Improving our understanding of child poverty in rural and island Scotland: research
Building on the "Poverty in rural Scotland: evidence review" (December 2021), SRUC were commissioned to undertake the research project, “Improving our understanding of child poverty in rural and island Scotland”.
What were we trying to find out?
This report has two aims:
1. To explore existing datasets and identify gaps in our understanding of trends and experiences of child poverty in rural and island communities.
2. To examine interventions employed in rural and island communities to tackle the causes of child poverty and support those experiencing child poverty.
What did we do?
We conducted a desk-based review of existing datasets and relevant reports. We interviewed a range of experts working on child poverty at national, regional and local levels. We also reviewed documents received via the project advisory group.
What did we learn?
Data and gaps in understanding
It is generally agreed that tackling generic or structural challenges associated with living in a rural or island community will help to alleviate child poverty in these areas. However, there are some key data and knowledge gaps that limit the extent to which local authority leads and partners can take effective action to support low-income families in rural and island communities.
These data gaps mostly relate to information at a sub-local authority level, including: eligibility and uptake of welfare benefits; cost of living; fuel poverty; uptake and provision of early learning and childcare; and the combined impact of employability and skills development initiatives. Importantly, more attention needs to be paid to lived experience data that can inform the design and delivery of effective support for rural and island children experiencing poverty.
Interventions to tackle the causes of child poverty and support families
A range of interventions exist to tackle the causes of child poverty and ensure families have the support they need. Interventions can be grouped around themes and tend to relate to: employment and skills development support; early years; cost of living; health and wellbeing; partnership working; digital technologies; school-based approaches; and strengthening the voices of children and families.
What do we recommend?
In relation to child poverty data collection and analysis
To address these data gaps and raise the profile of lived experience data, we make four recommendations to the Scottish Government focus on actions and outcomes that:
1. Recognise lived experiences as valid and important qualitative data for informing place-based decisions and actions in rural and island communities.
2. Support the Improvement Service to continue its work on sharing good practice, particularly in relation to local data analysis and other available evidence to inform action in rural and island communities.
3. Enable Public Health Scotland to support the roll out of the child poverty data source and associated workshops to all local authorities (in collaboration with the Improvement Service when implementing recommendation 2).
4. Use the child poverty action reports strategically to understand and share best practice and provide additional support to those local authorities with less capacity to undertake local level data collection and analysis.
5. Set up a Rural and Island Child Poverty Network (or similar) that places a strong emphasis on sharing knowledge and best practice between local leads (across sectors – health, education, transport, etc.), the Improvement Service, PHS, Social Security Scotland, SPIRU and other researchers.
In relation to interventions to tackle child poverty and support families
Based on the evidence reviewed in this report, we suggest that interventions to tackle child poverty in rural and island locations:
1. Recognise the higher costs of living experienced by families in these locations.
2. Recognise the higher costs of service delivery in these locations.
3. Are place-based and support mechanisms allow aspects to be community-led.
4. Strengthen cross-issue, cross-sectoral partnership working at national, regional and local levels to recognise the inter-related drivers of poverty which need to be tackled in a holistic way.
5. Ensure early intervention and a long-term approach as this is likely to be most effective (although we note this is challenging under single year financial allocations).
6. Place children and families at the centre of the intervention.
7. Explore digital technology as a delivery mechanism, though recognise that this might not always be appropriate.
8. Involve schools as key partners in local interventions.
9. Ensure that all interventions are rural and island proofed (i.e. checked to ensure that they are equally as appropriate in rural and island locations as they are in urban locations and if not that modifications/mitigations are made to design and/or delivery).
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