Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland

Our vision is for a Scotland where no children are disadvantaged by poverty.

3. Scotland's approach to tackling child poverty

3.1 Maximising household resources

3.1.1 Key outcomes

A family's income significantly influences the opportunities they have to thrive. While a household's assets are not purely material, and comprise much more than financial income, increasing incomes for poor families is still an important means for achieving better outcomes for children.

Put simply, a family's financial position can be maximised by increasing the household's income and reducing outgoing payments on household essentials.

Our aim is to maximise household resources in order to ensure that as few children grow up in poor households as possible. In order to achieve this, we must focus on the following key outcomes:

  • Less families are in income poverty/material deprivation (including in-work poverty)
  • More parents are in good quality employment
  • More families are financially capable and included

3.1.2 What the evidence tells us

Appropriate work in a household remains the best way for families to escape poverty. Modelling work undertaken by the Child Poverty Unit 12 indicates that increasing employment levels can significantly reduce child poverty. Increasing levels of parental employment also promotes a household's broader health and wellbeing, particularly in an environment of constrained spending on welfare.

It is clear that increasing employment levels are more challenging in the current economic climate. By 2010 our economy had fewer jobs, higher unemployment and greater levels of competition for the jobs available.

Evidence suggests that recession does not widen the risk of poverty. It increases it for those people already most at risk of becoming poor, or remaining in poverty for longer. Primarily, this means: unskilled workers and the long-term unemployed who are furthest from the job market, particularly those who are disproportionately represented among the long-term unemployed, including disabled people, refugees and some ethnic minority groups 13. There is also evidence that young people aged 16-24 have been particularly affected by the recent rises in unemployment 14.

Those most marginalised in the labour market with the least to offer employers, such as multiple disadvantaged groups and young people entering the labour market for the first time, experience particular difficulties. Such groups were further marginalised in the recent economic crisis. Interventions can, however, be extremely successful in supporting people with complex needs into work, with proven savings to the public purse and wider social benefits 15. Our young people remain particularly at risk of missing out on a reasonable start in working life, and the evidence regarding transitions for young people is set out in section 3.2.

Simply increasing employment levels is not enough, and the number of children affected by in-work poverty remains high 16. There is still a significant number of people in persistent or recurrent poverty, who cycle between poorly paid work and benefits. Improving the availability of good quality, secure and sustainable work is clearly an important aspect of reducing levels of child poverty 17. This also includes the wider needs of families requiring to be met in order to access and sustain work, such as health and child care. A greater proportion of women are in low paid work and although the gender pay gap is narrowing, further progress must be made. 18 While child poverty is more prevalent in urban areas in Scotland, levels of low pay and in-work poverty are relatively high in rural areas, and a high proportion of poor children in rural areas live in a household where at least one adult is working 19.

It is also important to recognise that work is not possible for all parents at all times, and that much can be done to reduce burdens on household incomes and increase financial inclusion for households in and out of work. Improved financial inclusion and capability can help those living in poverty to achieve more on a low income. It can also contribute to the confidence needed to find a route out of poverty, for example through employment. Improved financial capability contributes to sustaining employment, making it easier to make the transition from benefits to earned income, for example in planning for debt repayments that have been suspended while on benefits, and making individuals more attractive to employers, for example through fewer working days being lost to stress.

Improved financial capability can also contribute to improved self esteem and a greater feeling of control among mothers and fathers which, in turn they may pass on to their children, helping break the poverty cycle. Recent evidence shows that "There is a strong association between financial capability and psychological wellbeing and also between changes in financial capability and changes in psychological wellbeing 20". A follow up study showed that this effect is likely to be sustained over time with low financial capability having long lasting effects on mental health, living standards, savings behaviour and household income 21.

3.1.3 What we are doing

A) To increase the numbers of parents in good quality employment

Promoting employment opportunities: The availability of jobs is fundamental to tackling child poverty in Scotland. Increasing sustainable economic growth plays a crucial part in creating jobs. Supporting business, enterprise, and entrepreneurship, stimulating the labour market, and broader efforts to promote Scotland's sustainable economic growth are all critical factors determining the availability of employment. In recent years, flexibility has become a hallmark of the Scottish labour market, involving reductions in hours, reductions in salaries and increased part-time working. This has opened up opportunities for good quality jobs to a greater proportion of the community.

The key sectors identified in the Government Economic Strategy (tourism, creative industries, energy, financial and business services, food and drink, life sciences and universities) have the potential to drive sustainable growth for Scotland in the long-term, while high participation sectors - construction, retail, hospitality, etc - provide jobs which often require a different range of skills including some which present a lower barrier to entry and can help more people into work.

This Government is committed to supporting essential business growth, particularly among small businesses. Public sector support for business growth and start-up is delivered by Scottish Enterprise, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, alongside the Business Gateway. A range of industry advisory groups bring together the public and private sectors and other key partners and ensure that the Scottish Government and the broader public sector are kept well informed of the needs and priorities for support. The Scottish Budget for 2010-11 also announced additional support for small businesses to grow and recruit staff plus further Flexible Training Opportunities to support small businesses seeking to invest in training. Brought together, this package of support will make a significant addition to the existing broad range of support for individuals and businesses in Scotland which seek to maximise the number of people moving into work.

In the long-term, growth in the economy stems from investment in infrastructure and improving connectivity across Scotland to support new markets, and improve labour market mobility.

The Scottish Government's forthcoming Digital Strategy will outline plans to maximise the value of the digital economy for Scotland. Digital technologies and digital enabled innovations are already playing a transformational role in our economy through the use of information and communications technologies ( ICT) by businesses and households, as an enabler of business productivity and a drive of innovation and international trade. For example, broadband and ICT more generally can play an important part in enabling more flexible working practices such as home working. These technologies offer the potential to increase participation in the labour market and to change various aspects of working life.

Capital investment can also be used to drive short-term economic and social benefit alongside long-term investment by using Community Benefit Clauses in public contracts. This is something that the Scottish Government is encouraging in procurement processes across the Scottish public sector. Community Benefit clauses have been included in the Scottish Government Energy Assistance Package and Scottish Crime Campus projects, and extensive promotion of the policy has taken place.

However while much can be done within devolved powers and responsibilities, many of the key policy levers in this field are currently reserved to the UK Government. Scottish Government is working closely with the UK Government to ensure the Welfare Reform Programme, including the Work Programme fits well with Scottish employability structures.

Promoting employability: In Local Authority areas across Scotland, local employability groups, consisting of public and third sector partners, have created local employability pipelines which set out a range of services to support individuals on a journey back to employment. Typically a pipeline will include skills, health, volunteering, drug and alcohol counselling, and money advice as options for individuals to access depending on their needs.

A number of these local pipelines have embedded the Working for Families model which identifies difficulties in accessing affordable and quality childcare as a significant barrier to employment and provides a range of support and referrals to address this. This regularly includes funding to cover childcare costs and other expenses associated with a return to work for parents. Some local employability groups also have in-work support projects for individuals who have little or no experience in the labour market and may need some initial support when moving into the workplace. These projects also work alongside employers to offer support as required.

Measures to promote employability for people with complex needs includes Scottish Government funding of the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disabilities to increase the numbers of people with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder in work. The Scottish Government is also promoting the Supported Employment approach, which provides flexible support to people with complex needs to enable them to secure and maintain paid employment in the open labour market. The Supported Employment Framework was launched in February 2010, and sets out an alternative model of supported employment that involves a staged approach of progression for an individual which will move them towards sustained, mainstream employment.

Implementation of the recommendations contained in the Framework are being taken forward, and the Scottish Government and COSLA are testing this model with key partners in two demonstration sites in Midlothian and Stirling - lessons learned will help inform and shape future practice. These will be shared with all local authorities in Scotland, and a bank of evidence and case studies that demonstrates the case for investment is being developed.

It is also recognised that inequalities exist with respect to wider equality groups within the labour market, and Scottish Government fund a number of local initiatives to break down barriers to employment. For example, Scottish Government is helping to fund the Glasgow Works Employability Programme project to implement a strategy for engaging and progressing workless and disadvantaged clients into the labour market, which includes ethnic minorities and lone parents within its target groups. Glasgow Works Ethnic Minority Employability Group is in the process of developing a toolkit of resources to support actions to reduce employment disadvantage. This work will help us better understand how current and future Scottish policies may need to change to better meet the employment needs of people from ethnic minority communities.

