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.

Cost of living

Key findings

  • A large variety of actions have been taken to tackle the cost of living as a driver of poverty over the year 2021/22.
  • While responses at a local level are limited by the powers that local authorities and health boards hold, collaboration with third and private sector partners has been used to enhance the response capacity.
  • Various targeting approaches were used in policy areas like transport, housing or food support. Targeting of six priority families was often used as a means of enhancing delivery and reaching people in need. This was especially noticeable in actions around childcare and transport.


As Scotland emerges from the pandemic, and its unique socioeconomic pressures, the country finds itself in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis. Inflation is at rates not seen in decades and is forecast to remain high in the short term. This has put undue financial strain on families as prices of fuel have seen household energy bills increase and the cost of food and essentials has risen rapidly. These economic circumstances are particularly challenging for families on low incomes that are already more financially insecure and spend a larger share of their income on the essential goods that have been most impacted by inflation. Given that the Year 4 LCPARs focus on the period of April 2021 to March 2022, mentions of the cost of living are often more focused on the effects of the pandemic, but some report do take into account the pressures emerging later in 2022.

This section will look at the various ways that local authorities and health boards have reported on the cost of living as a driver of poverty and the interventions undertaken to tackle its effects. It is divided into the main areas that impact on the cost of living for families: fuel and energy, food, housing, transport, and childcare.

Fuel and energy

Fuel poverty was addressed in many of the LCPARs. Among Orkney's long list of general actions are several aimed at those experiencing fuel poverty. Work with THAW Orkney, a third sector organization that works to help those unable to afford to heat their homes, has helped people in Orkney access fuel vouchers, cosy home packs, electricity top-ups and tariff-switching. In the case of North Lanarkshire, fuel poverty appeared to define its actions over the previous year, with the reports highlighting the granting of over £866,100 in fuel hardship payments to over 5,000 households. In some cases, fuel poverty is tackled within wider housing initiatives. For example, West Dunbartonshire's mentions the creation of a ten-point housing plan, which includes measures to "support energy efficiency".

Separately, West Dunbartonshire had also been working with the Citizens' Advice Bureau to ensure that people in need were able to access hardship funds and energy vouchers to heat their homes. They had also been working with third sector organisations and housing associations to make information about energy efficiency and rising energy costs readily available. Glasgow's Financial Inclusion Officer Scheme, working with third sector partners, made part of its target population those suffering from fuel debt, helping to reduce the overall figure by £700,000.

As energy policy is a reserved area of legislation and given that the UK's energy providers are privately-run, many of the local actions taken in this area are constrained to emergency payments, vouchers and advice. The lack of control local authorities have over energy bills and affordability is only mentioned explicitly Dundee's LCPAR which points to austerity measures and UK government policies for driving the rise in unaffordability and limiting the actions local authorities can take. There is little evidence also of the targeting of fuel poverty support at the six priority family groups.


The cost of food has risen sharply over the period which the year 4 LCPARs cover and several local areas have recorded their response to this in their reports. Glasgow City and West Dunbartonshire, for example, mention the pressure of the cost of food as a particular problem for those on low-incomes and as a priority for local action. Local responses to this problem seem to have occurred in two key ways: the provision of free food at schools via free school meals programmes and 'breakfast clubs'; and tighter collaboration with foodbanks.

Falkirk Council have made use of the network of schools in their area in several ways. They reported that school 'breakfast clubs' have been set up to ensure that children are able to eat breakfast before beginning their studies for the day. Further, they also mention the existence of a School Holiday Food Fund, providing food for children from low-income families between terms. This formed part of Falkirk's holistic approach to service provision which also involved the presence of income maximization officers in schools. These actions point to an emphasis on the school as a site of intervention for Falkirk, using it as year-round resource for reaching families in need of support.

Foodbank use was also an important theme in several LCPARs. Orkney, for example, reported strong links with local foodbanks, using them to reach people in need and also referring users of other crisis support services to foodbanks. North Ayrshire have instituted a partnership with North Ayrshire Foodbank and Fairer Food Network, with a structure similar to Orkney's. These are examples of taking holistic approach across services, with foodbanks being used as an opportunity to solve food insecurity and, at the same time, maximise reach and uptake of other services.

Other approaches have also been taken. For example, Glasgow City Council funded a Children's Holiday Activity Programme which operated, like Falkirk's School Holiday Fund, during the breaks in school term-time. Although one aim of this was to provide entertainment for children in poverty and opportunities for improved wellbeing, the driving preoccupation was ensuring that children at risk were being fed. The report states that a reason for using the service in this way, with a focus on the entertainment benefits, was to reduce stigma attached to receiving free food. This shows sensitivity to lived experiences of poverty and resulting barriers to tackling it, as stigma users might feel when being in receipt of benefits or looking for support might discourage uptake.

Cash first approaches, highlighted by the Improvement Service as a key tool at the disposal of councils, to food costs were also used by some councils as a way to alleviate food poverty. Dundee and Angus College, for example, supported students with money funded from the council. While this also covered things like childcare costs and accommodation, 250 students received funds to be spent on food and other daily living costs. North Lanarkshire also distributed emergency funds aimed at covering food and energy costs for those in need.


It is evident from the reports that housing cost reduction is central to the child poverty mission and this is being recognised by local authorities across Scotland.

