Publication - Research and analysis

Consultation on a Child Poverty Bill for Scotland: Analysis of Responses

Published: 21 Dec 2016

This report presents the findings of an analysis of responses to the Scottish Government’s consultation on a Child Poverty Bill for Scotland.

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42 page PDF

497.9 kB

Consultation on a Child Poverty Bill for Scotland: Analysis of Responses
7. The Child Poverty Measurement Framework

42 page PDF

497.9 kB

7. The Child Poverty Measurement Framework

Question 10 asked:

Do you have any suggestions for how the measurement framework could usefully be improved? For example, are there any influencing factors that are not covered by the measurement framework? Or are there any additional indicators that could be added? (99 respondents answered this question)

The Child Poverty Measurement Framework currently contains a range of indicators, arranged under the three themes of 'Pockets' (maximising household resources), 'Prospects' (improving children's wellbeing and life chances), and 'Places' (provision of well-designed, sustainable places).

7.1. Support for the current framework

A number of respondents were generally supportive of the child poverty measurement framework, which was praised for being comprehensive.

"The current framework with its themes of 'Pockets, Prospects and Places' is supported. Indeed, the approach has been used within North Ayrshire as a framework to review progress at a local level." (North Ayrshire Council)

As in the example above, some local authorities commented that they used a similar style of reporting on child poverty in their local area.

Some respondents mentioned the importance of linking the measurement framework with existing Scottish Government policies, as well as embedding children's rights through the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child ( UNCRC). Most commonly mentioned were links with the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, and Getting It Right for Every Child ( GIRFEC), with its eight SHANARRI principles (safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included). The National Youth Work Strategy and the new Mental Health strategy were also mentioned.

It was also felt that certain existing data sources, and sets of indicators could feed into the future development of the measurement framework. These included indicators around children and young people developed by the Scottish Public Health Observatory ( ScotPHO), indicators developed by Glasgow Centre of Population and Health ( GCPH) to track trends in health and inequality in Glasgow and West Dunbartonshire, indicators being developed to support the delivery of Children's Services Plan around the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. In addition, including information from Looked After Children data collection, the number of businesses offering the Scottish Living Wage, and the numbers signed up to the Scottish Business Pledge was suggested, as was including information derived from the Family Affluence Scale, which is used in some local and national surveys to measure experience of poverty by families.

7.2. Views on the current indicators

7.2.1. More emphasis on pockets

Some respondents, particularly third sector organisations, called for a greater emphasis on income and the 'Pockets' indicators. A number of suggestions for additional indicators were given (see Table 2 below). However, others, predominantly within local authorities and public bodies, suggested the framework be streamlined, contain fewer indicators, and focus on indicators which are already incorporated within existing frameworks, in order to reduce the burden of data collection.

"The Performance Framework is very cluttered and there is a danger of the focus being on reporting rather than doing... The framework needs to be streamlined to report on fewer indicators." (Local authority council)

A recurring critique of the existing indicators, particularly from third sector respondents, was that the link between the indicators and eradicating child poverty was not always clear. In particular the inclusion of indicators around smoking, finding it easy to talk to their mother, and neighbours stopping to talk to one another was questioned.

"Alongside colleagues on the End Child Poverty Campaign, we welcomed the introduction of the Child Poverty Measurement Framework in 2015. However, we believe that the contents of any renewed framework measurement are more closely linked with four income based targets. While many of the current indicators are useful, others are not directly linked to poverty including smoking and ease at talking to parents. We would like to see new measures linked directly to the proposed new income targets focusing on maximising household incomes." ( UNISON)

A preference for indicators linked to the four income based targets was also expressed.

7.2.2. Suggestions for indicators to amend

Suggestions for amending specific indicators focussed on the 'Prospects' indicators show below:

  • Attachment, relationships (fathers, and other appropriate adults) and social connections
  • Nutrition
  • Positive destinations rather than modern apprenticeships
  • Smoking, alcohol and drug use

The indicator around attachment - children finding it easy to talk to their mother - was criticised by some who felt that this was too narrow and felt that attachment to the father, as well as other social connections should be reported on. Under nutrition, it was suggested that access to fresh affordable food, or eliminating the need for food banks would be better indicators than the current indicator around eating 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. It was suggested that focussing on positive destinations might be better than including the indicator around modern apprenticeships as "modern apprenticeships are used by many young people, not just those in poverty". Finally it was suggested that if smoking was included as an indicator, then alcohol consumption and drug use should also be included.