In addition to support to individuals, the Scottish Government encourages and supports local employability groups to develop a more coherent offer to employers which sets out the range of support locally for employers. The offer usually includes, business start-up advice, business advice, recruitment support, premises, skills support. This makes it easier for local businesses to identify support that is available to them and, where feasible, respond to any 'asks' to help those who most need it by offering (such as job placements, mentoring and support through schools enterprise programmes). Feedback is being received that this better aligned offer is helping local businesses to expand, creating local job opportunities in the local labour market.

The Scottish Government is working to ensure that the new DWP Work Programme to support people into work is implemented in Scotland in such a way that there is a clear "joined up" employability offer that helps people back into work and meets local market needs. The Scottish Government is also pressing for the transfer of the employment support functions of Jobcentre Plus in Scotland to Scottish Ministers.

Skills: The development of skills, and the opportunity to use these skills effectively, is vital in helping to ensure that Scotland's people and businesses can compete now and in the future. In 2010 the Scottish Government published a refreshed Skills Strategy "Skills for Scotland", which makes clear our commitment to skills and training at a crucial point in the economic recovery. The Strategy sets out a new flexible, responsive, partnership approach to addressing Scotland's skills and improving economic performance. The commitments made will help provide the right opportunities for skills to be developed and the right environments for these skills to be used effectively.

The refreshed strategy is based around four key themes - empowering Scotland's people, supporting Scotland's employers, simplifying the skills system and strengthening partnerships. It aims to promote equal access to and participation in skills and learning activities and career information, advice and guidance - especially those facing persistent disadvantage, inequality or discrimination.

This Government has sought to offer additional support for those seeking to gain the skills to enter work, and the Scottish Budget for 2010-11 set further plans to enhance this support. For example, a new initiative, Community Jobs Scotland, will enable up to 2,000 unemployed people to move into a job in the third sector for a minimum of 6 months, and we have also committed to a record 25,000 Modern Apprenticeship starts in the coming year. The European Social Fund also enables Scottish Government and partners to provide additional support for improving the skills of the unemployed, the lowest paid and most socially deprived people in Lowland and Upland Scotland 22. It is hoped that improving the skills and employability of Scotland's working population will, in turn, improve the employability and life chances of their children, and generations to come.

The Scottish Government also recognises the important contribution that Community Learning and Development ( CLD) can make to giving children the best start in life, in particular through work with their parents, others who care for them and the wider community that contribute to children's earliest experiences. Arrangements for supporting policy and practice in CLD are being strengthened by bringing together policy responsibilities in a more coherent way and through the establishment of a Communities team and a CLD Standards Council within Learning and Teaching Scotland.

Employability and childcare: Caring for children and balancing the demands of work and family life are crucial considerations for parents moving into and sustaining employment. The availability of affordable and accessible childcare plays a very significant role in parents' choices and chances in the labour market, particularly for lone parents.

Support for parents with the costs of childcare (outwith free pre-school education) is provided through tax credits and childcare vouchers, which currently operate under a complex system. These are matters which are reserved to Westminster but the Scottish Government will continue to press for a single, progressive and more accessible means of supporting childcare costs.

Support for childcare is delivered through a mixed economy of local authority, third and private sector and family-based arrangements. There is no statutory duty on national or local government to support childcare, and Scottish Government resources to support childcare are included in the overall local government settlement - local authorities work with local childcare partnerships to plan and support childcare in the local area. The Early Years Framework makes a strong commitment to the importance of affordable, flexible and accessible childcare and states a long-term aim to ensure access to integrated pre-school and childcare services in every community matched to an assessment of local needs and demand.

While many parents are satisfied with the childcare services they receive, there are clearly still many families who experience difficulties with affordability of childcare, or who may not feel able to access services 23.

While it is unlikely that the Scottish Government or local partners will be able to devote significant new resources to supporting the costs of childcare in the immediate future, there is scope to work with stakeholders to look at innovative ideas and stimulate their development.

We will examine the evidence on building capacity within communities to provide local childcare solutions, including development of community-based social enterprise models, and examine what further can be done to foster greater trust in service providers and to ensure that childcare services are provided in ways that are most appropriate and sensitive to their users' needs.

The promotion of family-friendly working practices can also help to ensure that more people with children can access and sustain employment. The Scottish Government believes that a more flexible labour market can play a key part in our economic recovery and in increasing levels of productivity. Businesses can benefit through reduced absenteeism and higher staff retention, as well as increased productivity and the ability to recruit from a wider talent pool. For individuals, flexibility enables them to better balance work, home and caring responsibilities.

The Scottish Government welcome the extension of the right to request flexible working for all parents of children under 18 and will work with the UK Government on the implementation of these rights in Scotland.

It is also recognised that childcare is often required in order to enable parents to further their education and improve their family's prospects.

The Scottish Government has recently reviewed the current provision of childcare support available through Discretionary Funds and new arrangements will be put in place, from academic year 2011/12, with the objective of ensuring a more even distribution which better meets the demand of student parents across the Further and Higher Education sectors.

Making work pay: Low pay affects certain sectors of industry and society disproportionately. It is known that the problems of low pay and in-work poverty are mainly concentrated in the private sector, particularly in the retail and hospitality sectors, and that these are particular issues for many rural communities. It is also known that many women and some minority ethnic communities - particularly women from these communities - are disproportionately affected by low pay often working in part time jobs.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation research into the Minimum Income Standard 24 ( MIS) makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the income required to have an acceptable standard of living in the UK today. The Scottish Living Wage Campaign have made the case for introducing a living wage based on the MIS analysis.

The Scottish Government support the aspirations of the campaign and believe that employers should reward their staff fairly. In line with this, Scottish Government is working within the powers available to address low pay, and our 2011-12 Public Sector Pay Policy commits to paying a living wage.

The Scottish Government has undertaken a literature and evidence review to gather material on vulnerable workers in Scotland which will be published in 2011. It identifies the key vulnerable groups, employment sectors and geographical areas and considers the challenges and opportunities that exist to improve awareness of rights and responsibilities. The national minimum wage, and statutory workers rights in general, are reserved to the UK Government. A recent campaign to raise awareness of vulnerable workers rights has seen the implementation of a new pay and work rights helpline which provides a unified point of contact for both employers and workers.

The Tackling Poverty Board discussions identified the important role of the private sector in tackling poverty as employers, community planning partners and service providers. Work is underway to develop an approach which will raise awareness and support good practice among small and medium enterprise in Scotland with the aim of embedding tackling poverty and other inequalities into corporate policy.

Closing the gender pay gap: It is not acceptable in the 21st century that gender stereotyping and occupational segregation, major contributors to the gender pay gap, exist. In Scotland, tackling gender stereotyping and occupational segregation is a Ministerial priority for advancing equality of opportunity between women and men, and the Scottish Government published reports in July 2010, giving an overview of progress across public authorities in tackling these issues. Gender stereotyping and occupational segregation are ingrained social problems which require attitudinal change to make a real difference.

The Scottish Government continues to take action to close the gender pay gap and tackle occupational segregation, largely via its participation in Close the Gap 25, a partnership project to raise awareness about the gender pay gap and its causes and to encourage action by employees and employers to close the gap. Close the Gap is also planning to undertake a campaign that will raise awareness of non-stereotypical career choices with young people aged between 11 and 14, teachers, and parents.

Key measures: to increase the numbers of parents in good quality employment

Promoting employment opportunities, through supporting essential business growth - for example, through additional support for small businesses to grow and recruit staff and the expansion of Flexible Training Opportunities.

Promoting employability, for example by embedding effective approaches to employability support for people with complex needs, such as the Supported Employment approach.

Continuing to develop a flexible and responsive approach to skills and training, through implementing Skills for Scotland, and offering additional support for those seeking to gain the skills to enter work, for example through the new Community Jobs Scotland initiative and record numbers of Modern Apprenticeships.

Putting in place new arrangements for childcare support for student parents through Discretionary Funds, and working with local partners to improve childcare provision through examining the evidence and developing innovative delivery models.

Recognising the additional pressures faced by lone parents and promoting flexibility in childcare and employment practice.

Committing to paying a living wage to all employees covered by the Scottish Government's 2011-12 Public Sector Pay Policy.

Developing better links with the private sector to tackle poverty, for example by developing work to raise awareness and support good practice among employers.

Taking action through 'Close the Gap' to close the gender pay gap and tackle occupational segregation.

B) To increase household incomes

Financial inclusion:Achieving Our Potential sets out the Scottish Government's approach to maximising incomes through greater financial inclusion, for example by supporting and empowering families to reduce debts and take greater control of their finances to reduce pressure on household budgets. Access to the right information, advice and financial services can make significant impacts on the material wellbeing of families.

