Tackling food insecurity
Our Fair Food Fund has been progressively increased and is now £3.5 million. This fund supports dignified responses to food insecurity which help to tackle the causes of poverty. It is evolving the response away from charitable and towards human rights approaches.
In 2020-21, the Scottish Government invested around £2.5 billion to support low income households, including nearly £1 billion to directly support children. This considerable investment included £56 million to provide free school meal alternatives during school holidays and periods of remote learning, £70 million in flexible local responses to food and financial insecurity, and over £100 million for the third sector.
As committed to in our Programme for Government, we have now consulted on a draft ending the need for food banks plan. The draft plan sets out our human rights approach to the issue of food insecurity and outlines what more we will do using the powers we have to strengthen cash-first responses to hardship. Actions include investing in local cash-first partnership working that improves pathways between sectors and services and makes food banks the last port of call, and piloting the use of shopping cards as an alternative to food bank referrals alongside money advice to help prevent future need.
We are continuing to prioritise action that prevents hardship, including:
- Delivering our Scottish Child Payment worth £40 every 4 weeks for eligible children aged under 6. This is one of five family benefits and unique in the UK, that we will double in value in April 2022, reaching 110,000 children;
- Increasing the value of Best Start Foods and expanding eligibility later this term. The combination of Scottish Child Payment, Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods will provide a financial support package worth £8,4000 by the time an eligible family’s first child turns 6;
- Providing Scottish Child Payment Bridging Payments worth £520 to low income households, reaching reaching more than 144,000 school age children;
- Providing Pandemic Support Payments of £130 to over 530,000 households;
- Continued investment in our Scottish Welfare Fund, with over £38 million already paid out to support people from April to November 2021;
- Investing £12 million to support debt and welfare advice services;
- Providing £25 million flexible funding to local authorities to tackle financial insecurity with a strong emphasis on cash-first approaches, as part of our £41 million Winter Support Fund;
- Providing £150 to all households receiving council tax reduction and all households in bands A-D as part of our £290 million cost of living package;
- Expanding free school meal support to all primary pupils and providing targeted support during the holidays, starting with an additional £49.75 million in 2021-22. Universal provision of free school meals was expanded to include all children in primary 4 in August 2021, with further expansion to include all children in primary 5 from January 2022;
- Renewing our commitment to the Get in to Summer programme, which provides opportunities for children and young people to have fun and reconnect with peers, with food, childcare and wider family support available where needed as recommended by the Poverty and Inequality Commission.
Case Study – Utilising flexible funding, Argyll and Bute Council is in established new Flexible Food Fund in partnership with Bute Advice Centre, ALIenergy and the Community Food Forum to tackle financial insecurity. This provides direct financial assistance alongside money advice and access to wider wellbeing supports. There are early indications that this has helped to reduce the need for food banks and has strengthened household financial resilience.
Measuring food insecurity
We are continuing to measure food insecurity through the Scottish Health Survey, as recommended by the Independent Working Group on Food Poverty.
The fourth Scottish data set was published in January 2021 showing that a reported 8% of adults in Scotland experienced food insecurity between August 2019 and September 2020, defined as being worried they would run out of food due to lack of money or other resources. Due to COVID-19, data collection for the 2019-2020 survey was restricted, with a smaller sample size and conducted over telephone, rather than face to face. This may result in an underestimation of food insecurity for this period.
Aggregate data from 2017-2019 (inclusive) show that food insecurity levels in Scotland were around 9%. Data from these years has also been published at local authority and health board level; the first time that local area data on food security in Scotland has been made available. This data suggests a relatively high degree of regional variation, with rates of food insecurity as high as 14% in some areas, and as low as 4% in others. Though note, these figures are subject to a margin of error (95% confidence interval) which may be more pronounced for areas with a smaller sample size. This locally disaggregated data on food insecurity is broadly consistent with existing evidence on deprivation.
The data has been integrated in to our National Performance Framework outcomes on poverty and human rights. This is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals – including Goal 2: End hunger.
We are also measuring food insecurity through the Family Resources Survey, which suggests that 8% experienced low or very low food security, and a further 7% experienced marginal food security in Scotland, 2019-2020.
Human rights and rights of the child
We have a Programme for Government commitment to Incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law and the work of the First Minister's Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership.
In 2016, we accepted the recommendation of an Independent Working Group on Food Poverty to consider enshrining the right to food. A new National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership will be co-chaired by Professor Alan Miller and the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People. The new taskforce met for the first time on 2nd October 2019. The taskforce was asked to consider all internationally-recognised human rights, which includes the right to food.
We are committed to incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots Law. We will deliver the legislation needed to do this by the end of March 2020. Our consultation on how a new Act could incorporate the UNCRC closed on 28 August and we will respond to this in the coming months.
In March 2021, the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership published its recommendations for a new human rights framework for Scotland that brings internationally recognised human rights into domestic law. As part of taking forward the 30 the progressive, bold and ambitious recommendations from the Taskforce for a new human rights framework for Scotland, a new Human Rights Bill will be introduced to Parliament during this parliamentary session. Scotland’s new Human Rights Bill will incorporate the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, includes a right to adequate food as an essential part of the overall right to an adequate standard of living, into Scots Law, as far as possible within devolved competence. The aim is that the right to food will be justiciable in the Scottish courts.
To further strengthen human rights protections in Scotland, the Bill will give effect to three other international Conventions for the empowerment of women, disabled people and minority ethnic people. The Bill will also include a right to a healthy environment and provision to ensure equal access to everyone, including older people and LGBTI people, to the rights contained in the Bill.
On 16 March 2021, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill (‘the Bill’). The Bill is a landmark piece of legislation that aims to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots law to the maximum extent of the Scottish Parliament’s powers – signalling a revolution in children’s rights in Scotland. The Bill seeks to empower our children and young people to claim their rights and help to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up.
On 12 April 2021, a reference of certain provisions of the Bill was made by UK Law Officers to the UK Supreme Court. The provisions referred to the Supreme Court were: section 6 (duty on public authorities); and sections 19 to 21 (the interpretation duty and judicial powers of ‘strike down’ and ‘incompatibility declarator’). A hearing before the UK Supreme Court took place on 28 and 29 June 2021.
On 6 October 2021, the UK Supreme Court judgment on UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill found each of the provisions referred by the UK Law Officers to be outwith the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. While the Supreme Court judgment means that the Bill cannot receive Royal Assent in its current form, we are urgently and carefully considering the most effective way forward for this important legislation.
It is vital that the we work through the complex issues raised by the Supreme Court judgment to ensure that incorporation can happen as quickly as possible with confidence that any amendments to the Bill do not attract further challenge. The majority of work in relation to implementation of the UNCRC is continuing.
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