Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland - Our Approach - 2014 - 2017

The 2014 revision of the Child Poverty Strategy continues to focus on the same key areas as the Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland, describing outcomes around maximising household resources, improving children's wellbeing and life chances and well designed, sustainable places.

Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland
Our Approach 2014-2017

Our Approach

During 2013 and early 2014, we discussed our strategic approach with the Ministerial Advisory Group on Child Poverty (Ministerial Advisory Group) and a full range of stakeholders from across Scotland, as well as colleagues across the Scottish Government. Feedback from those discussions elicited broad support for a strategic approach. A number of areas were identified as priorities for future work across a variety of policy areas including early years, education, employability and financial capability. There were also widespread calls for more robust reporting of the range of activity contributing to tackling child poverty in Scotland and of the impact of this activity. This document reflects the importance of these areas to our approach and describes our approach to reporting on relevant activity in the coming years.

In the 2013 Annual Report, we outlined our next steps towards tackling child poverty. In line with those commitments, we will continue working together with our partners to reduce inequalities, fostering assets based approaches, reforming public services and improving outcomes for children and young people.

We recognise that welfare reform will continue to have a significant impact on the most vulnerable in our society and will continue to act where we can to support the process of building capacity in our local communities to prepare for the changes. Our first Annual Report on the impact of Welfare Reform in Scotland can be found here:

Financial challenges and significant demographic shifts underline the importance of protecting and improving our public services if we are to reduce inequalities and deliver the outcomes that matter most to local people.

The Scottish Government's Budget will take forward our priorities: accelerating economic recovery; addressing the implications of welfare reform; and protecting our public services through an ambitious programme of public service reform. Our commitment to reform is undimmed and a clear strategic direction has been set, built around four pillars:

  • a decisive shift towards prevention
  • partnerships between public services
  • greater investment in people delivering services
  • a sharp focus on performance

This is an approach that has been internationally recognised, with a recent Carnegie Trust review of international evidence identifying Scotland as unique in supporting its system-wide rethink of public services with coherent, cross-cutting programmes of improvement.

Our approach to tackling child poverty reflects this wider context, especially given it is child-centred, taking preventative approaches to better achieve outcomes and promote equality. The importance of co-production to improve service design and the adoption of assets based approaches, building on the strengths of people and communities, are important features of our approach.

Through the Ministerial Advisory Group, we will continue to work with the third sector and business. We will continue to fund projects which tackle poverty with a focus on early years and mitigating the impacts of welfare reform.

Our proposals in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill and the associated policies such as Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) and the Early Years Framework are all designed to ensure that children's interests and rights are placed at the centre of action. We are proposing a statutory definition of wellbeing and all public services will need to consider the impact of their planned actions and what might be done to improve the wellbeing and outcomes of children and young people. Giving further effect to human rights set out in international human rights treaties such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights feature as part of this work.

Through a preventative approach, we will continue to address disadvantage and inequality in ways that can make a significant difference through the recognition of rights, to improving future life chances for children. All of this will help us progress towards our aim of Scotland being the best place to grow up. In that way, this Strategy reflects the Scottish Government's wider commitment (under priority 5 of Scotland's National Action Plan for Human Rights) to practical action which improves quality of life, addresses injustice and exclusion and secures an adequate standard of living for all, including Scotland's children and young people.

The main changes to our strategic approach over the coming three years involve a more explicit recognition of place-based policy in the aims of the Strategy, a better defined outcomes approach and the introduction of a more detailed approach to monitoring and measurement. These changes are set out below.

Constitutional Arrangements

The Act requires that this Strategy sets out actions on devolved policy matters. In doing so we recognise the impact that responsibilities currently held at UK level have on efforts to tackle child poverty - particularly in respect of taxation, welfare and wider economic policy.

Scotland's Future sets out the gains of independence for Scotland and the current Scottish Government's vision and priorities for action as the first Government of an independent Scotland. These include actions on taxation, wage levels, welfare and benefits and a transformational extension of childcare, all of which would have a material impact on our approach to tackling child poverty.

Scotland's Future can be found at:

Following the referendum in September and any subsequent constitutional changes, we will work with the Ministerial Advisory Group to review this document.

In the meantime we will continue to work with them to further develop the outcomes framework and associated indicators with the intention to provide more robust reporting across the full range of intermediate outcomes in the 2015 Annual Report. This should enable us to draw conclusions about progress in tackling child poverty both across the Scottish Government and more broadly.