To build financial inclusion, it is important to engage people at key transition points in their lives, to provide support to enable good decision making and build skills for the future. Equally Well, and the subsequent review, emphasise "the need to prioritise and sustain public services which directly support the most vulnerable people, both to maximise their income and to enter or maintain employment where appropriate". Community Planning Partners are expected to harness opportunities to embed financial inclusion opportunities into existing pathways and referrals for individuals, for example, through maternity and early years, housing and employability services. Innovative partnerships and programmes are in place across local authorities with a particular focus on key vulnerable groups and public sector services which interface with them.

Information, advice and support is available through networks such as citizens advice bureaux, local authority welfare rights services and third sector organisations such as Parenting Across Scotland, the Child Poverty Action Group, One Parent Families Scotland, Contact a Family and the Family Fund. Registered social landlords are encouraged to broaden the scope of their role as landlords through the Wider Role Fund which made £36 million available between 2008-11 and will allocate £6 million in 2011-12. The priorities for the Fund are tackling poverty, community decline and worklessness; making early interventions for vulnerable individuals, families and disadvantaged communities; improving employability as a key means of tackling poverty; and, income maximisation.

Financial capability: Tackling financial exclusion in its early stages, as well as ensuring that the right support and advice is available at crisis points, is essential. Financial capability is the early intervention for financial inclusion, tackling one of the causes of poverty and deprivation rather than struggling to deal with the symptoms. It should be the entry point to money advice services, leading on to income maximisation and access to affordable credit.

The aim of financial capability work is to develop the ability and confidence of individuals so that they have the motivation and skills to manage their finances, can engage confidently with banks and other providers of financial services and make better informed decisions about products such as insurance and loans.

Financial capability alone is not the answer to the complex financial exclusion issues faced by vulnerable and excluded groups. Choices are limited by poor access to alternative products and services, low income and often by the prevailing culture. These factors need to be tackled in parallel. However, low income families, single parents and women are among the groups most likely to be at particular risk from the consequences of poor financial decision making and services targeting these groups should include a financial capability component.

  • There are already excellent examples of this kind of approach. Scottish Government have funded two pilot programmes - Barnardo's You First project and Healthier, Wealthier Children, run by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde 26 - working with new mothers to build financial capability, and will ensure that effective practice lessons from both of these programmes are promoted.
  • From 1 April 2011, Citizens Advice Scotland will be providing a financial capability service in Scotland on behalf of the Money Advice Service. The service offers free and impartial information and guidance on money matters such as budgeting, tax and welfare benefits, borrowing and saving.
  • The Scottish Government and the Consumer Financial Education Body are developing a framework for co-ordination and communication on financial capability issues in Scotland. This is intended to give financial capability a national focus and profile and to provide leadership and coordination. The website, Financial Learning Online 27, will provide a single resource for policy, research, resources and examples of practice on financial capability in Scotland 28.

The Tackling Poverty Board statement and evidence report highlight the value of income maximisation and financial capability as significant drivers of poverty and make the following recommendations:

  • The Board wishes to reinforce the importance of financial inclusion as a powerful lever in tackling poverty. It endorses the recommendations in the financial capability strategy 29 and the tackling poverty-related recommendations in the Equally Well Review30, in particular that public sector organisations should look to mainstream successful approaches to income maximisation and financial inclusion.
  • Financial capability services, which help people build the skills and motivation to make informed decisions about money, should be regarded as preventative spend and protected on that basis against cuts to funding levels. There is a need to highlight the huge impact that low income has on financial capability, and that low income should be seen as part of the problem. Financial capability shouldn't however be regarded as a substitute for the provision of simple and accessible financial products and services.

Key measures: to increase household incomes

Promoting financial inclusion and capability, by:

  • continuing to support the national information and advice infrastructure in Scotland,
  • embedding financial inclusion and capability across mainstream national and local service provision, such as housing and health,
  • working with partners such as the Consumer Financial Education Body to improve leadership and co-ordination on financial capability.

C) To reduce pressure on household budgets

Measures to reduce pressure on household budgets have a particularly significant impact on the financial and wider wellbeing of low income households 31. Essential household costs, such as food and fuel, are often higher in rural areas 32. The Scottish Government has reduced pressures on household budgets in Scotland, through a variety of measures - and will continue to do so across a range of essential household costs. Measures such as freezing council tax and introducing free prescription charges have reduced pressure on budgets for most households in Scotland. There are also measures that are directed specifically towards low income families.

The Scottish Government is alleviating the effects of rising energy prices. A target has been set to ensure - so far as reasonably practicable - that by 2016 no-one is living in fuel poverty. Since April 2009, the fuel poverty programme, the Energy Assistance Package, has helped over 100,000 people on low incomes reduce their energy bills and keep their homes warm, now and for years to come. This programme has been expanded to target more fuel poor families, including families with children under 5 and those with disabled children under 16.

While the electricity and gas market is a reserved issue, the Scottish Government continue to press the UK Government to work with energy providers to reduce costs for low income households. The Scottish Government has also worked to provide advice to households through the Home Energy Hotline and to promote this through national and local media.

The Scottish Government is also working to reduce costs of essentials such as food and housing for families. Access to affordable and nutritious food is vital, and Scotland's National Food and Drink Policy sets out the commitment to affordable food and alternative food systems and community and social enterprise based activities. The Scottish Government is working with partners through the Access and Affordability Expert Group to determine the evidence on food poverty in Scotland and to build a long term strategic programme for a stronger community food and health sector, in order to improve access to affordable and healthy food for vulnerable groups.

Free school meal entitlement criteria has been extended to all parents who are in receipt of both maximum child tax credit and maximum working tax credit. This ensures more families in need of support can benefit from the provision of free school meals.

Over the 3 years 2008/9 to 2010/11 the Scottish Government will invest a record £1.7 billion in support of new affordable housing. This includes spending around £224 million on housing projects approved in the current Affordable Housing Investment Programme but not yet completed. In addition, we have announced a new £50 million Investment and Innovation Fund, which will stimulate creative ideas, fresh thinking and innovation to invigorate social housing across Scotland. The new Fund is expected to support the building of around 1,500 new affordable homes and release more than £100 million in additional investment.

In assessing proposals for Council House Building, the Scottish Government and COSLA will continue to take account of affordability of planned rents. The RSL sector has already made clear its commitment to affordability - particularly in the light of the UK Government's cuts in housing benefit and wider welfare benefits.

Although it will remain a top priority to support housing options for the poorest, the Scottish Government also recognises the role of government to help address housing issues for those on low to moderate incomes, who might otherwise find themselves without viable choices.

An expansion of shared equity provision is part of our response to improve the choices available to this group. In addition, we will support a substantial expansion of intermediate rental properties to complement social rented housing and ease the pressures on it, through mechanisms such as the National Housing Trust initiative 33.

The council tax system also has significant influence over household incomes. The Scottish Government believe the current council tax system should be replaced with a fairer tax based on ability to pay.

Scottish Ministers intend to bring forward their plans for a fairer tax in the run up to the next election in May 2011.

The Scottish Government has fully funded a council tax freeze in each of the last 3 years (2008-11). The Government's preference is to extend the freeze for a further year in 2011-12 and is committed to working with Scotland's councils to provide further protection to households across Scotland.

Welfare reform: In Achieving Our Potential, the Scottish Government highlighted the built-in disincentives in the welfare benefit system for many people who are looking to move from benefits into work. Achieving Our Potential sets out the Scottish Government's belief that any benefits system should provide security of income, support transitions to employment, and allow those who cannot afford to work to live in dignity.

The UK Coalition Government has announced its intention to replace key income based working age benefits with a Universal Credit. By introducing a uniform taper which reduces benefit levels for those moving into work as other income increases, the aim of the Universal Credit is to ensure that work pays for all groups. The Scottish Government has welcomed the move to streamline and simplify the benefits system although insufficient information is available to judge the eventual impact on poverty levels.

Further, tax increases and cuts to existing benefits, in particular the VAT rise and Housing Benefit reductions, which were announced during 2010 will leave those most vulnerable in society significantly worse off. This Government has made clear its belief, backed up by both UK Government and independent analysis that these changes will not support achievement of UK wide targets on child poverty 34. The Scottish Government will continue to make this case to the UK Government and to press for reconsideration of these cuts which threaten to undermine the radical overhaul of the benefits system.

