Local child poverty action reports: year 4 review - 2021 to 2022

This research publication summarises key trends and actions undertaken by local areas to reduce child poverty over the period April 2021 to March 2022 so that key learnings can be shared and lessons learned.

Governance and collaboration

Key findings

  • Across all local areas and health boards, the national mission to tackle child poverty is clearly understood and embedded in many local child poverty actions.
  • The child poverty mission has been influential in structuring the local reports and actions to tackle child poverty.
  • Governance of child poverty reduction in local areas has often been the remit of a cross-sector partnership, although in several reports the structure and purpose of these partnerships were not made clear.
  • Collaboration appeared to be the most frequent aspect of the national mission to cut through to local level, and has ranged from the delivery of single services by an inter-departmental team within local authorities to the development of entire approaches between sectors or with other local authorities or national government.


This section explores the governance of child poverty actions by local authorities and health boards. It considers how they are understanding how local actions and activity fit into the national mission to tackle child poverty and the ways they are organising themselves to take said actions.

Child poverty mission

The first tackling child poverty delivery plan, Every child, every chance, set out targets for reducing child poverty by 2030. It also identified the three key potential drivers of poverty for households: income from employment, income from social security, and cost of living. In June 2021, the Scottish Government also launched a national mission to tackling child poverty, framing child poverty as a national priority and aiming to push actors from across society to meet the targets. The first child poverty delivery plan, as well as the second – Best Start Bright Futures – published in 2022, set out key actions being taken nationally to target the drivers of poverty and ultimately reduce child poverty. While a national plan, Every child, every chance recognised that action to tackle child poverty should be taken forward in partnership with local authorities and health boards, as well as wider stakeholders such as third sector organisations. It is therefore key that when taking action to tackle child poverty local areas understand the national mission, targets, and priorities and are embedding these into their approaches.

Overall, it is evident that the reduction of child poverty is strongly embedded into local policy action. The ways that reports refer back to the national targets varies. Analysing these references tells us how local authorities understand their role within the national mission and their priorities in reducing child poverty.

The framing of local actions in the broader national child poverty context is often done in the introductions or executive summary sections of LCPARs. For example, Orkney's report provided a breakdown of the national targets, the statutory duty on local authorities and health boards, and the three main drivers of poverty in their introduction to their year four report. This is used to frame the entire report, while still demonstrating a highly localised approach throughout. A similar approach is also seen in North Lanarkshire, Glasgow and North Ayrshire's year four reports. In other cases, the influence of the national goals goes even beyond the introduction. For example, South Lanarkshire and Falkirk structure their full reports around the three national drivers. They break down their policies into the three drivers and for each provide case studies of the ways the policies have benefitted citizens.

Some areas link local child poverty estimates to national data to emphasize the scale of the task. For example, Falkirk notes that 6,890 of the 200,000 children living in poverty in Scotland reside within its local authority area. Further, Dundee strongly references the Every Child, Every Chance report, framing their policies as being influenced by the recommendations, but also including mentions of significant pressures related to economic outlook that are hampering its efforts to reduce child poverty in line with national targets. Dundee's report contains clear evidence of local efforts to understand and combat poverty, clearly linking child poverty in the local area with wider political and social changes.

Understanding of Child Poverty Drivers

Understanding of the main drivers of poverty is strong across all local areas. All of the reports analysed mention the three main drivers of poverty at some point. These drivers being: income from work, income from social security or benefits in kind and the cost of living. Each of these has been identified by the Scottish Government as having significant effects on the rates of child poverty in Scotland and this is reflected in their frequent references in the LCPARs. In short, local areas have generally taken on board the importance that these factors play in influencing child poverty.

Orkney was one of several local areas which chose to present relevant poverty data graphically in their year four report. In their section concerning the drivers, they use a similar approach. They present a graphic depiction of each of the drivers linking them to practical and material problems faced by low-income families in Orkney. For example, their depiction of income from benefits displays the potential problems around limited eligibility and inaccessibility which is then linked to stigma among rural service users. Beyond this, the report also notes that these drivers are influencing Orkney's short-term and long-term planning, being incorporated into their 2022 – 2026 child poverty strategy through targets.

Another way that local reports have demonstrated understanding of the drivers and the influence of the national mission on their child poverty actions is in understanding how broader policy areas have links to drivers as well as their other aims. This is seen in North Lanarkshire's report. The report introduces the three drivers with a graphic, but then goes on to combine information about how North Lanarkshire has targeted action toward those drivers with other, not specifically driver related actions such as actions tackling period poverty. Further, the impact of these drivers and their connection with local issues are reinforced by linking local and national data, as shown in North Lanarkshire's section on income from employment.