Outcomes and Principles

The 2011 Strategy set out two key aims, Maximising household resources and improving children's wellbeing and life chances. At the same time, communities and place were both key to the 2011 Strategy.

These elements remain central to our approach but there is a change to the way in which the refreshed Strategy presents these and ultimately, how these are reported on. The refreshed Strategy reformulates the two overarching aims as outcomes to be achieved and recognises the increasing emphasis on place-based policy via the introduction of a third outcome. These three outcomes are set out in the box below. Note too that a convenient shorthand has been developed for these three outcomes: Pockets, Prospects and Places (the 3Ps).

Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland
Our Approach 2014-2017: outcomes

Maximising household resources - Our aim is to reduce income poverty and material deprivation by maximising financial entitlements and reducing pressure on household budgets among low income families, as well as by maximising the potential for parents to increase family incomes through good quality, sustained employment, and promoting greater financial inclusion and capability. (Pockets)

Improving children's wellbeing and life chances - Our aim is to break inter-generational cycles of poverty, inequality and deprivation. This requires a focus on tackling the underlying social and economic determinants of poverty and improving the circumstances in which children grow up - recognising the particular importance of improving children's outcomes in the early years. (Prospects)

Children from low income households live in well-designed, sustainable places - Our aim is to address area-based factors which currently exacerbate the effects of individual poverty for many families by continuing to improve the physical, social and economic environments in local areas, particularly in those areas of multiple deprivation in which child poverty is more prevalent. (Places)

Alongside these outcomes, the revised Strategy continues to emphasise three principles underpinning this long term approach. These are:

  • Early intervention and prevention
  • Building on the assets of individuals and communities
  • Ensuring that children's and families' needs and abilities are at the centre of service design and delivery

Finally, a new outcomes framework has been developed which outlines key areas of activity in relation to the aims and principles, in describing how we intend to take this approach forward, working with the Ministerial Advisory Group and all interested parties across Scotland. This is described in more detail below and will be subject to further development over the next year so that it ultimately becomes a measurement framework.

A New Outcomes Framework

Outcomes-focused working helps shift the focus of policy from processes and inputs towards the impact that the policy and its delivery has on people and communities. It also encourages public services and other key contributors to work together effectively. The development of an outcomes framework for child poverty enables the Scottish Government and external partners to adopt a shared understanding of what needs to be achieved for families in poverty or at risk of poverty across Scotland.

The first phase of the outcomes work has involved the production of logic models for the Strategy's outcomes. Logic models are simplified diagrams which explicitly show the logical relationships between policy activities and the outcomes or benefits of those activities. They articulate how a policy activity is expected to lead to intermediate outcomes that need to be achieved to enable delivery of the desired ultimate outcome(s).

Through consultation with stakeholders and the Ministerial Advisory Group, three logic models have been produced, one for each of the three outcomes. Each model articulates how the various policy activities across the Scottish Government contribute to the achievement of intermediate and ultimate outcomes. The logic models are consistent, as far as possible, with existing outcomes frameworks in other parts of the Scottish Government, including the National Performance Framework.

Through the process of logic modelling, a number of intermediate outcomes were identified which must be achieved in the short and medium term. These are the "building blocks" of our ambitions. Figure 1 shows the medium term intermediate outcomes from each outcome. The full logic models also showing short term outcomes and logical connections between each policy and the three ultimate outcomes, can be found in the Annex to this document.

In terms of the first outcome "maximising financial resources of families on low incomes", the key intermediate outcomes we need to achieve are:

1. Maximised financial entitlements for families on low incomes. This will directly increase the amount of money in families' pockets.

2. Reduced household spend of families on low incomes, again directly increasing the amount of money available to families.

3. Families on low incomes are managing their finances appropriately, enabling them to make their resources go further and are accessing all financial entitlements they are eligible for.

4. Parents are in good quality, sustained employment in line with their skills and ambitions. Secure, fairly paid employment that fits with families' commitments such as childcare is a key route to increasing household incomes and provides financial security in the long term.

The second outcome "improved life chances of children in poverty", is about mitigating the effects of poverty ensuring that economic disadvantage is not passed on through generations. As such, the timescales for this outcome are substantial.