The Scottish Government is concerned that the reservation of benefits to the UK government will lead to any specific and particular impacts being marginalised. Whilst these matters are largely reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government want to ensure that the impact on devolved matters are fully understood.

The Scottish Government will continue to conduct analysis of the impact of the changes being introduced and to make representations to UK Ministers on these impacts on the people of Scotland, our policies and devolved services.

The intention is that analysis emerging on the potential impacts of the benefit reforms will be shared, challenged and further developed with key stakeholders with an interest in this work. The Scottish Government will encourage individuals and organisations to share emerging analysis of local and national impacts as they become known. This analysis will help to inform Scottish Ministers as well as other organisations seeking to secure positive change in the lives of the people of Scotland.

The Scottish Government has convened a Welfare Reform Scrutiny Group to encourage a wider range of individuals and organisations to contribute to the debate and help inform any representations potentially made unilaterally or collaboratively on the UK proposals. It is recognised that in order to better understand the impacts on particular individuals and families, it will be useful for those delivering front line services to be able to describe the effects of the changes on an individual and cumulative basis. For example the need to track the consequences of change on lone parents and carers, amongst others is necessary. This understanding will help inform any activity that might be able to take place to mitigate the effects of both the benefit cuts and benefit reforms within our sphere of influence.

Key measures: to reduce pressure on household budgets

Reducing essential household costs for low income households, for example by:

  • alleviating the effects of rising energy prices, through the Energy Assistance Package and Home Energy Hotline,
  • working to improve access to affordable and healthy food through the Access and Affordability Expert Group,
  • extending free school meal criteria to all parents in receipt of qualifying benefits
  • investing record amounts in support of new affordable housing.

Continuing to reduce the essential costs of living through measures such as freezing council tax, and introducing free prescription charges.

Analysing the impacts of changes to the welfare system on people in Scotland, making representations to the UK Government on these impacts, and working with stakeholders to contribute to, and influence the debate.

3.2 Improving children's life chances

3.2.1 Key outcomes

A sustainable solution to child poverty requires a far broader approach than purely focusing on maximising household incomes and resources. We must also minimise the impact of socio-economic disadvantage for children by promoting the wellbeing of children and families with the ultimate aim of improved outcomes for children.

It is unacceptable that families' economic circumstances still determine a child's chance of enjoying the positive future that should be their right.

The Scottish Government aim to improve children's life chances - to ensure that the risks of growing up in poverty are mitigated as much as possible. In order to achieve this, the Scottish Government intends to focus on the following key outcomes:

  • Children grow up in nurturing, stable households, with good parenting and home learning environments
  • More children have positive outcomes in the early years
  • Children and young people receive the opportunities they need to succeed, regardless of their socio-economic background
  • More young people are in positive and sustained destinations
  • Families receive the support they need, when they need it - especially the most vulnerable
  • Reduced health inequalities among children and families

3.2.2 What the evidence tells us

There is a strong research base and rationale behind the prioritisation of early intervention. Ensuring that children's early years are a priority is a fundamental part of this. The Early Years Framework explains that: "the early years are a period of rapid development and can have a major influence on the rest of a person's life.. [they] provide the first and best opportunity to set children off on the right trajectory and reduce the need for later interventions that are more costly in both financial and social terms." 35

The Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Dr Harry Burns, has provided significant evidence-based insights on how a child's early experiences influence their later development - both socially and biologically 36. Parental attachment in the early years in particular, and good, consistent parenting more generally, are the key factors in building a sense of coherence and, in turn, increasing a person's chances of experiencing a range of positive social outcomes. On the other hand, chaotic surroundings and lack of coherence can produce consistently higher stress levels as children grow up. This impacts directly on cognitive and emotional development, and can lead to a higher likelihood of experiencing problems in later life, such as poor health, low educational attainment, substance misuse and offending.

Along with parental attachment and parenting skills, other factors in the early caring environment have a powerful influence over a child's later outcomes, particularly the home learning environment. Evidence is also clear that access to high quality pre-school and school education can have a significant compensating role - for example the EPPE 3-11 longitudinal study showed that high quality education had a significant effect on attainment at age 11, and that this effect was especially strong for children from deprived backgrounds 37.

Evidence of the negative impact of leaving school early with few or no qualifications is well documented. The longer-term consequences of youth unemployment and disengagement from learning include poor health outcomes, involvement in crime, lower income potential, and less job security 38. The benefits of remaining engaged in learning after age 16 are therefore now widely recognised, as ongoing participation and increased attainment has been shown to strengthen young people's progression to further learning, training and sustained employment.

Increasing skills development, employability and income potential for the most vulnerable young people in society will therefore assist them in avoiding the more long-term 'scars' of youth unemployment. Supporting young people to make positive transitions as they leave school is an important way of alleviating the immediate impact of poverty while they are young, and reducing the likelihood of poverty in adult life.

Reviews of the research evidence and administrative data on young people who need more choices and chances to achieve their potential suggest that this is not a homogenous group, but a diverse range of young people with differing backgrounds who often have multiple and complex support issues.

Underpinning all of this, ensuring that services are appropriately designed, and that the skills and attitudes of professionals working with deprived families is a critical part of ensuring that their needs are met 39.

3.2.3 What we are doing

  • To ensure that children grow up in nurturing, stable households, with good parenting and home learning environments, and
  • To ensure that more children have positive outcomes in the early years

The Early Years Framework, published in 2008, has a long term time horizon of 10 years, but we consider that we are making solid progress, despite worsening pressures on budgets. One of the key tasks for national and local government, the NHS and other partners will be to maintain and build consensus and impetus so that progress continues and is not derailed by financial pressures or competing priorities. This will mean continued and strengthened engagement with local partners at both political and official levels. Some examples of progress which the Scottish Government has made with local partners are outlined below:

  • Agreed with local government that the early years should be a priority area in the 2010-11 Single Outcome Agreements and we hope to ensure a continued commitment from local government to the three policy frameworks in our agreement with COSLA for 2011-12;
  • Expanded entitlement to pre-school education - providing 8 million more hours for Scottish children;
  • Increased the numbers of children having access to a teacher in pre-school settings - over 5000 more children had access to a teacher in January 2010 compared to the previous year. Over the last 2 years, over 9000 more children have had access to a teacher;
  • Undertaken extensive programmes of local engagement by Ministers and officials, including visits to Community Planning Partnerships, local authorities, health boards, "roadshows" and communities of interest events.
  • Provided £4 million to support the "Go Play" programme delivered through Inspiring Scotland's venture philanthropy approach;
  • We have provided £1 million over 3 years to support the implementation of 'Play@Home' across Scotland, through NHS Health Scotland;
  • We are providing £1.6 million and £3.2 million to test the Family Nurse Partnership in the City of Edinburgh and NHS Tayside, respectively, for first time teenage mothers;
  • Funded Strathclyde, Stirling and Aberdeen Universities to develop courses specialising in early years teaching;
  • Delivered the first year of the Play Talk Read social marketing campaign to encourage parents to spend quality time playing and reading with their children and to raise the importance and profile of the early years agenda to the wider population;
  • Secured agreement from Chief Executive of NHSScotland that the Getting It Right For Every Child approach should underpin delivery of all healthcare provision directed towards children and their families.

The Scottish Government has adopted the same collaborative and partnership approach to implementation of the Early Years Framework as was taken to develop the policy. A prescriptive or "one size fits all" approach was deliberately avoided and the Scottish Government is engaging with Community Planning Partnerships, individual councils and NHS Boards and stakeholders in the third and private sectors to drive forward implementation. The Progress Report on implementation of the Framework, published in February 2011 shows excellent progress on the national-level actions set out in the framework 40. There are 10 associated local case studies which show innovative local actions 41.

While the success of the Framework will be dictated largely by local action, the Scottish Government is supporting several initiatives at national level and, depending on evaluation and the availability of resources, will consider the possibilities of wider roll-out in discussion with our partners. Some examples follow later in the document.

While the bulk of resources aimed at improving outcomes in the early years are directed through local government and the NHS in particular, the third sector also plays a key role in providing high quality and innovative services for children and families; including families who are often vulnerable and at risk.

  • For these reasons the Scottish Government intend to protect current levels of funding for 2010-11, for those organisations supported through the Children, Young People and Families Unified Voluntary Sector Fund (£7.1 million).
  • We have also announced a new third sector Early Years and Early Action Fund, with a start up budget of £6.8 million. This will support the frontline delivery of effective early interventions by national third sector bodies.