There was a strong desire for data at a local level, particularly from local authorities and public bodies. This included data at local authority level and below, such as at ward and data zone level and community and neighbourhood level. It was felt that local level data was required in order to inform and assess local actions. The ability to compare with other local areas was seen as desirable.

"Wherever possible these should be replicable at a ward level to help local authorities understand the nature of child poverty in their area, the outcomes achieved by projects in the area and allow meaningful comparisons to other areas." (Aberdeen City Council)

There were also some comments around the quality and robustness of the data, with issues raised including the time lag between data collection and reporting, and adequate sample sizes for sub-national reporting.

7.2.3. The role of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation ( SIMD)

A small number of comments related to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation ( SIMD). Some of these suggested that aligning the measurement framework to the seven SIMD domains would be useful (Income, Employment, Education, Health, Access to Services, Crime and Housing). However others noted that, as not all deprived children live in deprived areas, indicators which focus on the most deprived areas within SIMD will not capture these children:

"A focus only on the 20% most deprived neighbourhoods, as measured by a basket of domain indicators, offers only a partial view of poverty experiences. For Scotland as a whole, SIMD 2012 showed just over one-third of children in poverty lived in the most deprived fifth of places. In mainly urban authorities like Renfrewshire, SIMD 2016 shows just over half of income deprived people are concentrated in these neighbourhoods. But in an authority like Perth and Kinross, the share is less than a fifth. Area-based measures are important, but need to be complemented with measures of how all people in poverty are faring at home, at school, in and out of work and in families and communities." (Joseph Rowntree Foundation).

There were also calls for further qualitative research, as well as reporting on indicators:

"Monitoring should be qualitative as well as quantitative and show the impacts of programmes and projects on national and local targets and positive impacts on people who have lived in poverty." (Fife Partnership Board)

As also raised regarding the Ministerial Advisory Group ( Section 4.3), it was seen as particularly important that the voices of children and families living in poverty are heard and feed into the evidence base.

7.3. Moving forward: capturing different experiences of poverty

As also raised under Section 3.2 on income-based measures, a number of respondents commented that poverty is not experienced equally across the Scottish population and that those who share certain protected characteristics are more likely to experience poverty; therefore, this should be reflected in the measurement framework. There were also calls to disaggregate data by equality characteristic where possible, in order to build up a clearer picture of poverty as experienced by those groups. It was noted that equality groups are not homogeneous and may experience poverty differently.

"As the EHRC's recent publication "Is Scotland Fairer" shows, the life chances of people in Scotland are significantly influenced by the protected characteristics that they do or do not share. Overall, disabled people and ethnic minorities experience poverty at a higher rate than non-disabled white Scots. Women experience significant pay gaps in the labour market, and ethnic minorities and disabled people both experience significantly higher unemployment and under employment. Both ethnic minorities and disabled people are known to experience barriers to accessible or appropriate housing… For the Child Poverty strategy to work effectively, and to deliver for all Scots, it needs to contain sufficient nuance to ensure that measurements reflect and do not hide these realities." (Equality and Human Rights Commission ( EHRC))

"All measurement frameworks and indicators should be disaggregated for equalities groups as efforts to change the situation for one group may not necessarily address disadvantage for all groups. Different approaches, initiatives, and tactics will be needed to address poverty for all children; disaggregation of data and measurements is key for this." (The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights ( CRER))

The differing experience of poverty in rural compared to urban locations was also highlighted, with varying factors such as transport, fuel poverty and housing costs being mentioned, alongside access to services.

