2. Ending Child Poverty
An Ambition to End Child Poverty
Action 26 – Introduce a child poverty Bill. The Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill was introduced to Parliament on 9 th February 2017. This Bill was approved by the Scottish Parliament on 8 th November and will now be sent for Royal Assent.
The new legislation introduces ambitious income-based targets towards the eradication of child poverty in Scotland. The Bill places a duty on Ministers to publish Child Poverty Delivery Plans, which will outline the actions to meet the targets. The first of these is due to be published by April 2018, with annual progress reports being published from 2019 on. Local authorities and Health Boards will also be required to report on progress and to outline any additional actions they will take.
We have established a reference group with local authorities and health boards to develop guidance and share best practice to ensure they are prepared to take on their reporting duties under the Bill. We will be publishing this guidance shortly.
New: A £50 million Tackling Child Poverty Fund has been established over the period of the first delivery plan to get innovative work off the ground to help low income families via local and national activity. The Poverty and Inequality Commission will be advising the Scottish Government on areas where investment will have most value.
Maximising Family Incomes
Action 27 – Introduce a Scottish Baby Box. As part of our support for families with children in the early years, we committed in the Fairer Scotland Action Plan to introduce a Scottish Baby Box in 2017. The box includes essentials for babies to ensure they get the best start in life and helps reduce the costs of providing for a child in the early days and weeks of life, which is particularly important for low income families. This action has been fully delivered with every child now receiving a baby box upon birth. The scheme was rolled out in August 2017 after successful pilot schemes in Orkney and Clackmannanshire.
New: We are launching a Family Financial Health Check Guarantee as a next step in our plans for the Financial Health Check programme. This will help make sure that families are getting all the money they are entitled to and give them advice, if they would like it, on energy and broadband packages and accessing bank accounts and services.
Action 28 – Create a new Best Start Grant. The Best Start Grant ( BSG), a new benefit that will be delivered by summer 2019, will help support low income families with young children who are feeling the impacts of UK Government austerity and welfare cuts.
The BSG will be much more generous than the system it replaces. Payment to the first child will increase from £500 to £600. We will restore £300 birth payments for second and subsequent children and introduce two additional payments of £250 for each child at key transition points in the early years. We will extend eligibility to anyone on a tax credit or housing benefit (in addition to existing qualifying benefits) so that they can apply and receive a payment before their baby is born and we will not require parents who are under 18 to be on a qualifying benefit, making it easier for them to apply. In addition, Healthy Start food vouchers will become part of the BSG and help families access nutritious food.
Key to the success of the new BSG is making sure eligible people claim it. Streamlining the application process and providing more joined up support will improve the service. Effective promotion of the BSG will increase the current take up of the grants, supporting more eligible families and helping give lower income children the best start in life.
Action 29 – Expand early learning and childcare. In the Fairer Scotland Action Plan, we committed to almost doubling early learning and childcare ( ELC) entitlement - for all 3 and 4 year olds, as well those 2 year olds that stand to benefit most - to 1140 hours per year by 2020. This transformational change in ELC entitlement - with substantial investment in infrastructure and the ELC workforce - will give our children the highest quality start to their learning journey. Our approach to ELC is critical for improving children's outcomes, reducing childcare costs, and supporting more parents and carers to work, train or study - in other words, critical for delivering a Fairer Scotland.
Following a consultation, we published a Blueprint for 2020 Action Plan in March 2017. This sets out 31 actions for 2017-18 to support progress towards delivery of the expansion to 1140 hours. In addition, local authorities have been preparing plans setting out how they will deliver the expansion to 1140 hours, and we published Service Planning Guidance in March to assist them with this process. Authorities were asked to submit these plans by 29 th September
Action 30 – Cut the costs of the school day. We are currently taking a number of actions to reduce the costs of school for low income parents. This help includes providing money to local authorities to help low income parents afford the basic costs associated with school - for example, in relation to the cost of school uniforms.
We are currently in the final stages of agreeing a partnership with Young Scot and a small number of local authorities to test the potential for the Young Scot Card to target benefits and opportunities at young people experiencing poverty.
Providing 95% of schools across Scotland with £1,200 for each Primary 1- Secondary 3 pupil known to be registered for free school meals in 2017/18. This Scottish Attainment Challenge Pupil Equity Funding enables schools to use this money in a range of way to tackle inequality. This includes work to reduce the cost of the school day and its impacts on attainment. Schools have now received this funding and are exploring how best they can use it.