Decent housing is also an important aspect of ensuring that children have the stable environment that they need to succeed in life.

As well as the work to support the delivery of new affordable homes, and to reduce levels of fuel poverty, the Scottish Government is also working closely with local government and others, including Registered Social Landlords, to ensure that we meet the commitment that all unintentionally homeless people will have the right to settled accommodation by 2012, and published guidance in June to help authorities identify the areas to consider when working with homeless households that include children.

The Scottish Housing Options Funding Programme is also funding and supporting local authorities to make the changes needed to move towards a more holistic housing options approach to homelessness prevention. Other work with COSLA and key partners is to share best practice across local authorities on the prevention of homelessness and provision of supported accommodation.

Key measures: to ensure that more children have positive outcomes in the early years, and that more children grow up in nurturing, stable households, with good parenting and home learning environments

Working extensively with national and local partners to implement the Early Years Framework.

Expanding entitlement to pre-school education.

Increasing the number of children having access to a teacher in pre-school settings.

Improving play opportunities for children through initiatives such as 'Go Play', 'Play@Home' and 'Play Talk Read'.

Supporting frontline delivery of effective early interventions for young children, for example through the new Early Years Early Action Fund.

Ensuring that children grow up in decent housing, for example by working closely with partners to meet the commitment that all unintentionally homeless people have the right to settled accommodation by 2012.

3.2.4 Reduced health inequalities among children and families

Children living in severe and persistent poverty are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of poverty and health. Health improvement policy and practice presents significant opportunities to identify, support and address a range of factors that are drivers of child poverty and poor outcomes for children. Evidence which underpins our understanding of the interface between poverty and health inequalities is widespread and is increasingly embedded into the policy implementation and core services of the health sector and its planning and delivery partners across Community Planning Partnerships. Equally Well in particular consolidates the vital role that social and economic determinants play in health inequalities, and the importance of promoting good health and wellbeing in the earliest years of life.

NHS maternal and antenatal health care has a unique role to play as the only universal public service for women and infants in the pre-birth phase. Recently-published and complementary documents on antenatal health inequalities, maternity services, infant nutrition, children's health, breastfeeding and vulnerable family pathways 42 all recognise and respond to the prominence of social gradient in managing risk and poor outcomes in maternal and antenatal health. Collectively they provide a framework which addresses the largely socially determined variations in health outcomes for women and their babies that are determined pre-conceptually and during pregnancy.

The reports bring together evidence, key messages, standards and guidance which build on the assets-based approach and the existing GIRFEC structures in setting expectations for the maternal and early years health workforce. Child poverty is reflected throughout the reports as a cause and consequence of inequalities in maternal health, antenatal and infant health outcomes. Early intervention and collaboration underpin the approaches through the delivery of universal services where needs are assessed and individualised responses are developed at the earliest opportunity ensuring action and care can be tailored and progressively intensified depending on circumstances.

This comprehensive and far-reaching approach has the potential to make a significant impact on maternal and early years inequalities and beyond. Inequalities appearing at pregnancy, birth and in the early years often have a significant bearing on maternal health and the subsequent development of the child, its' health, happiness and productivity in society. A number of the measurements, standards and key messages have strong resonance with tackling child poverty in particular: the acknowledgement that those who are at the greatest risk of poor pregnancy outcomes are the least likely to access and/or benefit from the healthcare that they need; workforce development, support and supervision to shift practice to ensure staff have knowledge and understanding of how social inequalities impact on women's health and health behaviours; and, improving access to, and the quality of antenatal healthcare to strengthen NHS capacity to respond to the needs of women in high risk groups, including breast feeding; promotion of smoking cessation, abstinence from alcohol use and financial inclusion approaches such as income maximisation, financial capability support and money and debt advice services.

The valuable and influential role of public health nursing in tackling child poverty and supporting families at risk of poorer outcomes is gaining momentum and profile and is highlighted in a number of local programmes aimed at tackling early years inequalities, most notably the Equally Well Test Site in East Lothian 43, the Healthier, Wealthier Children project in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde 44, the Family Nurse Partnership early intervention programme being tested in the City of Edinburgh and NHS Tayside and the Barnardo's You First programme being piloted in parts of East, West and Midlothian (outwith the Family Nurse Partnership pilot areas). Health care settings and health professional community outreach in particular present opportunities to support families that are at risk of poorer outcomes through mainstreaming approaches which embed financial capability, money and debt advice and income maximisation support and referral into their practice. All of the programmes are being evaluated with a view to promoting sustainability of the key elements and to sharing learning nationally.

Continuing to promote and support good mental and physical health and wellbeing among children and young people as they develop towards adulthood is vital to the development of happy, healthy and productive future generations and parents of further generations. The NHSScotland Quality Strategy 45 outlines the NHS' quality ambitions in serving the health needs of Scotland's communities. At the heart of these is a continuing commitment to take forward preventive health action in a person-centred way to tackle health inequalities and address the needs of those communities with the highest levels of morbidity and mortality.

Health harms from alcohol and drug misuse, tobacco, poor sexual health and violence are disproportionately high in the most deprived populations and much action is focused on young people who are already at risk of poor outcomes through circumstances such as poverty, low educational attainment and looked-after children.

Multi-agency partnerships involving joint working between NHS Boards and community planning partners such as local authorities, the police and Third Sector partners provide information, advice and interventions which support people to make healthy choices by encouraging responsible and safe behaviour.

Key measures: to reduce health inequalities among children and families

Working extensively with national and local partners to implement the recommendations of Equally Well.

Ensuring that learning from health-based pilots such as the Family Nurse Partnership, 'You First' and 'Healthier, Wealthier Children' are promoted across the health service and wider public sector to highlight the important role that health and their local partners play in supporting families at risk of poorer outcomes.

Working with partners to ensure that training, education and support for NHS staff includes an understanding of the impact of social determinants such as child poverty on health inequalities.

3.2.5 Children and young people receive the opportunities they need to
succeed, regardless of their socio-economic background

Improving educational outcomes for all children and young people is a clear priority for this Government and there are already a wide range of policies being delivered to tackle the causes of educational disadvantage. Curriculum for Excellence, the Early Years Framework and Getting it Right for Every Child set out the vision of, and approach to, providing a personalised and coherent package of learning and support, enabling every child and young person to achieve their potential, whatever their circumstances.

Educational attainment in Scotland is high and continues to improve. However, it is still the case that young people from deprived backgrounds are less likely to do well at school and progress to a positive and sustained destination.

Curriculum for Excellence includes the entitlement that all children and young people should receive the support they need to make the most of educational opportunities.

The Supporting Learners framework sets out the range of national policies and frameworks which support all children and young people from the early years to positive sustained destinations, wherever their learning takes place. Supporting Learners 46 recognises the contribution of both universal and targeted support in meeting all learners' needs.

The Education (Additional Support for Learning) Act 2004 (as amended) enables children and young people to get the support they need to overcome barriers to learning arising from additional support needs. These barriers may arise for any reason including due to disability or health needs, learning environment, family circumstances (including those of Looked After Children and young carers) or social and emotional factors - factors often strongly connected to child poverty. The legislation places duties on education authorities to identify, meet and keep under review the additional support needs of all pupils for whom they are responsible, and to tailor provision according to their individual needs.

The Scottish Government has supported Learning Teaching Scotland to produce new advice on embedding the Curriculum for Excellence in the early years for both practitioners and parents. Measures to reduce class sizes - including forthcoming new legislation to introduce legal limits for class sizes in Primary 1 - are also intended to improve the quality of children's learning experiences.

It is recognised that young people deserve a range of positive opportunities and support in their lives, not just with learning. Valuing Young People 47 sets out a range of principles and connections to support young people achieve their potential. It is a common reference point for anyone working with young people and will support a much wider partnership in the delivery of outcomes and opportunities for young people - detailing key policies and partners working to deliver positive outcomes for young people.

Key measures: to ensure that children and young people receive the opportunities they need to succeed, regardless of their socio-economic background

Continuing to transform education in Scotland through Curriculum for Excellence, and providing advice and support to practitioners and parents - including the Supporting Learners Framework.

Taking forward new legislation to reduce class sizes, improving children's learning experiences.

3.2.6 More young people are in positive and sustained destinations

For most young people, their transition to adulthood helps to set them up for success, but some face issues in this period that can have significant long term consequences. Clearly not all periods of economic and educational inactivity experienced by young people indicate disengagement or disaffection, and they do not necessarily harm later life chances - but for some, this is a pivotal life stage and not having the right choices, chances and support can have a scarring effect in the longer term. Helping young people to move into positive and sustained destinations beyond school is a key concern for the Scottish Government.