"Further, local and regional variations in the cost of living at a household level must be taken into account if all poverty is to be eradicated across Scotland such as fuel poverty and transport in isolated island and rural areas." (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA))

7.4. Moving forward: suggestions for indicators to amend/add

A number of respondents, particularly from the third sector, were keen that the emphasis in the child poverty framework was on measures relating to income - the 'Pockets' section of the framework. It was stated that whilst poverty is about more than just income, there was a desire for indicators to be linked more closely to the four income targets. It was also noted that the number of existing 'Pockets' indicators seemed low compared to the number of indicators included under 'Prospects' and 'Places'. As noted above, it was felt that the connection between child poverty and some of the included indicators under 'prospects' and 'place' are tenuous. More indicators more closely linked to income, were requested.

"New indicators must relate clearly and directly to the proposed targets, focussing on maximising household income, reducing rates of material deprivation and reducing housing costs." (Child Poverty Action Group ( CPAG) in Scotland)

"Although there is more to child poverty than how much resources a family has, it is key and the number of measures linked to the 'pockets' theme seem low in comparison to prospects and places." (South Lanarkshire)

There were a number of suggestions for additional indicators under each of the three P's 'Pockets, 'Prospects' and 'Places'. As noted above, a number of respondents placed an emphasis on 'Pockets', which is reflected in the number and variety of suggestions for indicators received for 'Pockets'. Tables 2-4, below, show the suggestions for topics for additional indicators under 'Pockets', 'Prospects' and 'Places' in turn. For each table, suggestions are ranked from those that were most frequently suggested, down to those suggested by only one respondent

7.4.1. Pockets

As can be seen, the most commonly suggested 'Pockets' indicators related to benefits, including uptake of benefits, as well as the adequacy of benefits, benefit sanctions, and the number of families affected by the benefits cap.

"There are a number of significant indicators of child poverty that are missing, for example relating to families' income, such as the adequacy of benefits, compared to the level of income required to take families out of poverty." (One Parent Families Scotland)

Indicators relating to parental employment were also frequently suggested, including issues such as in-work poverty, living wage and zero hours contracts.

"The impact of insecure employment, such as zero hour contracts are one of the principal causes of poverty. Given the recognition within the Child Poverty Bill consultation that families: "will dip in and out of poverty over an extended period perhaps because of insecure employment," it would be helpful to recognise this within the child poverty measurement framework." (Children 1 st)

Indicators around debt, childcare and relating to the "poverty premium" (whereby those in poverty may have to pay more for goods and services as they are often unable to pay bills in a single instalment or to pay via direct debit where a discount may apply) were also requested, as were indicators relating to food poverty, and the use of services such as food banks, financial inclusion services and the Scottish Welfare Fund. Suggested indicators around childcare related primarily to the uptake of nursery places, but also acknowledged the role of affordable and flexible childcare in helping parents to access employment.

"We would suggest that access to out of school care, including breakfast clubs and holiday clubs and activities such as summer food programmes should be included in the measure… Childcare is so essential to address underemployment/unemployment and for parents, especially lone parents, to access the labour market." (Scottish Out of School Care Network)

Table 2: Suggested topics for additional 'Pockets' indicators

Suggested Topic for additional 'Pockets' indicators Number who suggested this
Benefits - including:
- Uptake of benefits
- Adequacy of benefits
- Benefits sanctions
- Number of families affected by benefits cap
More than 10
Parental employment, in-work poverty - living wage/zero hours contracts More than 10
Debt More than 10
Childcare/nursery places and out-of-school care 6-10
"poverty premium" 6-10
Free school meal uptake 6-10
Food poverty/household food insecurity 6-10
Access to services such as food banks 2-5
Accessing Scottish Welfare Fund ( SWF) 2-5
Access to welfare rights information/income maximisation 2-5
Disposable income after housing costs/lower proportion of income spent on housing 2-5
Cost of school day/school holiday 2-5
Housing - temporary accommodation/short-term housing solution costs & private rented sector 2-5
Income compared with Minimum Income Standard ( MIS) 1
Focus on the poorest deciles 1

7.4.2. Prospects

For 'Prospects', a range of additional health indicators were suggested including ones which could act as "proxy" indicators for poverty, such as dental decay:

"Further, the proposed measures do not adequately reflect health and wellbeing measures. There are a number of health and wellbeing measures that are better proxies for child poverty than many of the indicators selected, e.g. childhood obesity at P1, dental disease at P1 and P7, smoking in pregnancy; child and adolescent mental health and barriers to parental employment such as disability or living with a long-term condition. These indicators would provide a better insight into how child poverty adversely impacts on health and wellbeing, or how the material circumstances of parents can adversely impact on the health and wellbeing of children." (Aberdeenshire Council)

Parental mental health and substance misuse were also classed as important indicators.

