources

A budget for this action will be finalised later this year.

Impact Summary

Improved take-up of council tax reduction will impact directly on income, and therefore this policy has the potential to impact on all four targets.

Encouraging benefit uptake

Over the course of this parliamentary term, we will deliver a range of benefit uptake activity.

The Scottish Government believes that social security is a human right and we have included a clear commitment in our social security legislation to support people to receive all of the benefits they are entitled to. This commitment includes Scottish and UK benefits - we all pay into this system and we want to ensure that we focus on reaching those households who are entitled to support but not claiming it.

We know that benefit uptake is an issue. Changes in circumstances can often mean that someone is entitled to a benefit - e.g. the birth of a child, or a change in work hours - but is unaware of that fact. People may not realise that the benefit exists or that they are entitled to it.

For example, not all families who are entitled to housing benefit and tax credits are receiving them. We estimate that in 2015-16 there were around 150,000 households in Scotland who were entitled to housing benefit but not claiming this important financial support. This may have resulted in around £305 million in unpaid housing benefit in that year. Around 60,000 households are estimated to not be claiming child tax credits, which means that around £250 million may have remained unclaimed in 2015‑16.

Fairness, dignity and respect is key to our social security system - and making sure people can access the financial support they are entitled to is a key part of delivering that. We will therefore consider how current take-up rates across a range of benefits could, if improved, impact on reducing child poverty and use that evidence to establish priority areas for future benefit take-up campaigns starting in 2018-19.

Resources

A budget for this action will be finalised later this year.

Impact Summary

Improved take-up of benefits would impact directly on income, and therefore this policy has the potential to impact on all four targets.

New Support for Affordable Credit

We are providing support to Credit Unions and Community Development Finance Institutions, including £1 million new investment for the Affordable Credit Loan Fund to develop the affordable credit sector further.

Insecurity of income is one of the biggest challenges faced by those living below the poverty threshold. One of the clear messages from the people we engaged with on the Delivery Plan was that incomes can increase or decrease week by week because of changes to hours worked, changes to benefits or changing circumstances. This often led to parents having to borrow money at short notice, often at high cost, to pay bills or for other essentials. Recent regulations at UK level have reduced the number of high cost credit providers and, while these regulations are very welcome, low income families now have even fewer options if they need to borrow money for a short period. Family and friends are often asked to loan money but if there are difficulties paying back this can cause stress and disharmony between people who would otherwise be supporting each other.

There is now a need to help low income families find more affordable forms of credit, delivered for a social purpose.

We're already providing a range of support to Credit Unions ( CUs). CUs provide valuable financial services and products to a wide range of customers, including those facing financial exclusion . We've provided investment to encourage Junior Savers schemes in schools and have been promoting payroll deduction schemes through the Business Pledge - payroll deduction is an important element of the CU business model. We're also committed to a national CU awareness raising campaign, which will include collaborating with sector representatives to identify opportunities for targeted local activity on funeral poverty.

We are now looking at what more we can do to support Community Development Finance Institutions ( CDFIs). CDFIs operate as non-profit organisations with a social mission to support those who are financially excluded. They provide financial services, including affordable credit, to low income households who might otherwise be driven to high cost credit providers or other informal means of accessing short-term money. They operate a more flexible loans pricing model and lend to those lower income customer groups perceived as 'higher risk'. They can also help people gain access to financial capability support, debt advice, savings opportunities and to banking products and services, including basic bank accounts. They have a strong social inclusion ethos. They recognise that loans are not suitable for everyone and where they are not able to lend they seek to provide, or direct, people to appropriate advice and support. However, the CDFI sector is small and does not currently have a high public profile.

The Carnegie UK Trust has established a £1 million Affordable Credit Loan Fund to make it easier for the affordable credit sector to grow. We have decided to double the value of the fund by providing £1 million loan funding from Scottish Government Financial Transaction monies. This support will help grow the sector, allowing low income families greater access to affordable credit - reducing the cost of borrowing, supporting financial inclusion and promoting equality and fairness. We will also explore options with Carnegie about providing additional grant support for marketing and other advertising for CDFIs.

Resources

£1 million loan funding, from Scottish Government Financial Transactions monies, will be made available to the Affordable Credit Loan Fund in 2018 over a ten year loan period.

Impact Summary

Potential to lead to lower interest payments on debt, and therefore could free up money to be spent on basic goods and services, impacting on the low income and material deprivation target.

New Help for Basic Essentials - Access to Sanitary Products

"About 11 or 12, when your body starts to change and you get your period, you may not be able to buy all the things you need - tampons and stuff. I think a girl would be really anxious and cautious because she'd be constantly worried that she'd get her period. She'd be really self-conscious."
Member of the Children's Parliament, age 11

This Delivery Plan includes a range of measures to help low income families with basic essentials. Being able to access sanitary products is fundamental to equality, dignity and rights for all women and girls - and is crucial if we are to tackle poverty successfully. In a society as wealthy as Scotland, no-one should have to suffer the indignity of not having the means to meet their basic needs.

We are working with partners to ensure that there will be access to free sanitary products in schools, colleges and universities from Autumn 2018 and have committed to consider further action to support others on low incomes in light of the findings of the pilot scheme in Aberdeen.

This is a ground-breaking, word-leading commitment to tackle this gender injustice and we are proud to be the first nation in the world to take this action across our entire education system. It will make a real difference to the emotional well-being of young people through reducing anxieties about how they will be able to access sanitary products.

While, by itself, this proposal will not tackle child poverty, it should increase the disposable incomes of low income households where one or more of those in the household use these products. It may also have longer term benefits in terms of preventing poverty, as we know that in some cases not having access to sanitary products can disrupt education through absence or anxiety.

Resources

Costs will be finalised through negotiation between COSLA, College and University representatives and the Scottish Government.

Impact Summary

Potential to free up money to be spent on basic goods and services, impacting on the low income and material deprivation target.


Contact