16+ Learning Choices: (16+ LC) is the Scottish Government's model to support young people into positive and sustained destinations after age 16 (post-compulsory education). The policy is set out in the 16+ Learning Choices Policy and Practice Framework 48 (April 2010). 16+ Learning Choices has been a universal offer to all young people reaching their school leaving date from December 2010.

16+ LC aims to ensure an offer of appropriate post-16 learning for every young person who wants it before they make a transition within the Senior Phase of Curriculum for Excellence (broadly age 15-18). The model has three components: the right provision; the right personal support and careers information, advice and guidance and the right financial support.

Activity Agreements: As part of 16+ LC, the Scottish Government are piloting a new programme of Activity Agreements for young people who are most vulnerable, furthest from the labour market and already not in employment, education or training.

An Activity Agreement is a tailored package of learning and support, targeted at those most vulnerable young people who are not able to sustain school or to progress into a positive destination. The content of an Activity Agreement can be very broad, from team-building to cultural activity, from self-confidence to sport. The most significant features are individualisation, engagement of a young person at whatever level they need, a focus on progression and support from a trusted professional.

Activity Agreements focus on ensuring that the Curriculum for Excellence entitlements are delivered for those young people who, post-16, are participating in non-formal learning in a community learning and development or third sector setting.

Information, Advice and Guidance: The Scottish Government will soon be publishing a new Career Information, Advice and Guidance ( IAG) Strategy. This redesigns careers services in Scotland to improve services, to provide better access and to encourage self-help through online tools, backed up by support from a careers practitioner where appropriate.

High-quality, impartial Career IAG should enthuse individuals about their future lives, raise aspirations and encourage them to strive for a goal. It should challenge stereotypes and pre-conceived ideas and help individuals to identify a way forward which is right for them. It should also encourage individuals to explore learning in further and higher education, open up their eyes to careers previously unknown and support vulnerable individuals to overcome barriers that may prevent them fulfilling their potential.

We want to empower individuals to manage their own progression through lifelong learning and employment. Some people lead fragmented, chaotic lives and need to be engaged, motivated and supported to enable them to succeed. For others, social, cultural, geographic or economic barriers can inhibit them from fulfilling their potential.

The Scottish Government is committed to an all age, universal careers service that is targeted for those who need support most. Career services and IAG support should be available to all young people, but resources should, in particular, be targeted at supporting more vulnerable young people. This will include Looked After Children, Care Leavers, young people with Additional Support Needs, those with multiple and complex support needs, and young offenders. There is also a particular focus within our careers services on those who are underperforming at school, who require more choices and more chances and are at risk of disengaging from education.

Education Maintenance Allowance: Vulnerable young people may also be supported financially to remain in learning post-16. The main policy lever for financial support is Education Maintenance Allowance.

Education Maintenance Allowance ( EMA) provides financial support to young people from low-income households undertaking appropriate full-time courses at school or college. Disadvantaged and vulnerable young people from
low-income families are less likely to stay in formal education after compulsory education has ended, may leave school without qualifications and are thus at risk of unemployment, insecure employment and social exclusion. EMA aims to reduce financial barriers to staying on, and thus improve post-16 participation, retention and achievement rates in education among young people from low-income families.

Current figures (2008-09) for EMA show that 39,000 school pupils and college students in Scotland received EMA payments in the academic year 2008-09. The programme in Scotland has been refocused so that the support it offers is targeted at those young people from the lowest-income families; we are protecting this programme and the important support it provides to young people to help them remain in learning.

Inspiring Scotland 14-19 fund: The third sector has a critical role in providing opportunities and support to many of our most vulnerable young people. One of the ways Scottish Government supports this is through our major investment in Inspiring Scotland's 14:19 Fund. This offers long-term funding to over 20 third sector organisations, supporting them to develop the services they provide to young people and working closely with local authorities and other partners to improve young people's experiences and outcomes.

Key measures: to ensure that more young people are in positive and sustained destinations

Ensuring that all young people receive an offer of appropriate post-16 learning, through 16+ Learning Choices - including:

  • Activity Agreements for the most vulnerable,
  • Financial support to young people from low-income households to remain in education through Education Maintenance Allowances,
  • Reshaping careers services for young people through our new Careers Information, Advice and Guidance Strategy.
  • Continuing to provide support to vulnerable young people through investment in Inspiring Scotland's 14-19 Fund.

3.2.7 Families receive the support they need, when they need it -
especially the most vulnerable

As detailed in section 2, the Getting it Right for Every Child approach is about putting the needs of children and families at the very centre of service provision. As well as the work being undertaken to embed GIRFEC at local level, much is being done to improve the infrastructure of service delivery for children and families at national level.

Future Scrutiny of Children's Services: The Scottish Government and existing scrutiny bodies have been working together to develop streamlined scrutiny functions of care and healthcare services for children and adults - not only by reducing the number of scrutiny bodies but also ensuring scrutiny activity is
risk-based and more proportionate in its application.

Specifically, the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 brings together key scrutiny functions previously carried out by a number of separate bodies into new healthcare and social care scrutiny bodies. The new bodies Healthcare Improvement Scotland and Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland will come into existence in April 2011.

Getting it Right for Every Child, with its ten core components and eight well-being indicators (Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible and Included), provide the focus for evaluation on which the improvement system will be structured. Scrutiny activity (including inspections) will be organised around risks and problems, as well as organisation and services. By focussing scrutiny activity on the individual child, and the various risk factors they face, rather than inspecting by theme (the same child may be affected by several issues concurrently, e.g. child protection, parental substance misuse) it will be possible to streamline future scrutiny activity. This objective will be an important element in the piloting of the methodologies for integrated children's services inspections. Some proportionate inspection activity will still focus on themes, with the focus on outcomes for children and young people.

"Children's Workforce" development: Those who work with children, young people and families across health, education, social services, justice and community services have a crucial role in promoting their wellbeing and opportunities. This workforce needs to be equipped with the skills, knowledge and professional values to:

  • work and communicate well together across disciplinary and organisational boundaries.
  • intervene early, tackle inequalities and build the capacity of individuals, families and communities, utilising their strengths.

A Common Skills Working Group has been convened to identify the skills, knowledge and values that everyone should have if they work with children, young people or families in Scotland. The consultation around this "common core" of skills, knowledge and values has been launched to achieve two goals:

  • agree the content of the common core
  • generate ideas, and commitments around how the common core will be implemented.

After the consultation, the Scottish Government will continue to convene the working group to finalise the common core, publish an Implementation Plan and monitor progress. This Plan will include the commitments of a wide variety in organisations in Scotland describing how, and when, they will implement the common core.

Vulnerable children and families: We need to ensure a particular focus on the most vulnerable children and families. These include families with disabled children, children who offend, are in homeless families, looked after or accommodated, who live in substance misusing households, are at risk in situations of domestic abuse and violence or live with parents who have mental health problems or learning disabilities. In many instances, these risk factors overlap and are strongly associated with poverty and deprivation.

The Early Years Framework has a particular focus on improving outcomes for such groups and the Scottish Government is working with local partners to ensure there is a continuum of care for vulnerable children and young people that supports them well beyond their early years, in line with Getting it Right for Every Child principles and approaches.

For example, Health for all Children (Hall 4) is a surveillance, assessment and need identification programme which provides NHS Boards with the foundation for working with young children, and the means of access to more intensive support for those with greater needs.

Another example is ongoing work targeted at families affected by disability. As well as funding for a range of organisations providing direct support to these families, we are working hard to bring about positive systemic changes to service delivery.

  • We are working with the For Scotland's Disabled Children ( FSDC) coalition on a positive programme of action. This includes the FSDC Liaison Project, which has delivered influencing events for parents, policymakers and practitioners; supporting families to explore and record their experiences of service change through the evolving Diary Project, and publication in late 2010 of a baseline survey of children's disability and service delivery, Setting the Scene
  • In partnership with COSLA and FSDC, Scottish Government has also conducted a comprehensive review of services for disabled children. The review, which reports in spring 2011, covers a wide range of vital issues for disabled children, including the identification of disabled children's needs and key system failures requiring to be addressed. It also establishes 7 high-level principles the lead partners believe must inform all work to better support disabled children and young people, and 15 key actions, including:
  • Piloting the FSDC charter in several local authority and related health board areas
  • Developing a GIRFEC practice briefing setting out how the Getting It Right approach applies to disabled children
  • Disseminating a robust evidence base of good practice across the range of services for disabled children, as well as key areas such as transition
  • Actively engaging children and young people in the ongoing implementation of the review actions, and in wider work to develop services.