In short, the national focus on the three drivers of poverty has cut through to local authorities and health boards significantly, and they have shown that they understand them as multifaceted problems which are useful to understand both the national and local child poverty situation. They are utilising them as tools, tackling them as problems, and exploring them as concepts.

Use of Targeting

Across all of the LCPARs it was evident that local areas were actively targeting actions towards families in poverty. Although the six priority families set out by the Scottish Government were not intended to be used as a tool for targeting services, local authorities and health boards often chose to target their efforts explicitly toward one or more of them. Local areas also often targeted other groups based on their local knowledge of child poverty within their areas.

Targeting of services was used in several different ways. This included (1) the targeting of a single service. For example, East Dunbartonshire targeted the uptake of funded childcare places to certain neighbourhoods that the authorities had deemed to be most in need of help. This was determined by looking at the data from the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. (2) The targeting of higher-level strategies. For example, Glasgow's Family Support Strategy in the city's East End. Using the six priority families, and targeting lone parents, families with children under one and families with disabilities in particular, the team behind the strategy are influencing service delivery in that area of the city. And, (3) the use of targeting to reach other group in need beyond the six priority groups. For example, Dundee's implementation of the national 2021 "Get into Summer" programme managed to target not only the six priority families but also young carers and children who were going through a "significant transition" in their education during lockdown. This approach does not break with the tackling child poverty delivery plans, but mixes its recommendations and frameworks with locally-identified needs. More than 14,000 children benefitted from that particular scheme in Dundee.


From the reports analysed, it is clear that there are a wide range of governance arrangements in place around tackling child poverty at the local level. While approaches taken to governing boards vary, with some areas having one single board overseeing child poverty activity and others having multiple with different purposes, all governance arrangements involved a range of partners and stakeholders.

Local areas set out their governance structures in different ways and levels of detail in the LCPARs. For example, South Lanarkshire provide some high level detail noting that they work extensively with local partners. They also describe having a South Lanarkshire Partnership and a child poverty working group which reports to the council's Corporate Management Team.

Similarly, in East Ayrshire governance of child poverty reduction is the remit of a single body, the Community Planning Partnership Board (CPPB). This group also has oversight of several other bodies, including three "delivery plan working groups" overseeing economy and skills, safer communities and wellbeing, alongside a children and young people's strategic partnership. They state that their child poverty targets are incorporated into decision-making and reviewed by the CPPB's Executive Officers' Group to ensure that the framework is being adhered to.

In Glasgow, the child poverty reduction efforts were noted to be governed by several boards made up of partners from across government, health and the third sector. The first being the Child Poverty Governance Board which is chaired by the Executive Director of Financial Services. This board's aim is ensuring that child poverty reduction is central to the direction of the council and considered at every stage of decision making. Second, the Scottish Government Pathfinder Board, which included representatives from Glasgow City Council, the Scottish Government and the Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership. Third, a NHS-led Child Poverty Co-Ordinating Group which co-ordinates action between Glasgow City Council and the other five local authorities that fall under the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde territory. Governance over child poverty reduction in Glasgow, then, appears to be both vertically and horizontally integrated, although little detail is given on how these boards are integrated together. Overall, few reports provide detailed information on the setup and working arrangements of their governance structures making it difficult to assess the effectiveness of the different approaches.

Some areas involved people with lived experience of poverty in their governance and decision-making structures. For example, South Lanarkshire are intending to "include the voices of families experiencing poverty" in their governance and strategy in the future. Dumfries and Galloway are currently involving the voices of those with lived experiences in their governance structures. Their child poverty governance board is the Community Planning Partnership, which acts as a third partner between the local authority and the NHS board in overseeing child poverty reduction. It decided, based on evaluations carried out of their strategy since 2017, that in 2021/22 its Tackling Poverty Co-Ordination Group would be replaced with a Poverty and Inequalities Partnership that would incorporate the 'lived experience' of poverty into its action plans. West Dunbartonshire, too, was seen to incorporate lived experience into its governing arrangements, running several feedback sessions with users of council services. The feedback received at these sessions covered topics ranging from the emotional burden of poverty and seeking help, problems service users had with accessing benefits and assistance, the stigma of poverty, and financial shortcomings in respondents' income and benefits. This information was then fed back to several of the departments involved in delivering services involved in child poverty reduction. Similarly, Angus have launched a new Service Design Approach which includes a project to improve understanding on how to most effectively engage with people with lived experience. As a result, they have developed project implementation plans to improve collaboration with the third sector on service user pathways. This example demonstrates how a strategic focus on involving lived experience in strategic governance arrangements has directly fed into new actions being undertaken.