"In terms of collecting data, it is the view of the Centre that the data should reflect any other factors that may have a contributing element to child poverty, such as domestic violence, mental health, presence of drug or alcohol abuse or other addictions. The measures to be employed to tackle these issues should also acknowledge and reflect the link between the two." (Scottish Child Law Centre)

Additional data and indicators around household type were requested, as certain household types, such as lone parents, those with disabilities, or families from ethnic minorities might be more vulnerable to poverty.

"Most analysis shows wide variance of experience of poverty by household type. It would be useful to consider measures to track levels or impact of poverty among lone parent households, households with disabled children, or minority ethnic households" (Local Authority council)

It was also felt that data relating to child protection and looked after children should be included, as children who are looked after might be particularly vulnerable to living in poverty.

"As a group, care experienced young people are most likely to begin and end their lives in poverty. As such, progress in terms of eradicating poverty for this group should be taken as an indicator of overall progress in eradicating child poverty." (Who Cares? Scotland)

A range of indicators relating to educational attainment were proposed, including looking at early years attainment, inter-generational attainment, and the proportion of young people with Additional Support Needs.

"Given that education remains arguably the single most significant route out of poverty, it may be useful to develop a measure that allows us to compare children's educational performance against previous parental performance. Such a measure may be too complex to establish but would be a useful indicator of progress." (North Ayrshire Integration Joint Board)

Indicators were also requested around food poverty and household food insecurity.

"We would ask that the Government develops a robust measure for [Household Food Insecurity]. Household food insecurity can result in children living in poverty experiencing dietary inequalities that impact on their health outcomes and life chances." (Inclusion Scotland)

Table 3: Suggested topics for additional 'Prospects' indicators

Suggested Topic for additional 'Prospects' indicators Number who suggested this
More/different indicators around health and wellbeing (including parental mental health) More than 10
Household type, including lone parent and protected characteristics such as ethnicity and disability 6-10
Child protection/looked after children 6-10
Educational attainment including:
- Early years attainment
- Educational attainment (including inter-generational)
- Proportion of pupils with Additional Support Needs ( ASN)
Parental substance misuse 6-10
Crime/victimisation 2-5
Community Learning and Development ( CLD) 1
Experience of domestic violence 1
Levels of poverty at birth 1

7.4.3. Places

Indicators around fuel poverty were the most commonly suggested under 'Places', followed by access to hobbies/culture/sport/leisure and play facilities, and satisfaction with those facilities. Indicators around housing quality were also suggested.

In addition to access to sport and leisure there were other suggestions for indicators around local access to positive things such as good quality food, transport, and access to good quality employment opportunities. In addition there was a suggestion to also measure access to more negative things such as the number of fast food outlets and betting shops, as these may be seen in higher numbers in more deprived areas.

"Under PLACES, it could be stated more explicitly that it is particularly important to have access to play spaces (natural and purpose-built) for children and young people from low income households. Currently, children from deprived areas have less ready access to different types of play space in their local area which in turn will impact their physical and mental wellbeing, social skill development and resilience." (YouthLink Scotland)

Table 4: Suggested topics for additional 'Places' indicators

Suggested Topic for additional 'Places' indicators Number who suggested this
Fuel poverty 6-10
Access to hobbies/culture/sport/leisure/play facilities (and satisfaction with quality of those services) 6-10
Housing quality 6-10
Access to good quality food 2-5
Number of children living in temporary accommodation/number of homelessness applications made by families with children 2-5
Access to transport 2-5
Access to good quality employment opportunities 1
Numbers of betting shops/fast food outlets 1