Key measures: to ensure that families receive the support they need, when they need it - especially the most vulnerable

Working with national and local partners to implement and embed Getting It Right for Every Child and the Early Years Framework.

Improving the infrastructure of service delivery for children and families, for example by streamlining scrutiny of care and healthcare services.

Taking forward actions set out in of the comprehensive review of services for disabled children.

Developing the skills of practitioners working with children, taking forward an implementation plan that builds on the findings of the Scottish Government consultation on common skills for the children's workforce.

3.3 The role of communities and place

Achieving equality of place and people are central aims of this Government's Economic Strategy and regeneration is a crucial part of growing the Scottish economy and tackling child poverty. Investing in Scotland's deprived communities generates growth and employment and can help to tackle the poverty and deprivation that still holds back too many of Scotland's people and stops them fulfilling their potential.

Child poverty is particularly clustered in areas of concentrated multiple deprivation and we need to do more to ensure that we are tackling the deep-rooted social problems of our most disadvantaged areas.

Providing appropriate local solutions and tackling issues, such as access to transport, services, safe places and facilities for play and recreation, and affordable, accessible healthy food is a shared agenda across central and local government, the wider public, private and third sectors and communities themselves. The Scottish Government is increasing its focus on delivering a range of interrelated outcomes through Community Planning Partnerships to bring about improvements in employment, health, education, crime and the environment.

In order to stimulate debate and discussion around how we make all of Scotland's communities resilient and attractive places to live, work and invest in as the policy and funding environment changes the Scottish Government launched the "Building a Sustainable Future" regeneration discussion paper in February 2011. We need our interventions to be sustainable for the long term and to deliver outcomes that meet the aspirations of the communities served. Responses to this discussion paper will help to inform the development of new models and new approaches with partners in the public and private sectors.

Community engagement and empowerment: The recent Equally Well review noted that meaningful engagement with communities: "...recognises the benefit that can be gained by mobilising the assets that communities themselves represent. This means a shift from a culture of clienthood to one of active citizenship whereby people expect less from the state and more from themselves, their families and their communities." Enabling and empowering children and families to meaningfully participate in decisions that affect them underpins good policy and service development and delivery.

The Scottish Government continue to fund the Poverty Alliance to provide training and capacity building in deprived communities, in order to better enable community groups to engage in the policy making process and have a say in matters that affect them. The Scottish Government has worked with community groups through the Poverty Alliance in the preparation of this strategy and will continue to engage with communities in reviewing progress and refreshing our priorities.

The Scottish Government places a great importance on the views of our young people. Through our work with organisations such as the Children's Parliament, Young Scot, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People, and the Scottish Youth Parliament we are committed to giving children and young people a voice in issues that concern them, their friends and families and their local communities. Engagement with young people also needs to be an integral part of the development of local approaches and their delivery - young people are also encouraged to become involved in their local Community Planning Partnerships, enabling them to influence decisions that directly impact on them.

Safer communities: Crime and anti-social behaviour impact disproportionately on deprived communities, particularly on young people within these communities. Everyone has the right to be safe and feel safe in their communities, and the Scottish Government is committed to creating and supporting safer and stronger communities where we live, work and play. Action to improve and promote community safety across Scotland focuses on a range of issues from reducing antisocial behaviour and violence to promoting more positive behaviour, through the CashBack for Communities programme, which uses the proceeds of crime to fund diversionary activities and positive opportunities for young people. The Scottish Government also works to support greater capacity and expertise within the community safety sector, developing relevant guidance, support and tools for practitioners through the Safer Communities Programme.

Physical environment - green space and play opportunities: The wider physical environment has an important role to play in the quality of children and families lives, and can have significant effects on physical and mental wellbeing.

For children and young people, the availability of green space, and safe spaces and opportunities for play and recreation, are of real importance. Equally Well recommends that children's play areas and recreation areas for young people generally should have high priority in both planning and subsequent maintenance by the responsible authorities. More broadly, Equally Well recognises that the Government, NHS Boards and other public sector organisations should encourage the use and enjoyment of green space by all, with a view to improving health, especially in communities at risk of poor health.

The Go Play Programme, administered by Inspiring Scotland, aims to increase opportunities for children aged 5-13 years to engage in free play activities, contributing to mental and physical health outcomes and building social cohesion. Go Play targets specific local authority areas where children are least likely to have opportunities to develop through play and improves the infrastructure of the play sector at local, regional and national levels.

Scottish Planning Policy and the National Planning Framework (2) set out national policy on planning for open space and facilities for sport and recreation, which includes measures to safeguard existing valued open space and identify priorities for future investment. The Scottish Government is also testing the Good Places, Better Health model, to look at how environmental policy in its widest sense can deliver positive health and wellbeing outcomes. The test phase is concentrating on children's health and sustainable places, looking at the key environmental influences on four child health priorities including mental health and wellbeing, with the evidence being used to support policies and decision-making at national and local level.

Key measures: to reduce levels of child poverty and minimise the impact of socio-economic disadvantage on children through communities and place

Developing new models and new approaches to regenerating Scotland's deprived communities, building on the responses to 'Building a Sustainable Future'.

Continuing to support and work with third sector partners to engage with children and young people, and people from deprived communities, to better enable these groups to engage in the policy making process and have a say in matters affecting them.

Creating and supporting safer and stronger communities, through programmes such as the Safer Communities Programme and Cashback for Communities.

Improving green space and play opportunities for children and families, through national policy on open space and sport and recreation facilities, targeted activity to improve the play infrastructure through 'Go Play', and testing innovative approaches to delivering environmental policy through 'Good Places, Better Health'.

3.4 Driving change through working with local partners

Successful delivery of this strategy depends on all of Scottish society playing a part.

The Scottish Government is committed to supporting all of our partners and engaging with wider society as a whole to reduce child poverty. As the Equally Well Review states: "A more collaborative approach across different public services is required if we are to influence effectively the range of circumstances that contribute to people's health and wellbeing. Joint action by the full range of community planning partners to redesign local services is key in delivering the vision of change set out in the three social policy frameworks. This means Community Planning Partnerships delivering genuinely integrated services, through partnership working and shared resources, which target the underlying causes of inequalities. It means that the third sector should be actively involved. It also means that communities themselves must be engaged and consulted."

3.4.1 Working with local partners

Working with Community Planning Partnerships: The Government's outcomes-based approach recognises that circumstances and priorities vary across Scotland. There are huge differences in scale, demographics and geography across all 32 local authority areas, with consequential differences on how Councils are structured. All 32, however, should ensure that local public services, in their widest sense, are planned and delivered in a joined-up way through Community Planning Partnerships ( CPPs).

Through this approach, local government and its local partners are committed to taking forward the Scottish Government's Purpose and National Outcomes. They do, however, have the freedom to tailor how they do this, by focusing on local outcomes which reflect their understanding of local circumstances and priorities.

The Scottish Government has not chosen to introduce statutory requirements for the production of local needs assessments and strategies relating to child poverty. This Government believes that decisions are best made at a local level, based on careful analysis of local circumstances - and we believe that the current structure provides the right balance between accountability and sensitivity to local circumstances.

However the Scottish Government can, and does, promote and encourage good practice for CPPs to make the right combination of decisions to ensure the greatest impact on child poverty at local level. The Scottish Government is stepping up efforts to support CPPs with the particular challenges that dealing with child poverty issues presents.

Single Outcome Agreements ( SOAs) are agreements between the Scottish Government and Community Planning Partnerships which set out how each will work towards improving outcomes for the local people in a way that reflects local circumstances and priorities, within the context of the Government's National Outcomes and Purpose. It is for CPPs, with their knowledge of local needs and priorities, to decide the best way to tackle child poverty at local level, and to reflect this within their SOAs.

In working with CPPs to agree second phase SOAs in 2009, the Scottish Government placed a particular emphasis on efforts to secure economic recovery and on taking forward approaches jointly agreed with local government in dealing with poverty through the three social frameworks. These SOAs provide a shared set of ambitions for the CPP, towards the delivery of which each community planning partner directs their efforts.