The relevant intermediate outcomes identified relate to the different aspects of life chances. It is the Scottish Government's ambition that:

1. Children from low income households have improving levels of physical and mental health

2. Children from low income households experience social inclusion and display social competence

3. Children from low income households have improving relative levels of educational attainment, achieving their full potential

4. Young people from low income backgrounds are in good quality, sustained employment in line with their skills and ambitions after finishing their education

There are clear links between the four intermediate outcomes for the life chances outcome e.g. healthy children are more likely to perform well at school and young people with high levels of educational attainment are more likely to find high quality employment.

The intermediate outcomes for the third outcome "children from low income households live in well-designed, sustainable places", similarly relate to different aspects of sustainable places. They are that children from low income households:

1. Live in high quality sustainable housing

2. Grow up in places that are socially sustainable

3. Grow up in places that are physically sustainable

4. Grow up in places that are economically sustainable

Again, the four intermediate outcomes are closely related. For example, accessible and quality local facilities will benefit local community engagement (a part of social sustainability) as well as the physical appearance of areas (physical sustainability). Additionally, improving one outcome can be expected to create a virtuous cycle benefiting other intermediate outcomes.

In addition, the "sustainable places" outcome itself also positively influences the other two ultimate outcomes. Quality housing and amenities reduce household costs, thereby feeding into the outcome on maximising household resources; while supportive communities, healthy homes, healthy and safe environments, quality services and facilities and local economic opportunities, improve physical and mental health, attainment, social inclusion and employment, feeding into the outcome on life chances.

Figure 1

Figure 1

While the three outcomes are fixed, the intermediate outcomes, particularly the short term outcomes, are more flexible and can continue to be refined in the light of new evidence and developments in our understanding of best practice.

Assessing Progress

The next stage of the outcomes work will involve the development of a full measurement framework. Over the next few months, we will be consulting with internal and external stakeholders to agree a set of indicators for measuring progress against outcomes.

These indicators should enable us to draw conclusions about progress in tackling child poverty both across the Scottish Government and more broadly. They will be used to facilitate annual reporting against our desired outcomes over the life of the Strategy and beyond. The next annual report will create the baseline for future reporting, through which we will be able to provide a snapshot showing the position on the key outcomes. Future annual reports will also be informed by research we are taking forward on the effectiveness of policy approaches in these areas.

We will discuss with the Ministerial Advisory Group how best to use these indicators in our reporting and how best to use the framework to engage others. We will explore the opportunities for using all of this within particular sectors to help identify key actions contributing to tackling child poverty and any gaps which may need to be addressed. We hope that in this way the framework can be used by others to inform specific interventions and drive work which can contribute towards the outcomes identified in this document relating to Pockets, Prospects and Places.

In line with our obligations under the Act, we will produce an annual report on the Child Poverty Strategy later in 2014, following publication of the latest national statistics on child poverty.

Improving Child Poverty Data

As part of the development of the measurement framework, we will also consider requirements for collecting additional data to fill any evidence gaps. There are a number of plans already in place to improve data on child poverty. These include:

  • Producing robust local poverty estimates. A material deprivation question set has been developed specifically for Scotland, based on the Family Resources Survey and the Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey. This will provide information on the number of children in combined low income and material deprivation at Local Authority level - which has been raised as a key data gap by stakeholders for a number of years. These deprivation items have been included in the Scottish Household Survey (SHS) from January 2014. This builds on the work undertaken by Heriot Watt University on behalf of four Local Authorities (Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife and Highland) and the Scottish Government, looking at estimates of child poverty, and the Campaign to End Child Poverty and Loughborough University child poverty statistics, based on HMRC figures, for local areas. The inclusion of the material deprivation items in the SHS will provide genuinely robust Scottish data upon which Local Authorities can plan and produce Strategies. The information will allow us to identify any specific areas that have particular issues that could be addressed by targeted intervention.
  • A final report on the Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey for Scotland, looking specifically at urban/rural differences which has been part funded by the Scottish Government, will be published in 2014.
  • Developing a persistent poverty estimate for Scotland. Persistent poverty is one of the targets in the Child Poverty Act but has remained undefined until now. Scottish Government analysts will undertake analysis of the Understanding Society dataset in order to produce an estimate of persistent poverty. Scotland level data is expected to be available in 2015.


Email: Welfare Division

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