Local authorities across Scotland have also taken notice of the pressure housing costs place on those in poverty and its impacts on child poverty. Glasgow reported that 87% of the 3,134 new households claiming council tax reduction and housing benefit were living below the poverty line. In Falkirk, housing staff were instructed on the potential benefits of directing council tenants toward benefit teams and to advisory services within the council. Orkney noted that when taking housing costs into account, the relative poverty rate within its territory rose by more than 5.1%. Dundee stated that on top of housing costs, the majority of people claiming housing benefit from them were also affected by reforms such as the reduction of the Local Housing Allowance shared room rate. Across housing interventions there is little detail given in reports on the targeting of actions at specific groups, including the six priority family groups.

Some responses to housing costs also demonstrated commitment to a holistic approach to connecting services and providing joined up support across the system for families. Falkirk reported a multi-faceted response to housing costs in 2021/22. They were actively recruiting members of an anti-homelessness team, identifying extra funding for household winter costs and working with their education team to provide support. In West Dunbartonshire, the Housing and Homelessness teams collaborated on wide-reaching efforts which included supporting households with rent arrears and moving costs, alongside other cost of living issues such as fuel and food poverty and digital exclusion caused by the pandemic. Though no detail is given on how this help was delivered.


Across the reports, various responses and actions taken to support people with transport costs were identified.

East Ayrshire was among several local authorities which repeatedly mentioned taking action on transport as a means to reduce costs of living. Affordable transport was listed as a priority for the council, who have been running a free bus travel scheme for under-25s, with the only qualifying requirement being possession of a Young Scot Card. This provision expands on the Scotland-wide scheme to provide free bus travel for under 22s. Further, bus and taxi tokens were made available for homeless individuals, especially those with young dependents, via the council's Housing Options caseworkers. This displays an active targeting approach, aiming to provide lower cost transport for young people or their families, and in the process also targeting three priority family groups: single parents, those with children under the age of one and young mothers, though this is not mentioned explicitly in the report.

East Dunbartonshire acknowledged the pressure that transport costs can have on the cost of living, referring back to the Best Start, Bright Futures delivery plan's recommendation that transport be made a central part of child poverty reduction. As such, for those disabled children attending their snack and play sessions, transport was provided or offered free of charge. This action most clearly targets the priority family of those with a disability, but the report notes that the action supports all six priority families.

Another example of targeted transport policy was seen in Dumfries and Galloway's LCPAR. In co-operation with regional partners, Dumfries and Galloway are aiming to increase the uptake of free transport to children and young people under 22 exploring opportunities for schools, and youth work and customer service settings to support families in the application process. This demonstrates an example of a local area seeking to maximise uptake of a national strategy locally as well as linking transport uptake to improving opportunities around the other drivers of increasing income from employment and social security.


The cost of childcare has been identified as a key component on the overall cost-of-living, especially for those in poverty. Access to free and affordable childcare, therefore, was another frequently referenced theme in LCPARs in the year 2021/22.

The cost of childcare in Scotland has been subsidised for three to four year olds in the form of free Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) places for 1140 hours a year, with some two-year-olds also qualifying (including those on the lowest incomes). Maximising uptake of the ELC expansion offer has been of particular importance to many local authorities. For example, South Lanarkshire made this a specific priority, according to their report. This focus appears to have been a success, with local targets exceeded and almost doubling the amount of children benefitting from the funded under-2 year olds ELC.

Beyond promoting uptake, South Lanarkshire also chose to build new childcare facilities. Eight of them opened this year, with seven guaranteeing a total of 160 new spaces for under two years olds. Increasing places for childcare was also among the actions undertaken by Falkirk.

Childcare was also identified as a key way of connecting families with other services and holistic support. Glasgow, as part of its "Supporting Families in the Clyde Gateway" service, targeted inclusion services for ethnic minority families and funded pre-school care. This service operating in the east-end of the city aims to "meet families' needs emotionally, physically and financially" by providing a path to the Financial Inclusion service, training and employability services. This is intended to be a holistic, person-centred approach.

Financial advice and other support

In tackling the cost of living, there were significant efforts to improve how people are connected with the help and services they need. These took several forms and were often the result of a partnership between the local authority and an outside organisation.

One of the most common enabling third-sector organisations in this space was Citizen's Advice Bureaus (CAB). The CABs are organisations which, among other things, seek to help people access benefits, give people financial advice and connect people with council services. In Glasgow, for instance, they often formed an important pathway for service users to be connected with a Financial Inclusion Officer, or with any number of Glasgow's local services such as 'Glasgow Helps'. In South Lanarkshire, the CABs were instrumental in referring people to the council's Money Matter's Advice Service.

In Dumfries and Galloway, Health and Social Care staff were trained to look for signs of poverty among families using services to improve reach and targeting of support services. South Lanarkshire used schools as enabling organisations by distributing training and awareness packs focused on recognising signs of poverty and need within the student body to teachers. North Ayrshire created a "Better Off Hub", based on partnerships with third sector bodies (though involved parties were not named). This hub aimed to provide financial advice for struggling families in contact with council or third sector services.


LCPARs have captured the great variety of local actions taken to tackle the cost of living as a driver of poverty over the year 2021/22. While responses at a local level can be limited by the powers that local authorities and health boards have, that has not prevented them from engaging with third and private sector partners maximise local capacity and support. Collaboration was seen as key to providing effective responses to costs of living pressures. Various targeting approaches were used, sometimes involving a focus on the six priority families to ensure reach of those in need. This was especially noticeable in the actions focused on childcare. A significant amount of time and resource also appears to have been set aside to improve these services going forward.


Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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