Action 31 – Make Council Tax fairer for low income families. We have increased the 'child allowance' within the Council Tax Reduction Scheme by 25%, providing additional support to families on low incomes across all Council Tax bands. This support will benefit up to 77,000 low income families by an average of £173 per year, supporting up to 140,000 children. We have invested over £1 billion in the Council Tax Reduction Scheme since 2013/14, assisting almost half a million households each year to meet their council tax. Council Tax Reduction Scheme recipients had, on average, their council tax bill reduced by almost £700 a year due to the scheme.
High Quality Education For All
Action 32 -– Ensure that every nursery in our most deprived areas has an additional qualified teacher or childcare graduate. International evidence tells us that increasing the amount of time that children from disadvantaged backgrounds spend with graduate practitioners can help narrow the attainment gap and improve outcomes. In January 2017, the First Minister announced that the Scottish Government was investing £1.5 million in 2017-18 to provide additional training places for teachers and for the BA Childhood Practice Award to support delivery of the commitment.
435 additional teachers or graduates will be required to deliver the commitment and will be allocated to local authorities based on their share of the nurseries located in the 20% most deprived postcode areas. However, to ensure that this commitment benefits as many children as possible local authorities will be given flexibility to draw on their local data to prioritise how they allocate these additional places.
Each local authority is required to submit an Action Plan, which sets out how they intend to allocate their additional graduate places, and the Scottish Government provided a supporting guidance note in July to assist authorities with the preparation of these plans. Local authorities were asked to submit these Action Plans by 29 th September 2017.
Action 33 – Make progress in closing the attainment gap. We committed to making demonstrable progress in closing the attainment gap during the lifetime of this Parliament and to substantially eliminate it in the next decade. We are determined to close the attainment gap and raise standards for all in our schools. The Scottish Attainment Challenge focuses on helping children most affected by the poverty-related attainment gap. £170 million has been committed for 2017/18 with Pupil Equity Funding providing £120 million directly to schools, to be spent at the discretion of head teachers and school leaders in improving attainment, and £50 million will be provided to the Attainment Challenge Authorities and Schools programmes in areas of high deprivation. This funding also supports a number of national programmes including staffing supply and capacity, professional learning and school leadership.
Through the Scottish Attainment Challenge, schools and local authorities are encouraged to use evidence based interventions, drawing on successful practice and sharing their results, assisted by a range of materials available via Education Scotland's National Improvement Hub. We are also working in partnership with the Education Endowment Foundation to provide a Scottish specific dedicated version of their learning and teaching toolkit which will continue to evolve and include links to related projects in Scotland; references to and summaries of research as well as other evidence bases and exemplars.
Additionally, the National Improvement Framework's key drivers of improvement build on much of the positive work already underway in Scottish education. They provide a focus and structure for gathering evidence, which will be analysed to identify where we can make further improvements.
Action 34 – Do more to address bullying in schools. This will take a number of strands. Firstly, strategy and guidance: we will launch a refreshed National Approach to Anti-Bullying for Scotland's Children and Young People later this year. This review ties into broader work to foster good relationships and positive behaviour within the learning environment, which underpins Curriculum for Excellence. In addition, we published guidance in 2014 that clearly states that all children and young people receive high quality relationships, sexual health and parenthood education in order to respect, protect and fulfil their human rights as they grow up.
Secondly, training: the Scottish Government published a report in May 2017 on the content of initial teacher education programmes that covered training in equality. We will provide additional funding, where it's needed, to make sure that all promoted teachers - and eventually all teachers - undertake training on equality, so they are confident in tackling prejudice-based bullying. We have committed to providing more support to all newly appointed, guidance and promoted teachers on equality issues. We will discuss what the training includes and how the programme will be delivered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland and further information will be set out in due course.
Thirdly, funding: we will continue to fully fund and support respectme, Scotland's anti-bullying service. We have provided funding to LGBT Youth Scotland and respect me to collaboratively produce a resource and deliver practice seminars that aim to improve the knowledge confidence and skills for teachers and those working in learning environments to address the issue of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. We continue to support Childline to provide a helpline providing confidential advice and information to children and young people affected by bullying and any other issues.
In combination, we expect these actions to have a powerful effect on addressing bullying, but we will monitor to ensure that further action can be taken as needed.
Action 35 – Increase child allowances paid to kinship carers to match those paid to foster carers. We will continue to implement the deal between Scottish Government and COSLA agreed in October 2015. This provides additional funding of £10.1 million a year to improve allowances paid to kinship carers to ensure each child receives comparable financial support to a child in foster care. We are undertaking a review of foster and kinship care allowances and the first meeting will take place on the 20 th of November 2017.