I've been given the task of advising the Scottish Government on reducing poverty - identifying what's already in place and is working well, what more could be done, and what's not working. In particular, I've been tasked with coming up with ideas for 'shifting the curve' - making serious proposals that could, in combination and over the longer term, move large numbers out of poverty.
This is a significant challenge. If there were easy solutions, governments would have introduced them years ago. But to make a start, this report to the First Minister proposes a set of fifteen recommendations. The recommendations have been informed by statistical and research evidence, by the views of stakeholders, Ministers and officials, and by testimony from the most informed experts of them all - people with experience of living in poverty. Recommendations fall into four main areas: tackling in-work poverty; young people's life chances; housing affordability issues; and cross-cutting issues.
I'm aware that some, though not all, of the recommendations I am making may have spending implications. I'm also aware that the Scottish Government has recently published its Draft Budget for 2016-17, and is likely to be publishing a Spending Review later this year. In the coming year, there's a real opportunity to think not just about the recommendations I've made, but more broadly - about how the Scottish Government spends its money, whether it could direct spend more effectively, and whether it could take decisions to shift and group together investment so it has maximum benefit for those on low incomes. This would likely mean some tough decisions, but tackling poverty does demand hard choices.