In its Best Start, Bright Futures delivery plan for the years 2022 – 2026, the Scottish Government advocates a collaborative approach to tackling child poverty, stating that "no government alone can tackle and reduce child poverty" and that "moving to a person-centred holistic approach" is necessary to reach the aims set out in the 2017 Child Poverty (Scotland) Act. Though reserving the authority over "strategic direction" to governing bodies, the delivery plan is eager to emphasise the importance of collaboration among public, private and third sector institutions to meet the child poverty targets.

Almost all of the LCPARs analysed reflect some form of collaborative action. This included intra-governmental collaboration between departments within the local authority; inter-governmental collaboration between local governments or between local governments and the Scottish Government; and collaboration between third sector partners at the local, regional or national level. Collaboration varies considerably between local authority areas, ranging from the structuring of a single service to the adoption of an entire strategic approach to collaboration between government and third or private sector partners. Naming Best Start, Bright Futures directly as an inspiration, South Lanarkshire's report states that they "have made a firm commitment to improving our services as a partnership". While they do not go into further detail, evidence of significant collaboration can be seen in the council's Community Link Worker programme and its work with NHS Lanarkshire.

Successful collaboration can be targeted at specific needs. For example, West Dunbartonshire's COVID-19 Crisis Team worked with its Housing and Homelessness Team to provide a "holistic" approach to pandemic-related poverty and housing insecurity. This included help with fuel bills and rent but also tackling related issues like digital exclusion. A similar approach is planned for 2022/23 by Midlothian, working to better link their housing teams with agencies dealing with procurement and transport at the local level, though little information is given on how this will operate.

Collaboration within local authorities has also been used to successfully target specific populations. South Lanarkshire's Money Matters service and Community Link Worker programme are both strong examples of this approach. Money Matters exists as a council-funded support line which performs benefit entitlement and financial checks, helping users to maximize their benefit uptake. One of the usual access routes involved recommendations by staff in maternity wards of hospitals under the control of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. Similarly, Community Link Workers were often embedded with GP surgeries performing a similar function. This has had the desired effect of targeting pregnant women and young mothers.

Two examples where collaborative action and governance has taken place with a range of partners and stakeholders outside the local council are in the highly urban areas of Dundee and Glasgow. While collaboration can be found across Scotland, even in the more sparsely populated and rural areas, this could point to greater concentration of and ease of access to third and private sector partners in more urban areas. Dundee City Council has created a sort of federated system within its Dundee Partnership. Each of the eight wards in the city have a Local Community Planning Partnership in which local residents are key decision makers, sitting alongside governmental, private and third sector partners. The stated mission of these partnerships is reducing inequality. This also allows for local voices to reach the regional level as the Dundee Partnership works with organisations outside of the local authority area to deliver their services.

Glasgow provides another example of a collaborative approach to their service delivery. For example, their "Glasgow Helps" service provides a point of contact which links to several different types of support for its users. Similarly, they have established Financial Inclusion Support Officers who work in collaboration with third sector agencies and education services to provide another point of contact for families in need, linking them with several levers of support. To tackle the persistent fuel poverty within the city, partnerships have been established between the Financial Inclusion service and social enterprises like the WISE group.

In more rural areas, examples of collaboration on LCPARs often involve specific projects or actions. For example, Orkney used a collaborative approach to their Money Counts programme. This was adapted from an existing model collaboratively developed by Orkney Citizens Advice Bureau, Social Security Scotland, NHS Orkney Public Health and other community partners. The collaboration allowed the service to have a wide reach across organisations and due to significant interest, more training sessions have been planned for 2022-23.

There were also some examples of engagement with low income families to shape the delivery and implementation of specific projects. For example, South Lanarkshire reports that it created a localised 'Barista Project' within Strathaven Academy, a course accredited by the SQA to help school leavers into work. This programme resulted from a choice by a mixture of pupils, parents and school staff. Whilst impact of the project is yet unknown, it is an example of a unique approach to child poverty governance, allowing the lived experiences of people affected to drive and shape the local authority's response to the problem.


Across all local areas and health boards, the national mission to tackle child poverty is clearly understood and embedded in many local child poverty actions.

Governance of child poverty reduction in local areas has often been the remit of a cross-sector partnerships, although in several reports the structure and remit of these was not made clear. The reports themselves are examples of collaborative action between local authorities and health boards, and the usefulness of partnerships in delivering individual services or developing whole strategies has been evident throughout the LCPARs.


Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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