The Scottish Government has also responded to the changing environment that local delivery partners are working within by supporting practitioners to consider anti poverty work within an outcomes-based approach. This has included working with the Improvement Service 49 to deliver a pilot project to provide practical, hands-on, specialist support to five demonstrator Community Planning Partnerships that are seeking to embrace the full potential of outcomes in their work on tackling poverty and community regeneration - we will publish the evaluation of this pilot in 2011.

The Scottish Government has long been aware of many examples of excellent local practice in tackling child poverty through work with stakeholders, and responses to the consultation highlighted the broad range and variety of approaches taken throughout Scotland. However Community Planning Partners have also highlighted many of the difficulties and complexities of taking a strong and strategic approach to tackling child poverty at local level. The Scottish Government will draw on the messages from CPPs and continue to strengthen and improve the support available.

In Scotland, the local perspective is fundamental to the outcomes-based approach. A strong spatial understanding of the key demands and pressures on public services in local areas, continues to be developed through both the Single Outcome Agreement at local authority level, and within the Scottish Government by 'Location' a network of Directors who support and challenge Community Planning Partnerships on delivery of their Single Outcome Agreement.

The Scottish Government are supporting CPPs to meet other challenges such as service sharing and re-design, both generally and across a number of themes, including the three social policy frameworks and there continues to be a high level of engagement between the Scottish Government and local partners during this process.

Private sector: The private sector also has an important contribution to make in tackling child poverty. The Tackling Poverty Board discussions identified the important role of the private sector in tackling poverty as employers, community planning partners and service providers.

The Scottish Government will work further with the Tackling Poverty Board private sector subgroup and are currently developing an approach which will raise awareness and support good practice among small and medium enterprise in Scotland with the aim of embedding tackling poverty and other inequalities into corporate policy.

Scottish Government also supports CPP Employability Partnerships to develop employer engagement as a key priority. This includes the alignment of public and third sector support to defined business needs such as profiling future staff requirements, premises etc and targeted skills support to disadvantaged individuals to access employment opportunities when these arise.

Supporting the third sector: The Third Sector plays an important role in connecting with individuals and communities at grass roots level. Third sector organisations, including social enterprises, can create opportunities for employment and income in areas where the private sector might not choose to operate. The third sector is a key partner of the public sector in Scotland, bringing experience of practical issues and multiple and complex need to the design of public services, particularly through their contribution to Community Planning.

The Scottish Government will provide training and funding to support the third sector in their contribution to tackling poverty and income inequality. To support the creation of the right environment for third sector growth the Scottish Government has announced that it will:

  • Put in place a contract to provide business development support for third sector organisations;
  • Put in place a contract to work with public bodies to help them open their markets to third sector organisations;
  • Provide an additional £3 million for the Scottish Investment Fund 50, providing strategic investment in our most effective social enterprises;
  • Provide additional direct funding to help develop enterprising third sector organisations;
  • Continue to work with the network of third sector interfaces to provide effective representation for the sector on Community Planning Partnerships; and
  • Continue to support a Third Sector Employability Forum to assist the sector to engage in the employability agenda.

3.4.2 Key challenges

A clear message from consultation with stakeholders in the child poverty field was that strong local leadership is required in order to ensure that services are appropriately designed, and resources appropriately allocated, for child poverty to be effectively tackled at local level.

Mainstreaming poverty: Clearly, many of the most influential strategic and budgetary decisions and actions impacting on child poverty take place at local level. For some CPPs and other local delivery agents, this may involve the development of strategies and plans specifically focused on child poverty. Regardless of whether or not this approach is taken, a strategic approach to child poverty requires considering a very wide range of policies and resources through a 'child poverty lens'. This should be considered within the wider context of assessing the impact of policy and budget decision making on inequalities in society.

The Scottish Government will publish research in 2011 on poverty impact assessments, which will examine how poverty and income inequality can be systematically considered in strategic planning, including resource allocation. The findings of this research will be used to inform its approach to decision making in national Government, and will promote its messages at local level. It is envisaged that this will include the production of tools and guidance to use to assess poverty impacts in policy making, and budgeting, developed in consultation with local delivery agents. This work will draw from the international evidence base, and on the lessons from approaches to equalities impact assessment. It will also consider how poverty and equalities impact assessment can be as joined up and complementary as possible.

Preventive spend: The Scottish Government believe that to deliver the Scottish strategy effectively, the broader early intervention agenda must influence allocation of resources. This will inevitably involve difficult choices across the public sector and redirection of resources from crisis intervention in order to enable a preventive approach, as well as maximising efficiencies from improved integration and innovative service redesign. This is especially challenging in the tight current and future economic climate, but these circumstances only serve to make this agenda even more critical. As the Early Years Framework notes, "There is no single programme or approach that can deliver the improved outcomes we seek. Instead, it will take a concerted and long-term effort across a range of policies and services to achieve a transformation in outcomes."

There is already a high level of recognition that early intervention and prevention are fundamental to tackling the root causes of acute social problems, including child poverty, and that the challenge for local authorities and other service providers is to move from crisis intervention to early intervention and prevention so that cycles of poor outcomes in people's lives are broken.

While this Government is clear that there is a need for a shift from reactive to preventive spending, it is also acknowledged that in a time of financial constraint, decisions to reduce spending on preventative services (for which there is not an immediate, evident demand) may present a tension when demand remains for services that treat, or respond to, a crisis. The challenge for the Scottish Government is to work with local partners at political, strategic and operational levels to ensure that spend on the preventive action should continue to be of the highest priority, despite the significant financial challenges.

3.4.3 Capacity building and learning lessons

The Scottish Government continues to work closely with COSLA and other key local partners to take forward local efforts to tackle child poverty. Work with CPPs to tackle child poverty takes place across a range of policy areas Scottish Government support to build capacity in local areas also takes place across a wide range of associated policy areas. Examples include the work of the Scottish Government learning networks 51, and the intensive support provided to implement the Early Years Framework, Equally Well and Getting It Right for Every Child.

The Scottish Government continue to provide support to local delivery partners, particularly CPPs, on planning, delivering and monitoring policy and action to tackle poverty.

This includes working with local employability partnerships, which target their funding and services to those most disadvantaged in the labour market and are supported to learn from one another through the Employability Learning Network. The work of employability partnerships includes efforts to engage more effectively with local employers.

Specific capacity building work includes:

  • Action Learning Sets on issues such as "Learning Lessons from the Working for Families programme" and "Poverty Sensitive Budgeting: Decision Making" to help local delivery partners work through the complex issues involved in tackling child poverty.
  • Practical local support through practitioner workshops focused on issues such as developing local area poverty profiles and how to use evidence in practice.
  • Publishing case study examples of good practice at local level, across a wide range of themes - including financial inclusion and capability and implementation of the early years framework. Case studies of good local practice in tackling child poverty have been identified through the consultation exercise, and will be available on the Scottish Government website in Spring 2011.
  • Encouraging local innovation and service transformation, through test sites (such as Equally Well and Supported Employment) and pilots (across a wide range of areas, including income maximisation and holistic support for mothers with children in the early years).

The Scottish Government will continue to support local areas to develop and implement strategic approaches to tackle child poverty. It is important that this support is demand led and responsive to local needs, and the Scottish Government will work further with Community Planning Partnership networks (such as the Tackling Poverty Officers network) to better understand partners' needs. The consultation exercise provided a valuable insight into the issues faced at local level in tackling child poverty, and a better understanding of requirements for support from both national and local Government. This continued support will include:

  • Launching an online child poverty resource on local action to tackle child poverty in Scotland, in 2011;
  • Sharing evidence and commissioning further research;
  • Sharing good practice and promoting mutual learning between Community Planning Partnerships.

Local partners may work together through online Communities of Practice. 'Communities of practice for local government' ( is a freely accessible web resource that enables like-minded people to form online communities of practice, which are supported by collaboration tools that encourage knowledge sharing and learning from each others' experiences.

The Community Regeneration and Tackling Poverty Community of Practice is already a well used resource across the Scottish public sector. The UK Government and Local Government Group have also established a Child Poverty Community of Practice, which enables exchange of information and good practice across the UK.

Key measures: to drive change through working with local partners

Working closely with Community Planning Partnerships to embed the three social frameworks in local planning and delivery, including innovative pilot work with the Improvement Service.

Continuing to strengthen the support available for Community Planning Partnerships and improve the opportunities for local areas to share learning with one another - for example, through promotion of the Child Poverty Community of Practice and the publication of online resources on tackling child poverty at local level.

Supporting third sector growth, for example through the Scottish Investment Fund, and build stronger links between the private sector and the tackling poverty agenda.

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