Scotland and the sustainable development goals: a national review to drive action

This review provides a statement of our pre-COVID-19 ambition on driving progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in Scotland. It brings together evidence, actions and stories of how we are making progress to meet the Goals.

1 No Poverty

  • Poverty
  • Education
  • Children

This goal seeks to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. Scotland is committed to tackling poverty, inequality and deprivation. No child or adult should have their chances limited by poverty. We want Scotland to be a place where people are healthier, happier and treated with respect; where opportunities, wealth and power are spread more equally. Our NPF states that we ‘tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally.’ Extreme poverty, by global definitions, is not evident in Scotland (target 1.1) therefore this chapter focuses on poverty as relevant to Scotland’s circumstances.

The long term trend for reducing poverty in Scotland is positive, though the shorter term trend appears negative. However, some measures of poverty may have stopped rising in the most recent figures, although further years of data are required to confirm this (see data boxes on following page). The Scottish Government is using a range of indicators to monitor poverty, such as relative and absolute poverty, and persistent poverty. A household is in relative poverty if its income is below 60% of the middle household income in the UK (the relative poverty threshold). Relative poverty is a measure of whether the income of the poorest households are keeping pace with the middle income households across the UK. A household is in absolutely poverty if its income is below the poverty threshold from 2010/11. This way, it measures whether the incomes of the poorest households are keeping pace with rising prices. ‘Persistent poverty’ identifies the proportion of people in relative poverty for three or more out of four years.

The proportion of people in relative poverty after housing costs in Scotland has been increasing in recent years, up to 20% in 2015-18 but leveling to19% in 2016-19, while the absolute poverty rate after housing costs have been stable and is at 17% in 2016-19. In 2014-18 period, 13% of people in Scotland were in persistent poverty after housing costs.

The Data Picture: Relative Poverty

Target 1.2 (Indicator 1.2.1): By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.

After housing costs, 19% of people in Scotland were living in relative poverty in 2016-19.

Line graph showing the proportion of people in Scotland living in relative poverty (after housing costs) remaining stable from 18% in 2012-15 to 19% in 2016-19.

Proportion of individuals living in private households with an equivalised income of less than 60% of the UK median after housing costs

Source: Family Resources Survey

The Data Picture: Absolute poverty

Target 1.2 (Indicator 1.2.1): By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.

After housing costs, 13% of people in Scotland were living in persistent poverty between 2014 and 2018. Children have consistently had a higher risk of living in persistent poverty than working age adults or pensioners, with 17% of children in Scotland in persistent poverty in 2014-18. This compares to 15% in 2013-2017.

Line graph showing the proportion of people in Scotland living in absolute poverty (after housing costs) fluctuating between 17% and 18% over the period 2012-15 to 2016-19.

Proportion of people in Scotland living in persistent poverty (in poverty for three or more of the last four years) after housing costs

Source: Understanding Society Survey

The Data Picture: Persistent poverty

Target 1.2 (Indicator 1.2.1): By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.

After housing costs, 17% of people in Scotland were living in absolute poverty in 2016-19.

Line graph showing the proportion of people in Scotland living in absolute poverty (after housing costs) fluctuating between 17% and 18% over the period 2012-15 to 2016-19.

Proportion of individuals in absolute poverty (below 60% of inflation adjusted 2010/11 UK median income)

Source: Family Resources Survey

Fairer Scotland (targets 1.2, 1.5)

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to tackling poverty and increasing social inclusion in our society. National and local government, the third sector, civil society organisations, and the third sector are finding ways of working together to fight inequality. The Poverty Truth Community (previously the Glasgow Poverty Truth Commission) illustrates the importance placed on the voices of those experiencing poverty to inform how Scotland tackles poverty and leaves no one behind.

The Fairer Scotland Action Plan was launched in 2016, in partnership with the wider public, private and third sectors. Fairer Scotland is a long term initiative to create a fairer country. The Scottish Government is working with communities and learning from those with real experience of inequalities and poverty to shape policies. The ultimate aim is to build a better country – one with low levels of poverty and inequality, genuine equality of opportunity, stronger life chances, and support for those who need it.

The Plan sets out 50 actions to build a fairer and more equal country. As a result, the national Poverty and Inequality Commission was established in July 2017. The Commission’s main role is to provide independent advice to Scottish Ministers on reducing poverty and inequality in Scotland and to scrutinise the progress that is being made. Through the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act, the Commission transitioned to a statutory footing from July 2019.

The Fairer Scotland Duty, introduced in April 2018, places a legal responsibility on the Scottish Government and a range of public bodies in Scotland to actively consider how they can reduce inequalities of outcomes caused by socio-economic disadvantage, when making strategic decisions. The Duty involves considering evidence relating to both existing inequalities of outcome and the impact of policy decisions on people experiencing socio-economic disadvantage. Over time this will support a better understanding of where there has been success in improving outcomes for those in poverty. The Duty is subject to a three year implementation phase where the Scottish Government will be working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission – the Duty regulator – to make sure the Duty delivers better decision making.

Communities should be supported to tackle poverty on their own terms. In 2019/20, this includes resource for the new Investing in Communities Fund, enabling communities to find solutions that work for them and support them through multiyear funding to deliver long‑term improvements. The fund is designed to be flexible around community needs and aspirations in the design of local solutions including enabling communities to have a direct say in how budgets are spent in their areas; supporting community-led design projects; take ownership of local assets, and the delivery of community-led projects and vital services that help to loosen the grip of poverty.

The Fund supports a wide range of projects such as delivering skills and learning courses to increase employment opportunity, increasing affordable childcare, financial advice support, job creation, community food initiatives, fuel poverty advice and advocacy, and support services that deliver health and wellbeing benefits. In terms of unlocking multigenerational cycles of child poverty, funded projects also currently include proactive support to help young people from a cross-section of challenging backgrounds with their educational attainment; employability skills; confidence and skills building; health and wellbeing; alcohol and drug awareness; and anti-bullying awareness. Since 2015, this programme of work has supported over 450 different community bodies and organisations, and annually supports over 300 projects.

The Scottish Budget 2019-20 is supporting Scotland’s communities to tackle poverty on their own terms in a variety of ways. For example, funding for the independent charity PAS (previously Planning Aid Scotland) will support the engagement of communities in the Scottish planning system (see also Goal 11); while the £20 million Empowering Communities Programme enables communities to tackle poverty and inequality and take forward regeneration in their areas on their own terms. Resource for Scotland’s Credit Unions supports the provision of affordable lending and savings in the heart of communities and protects people from predatory lenders and unmanageable debt; while our investment in affordable credit is helping to support ethical, affordable, not‑for‑profit agencies in areas including Falkirk, West Lothian, Fife, Glasgow and Edinburgh. In addition to helping grow the not-for-profit lending sector by facilitating low income households’ access to mid-cost credit, combating for-profit ‘pay day’ lenders, these organisations provide wider financial inclusion advice and support to help increase borrowers’ financial sustainability. Local Authorities are also working with the third sector to establish shared-premises hubs to make it easier for local residents to access advice and support services, and to support the integration of those services such as the West Lothian partnership centre in Bathgate.

Local focus on local outcomes (targets 1.2, 1.4, 1.5)

The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 obliges Community Planning Partnerships across Scotland to plan for improved local outcomes with a view to reducing inequalities of outcome, through the participation of socio-economically disadvantaged groups. Local Outcome Improvement Plans place a priority on addressing poverty and inequality. Whilst these shine a light on future ambitions, local authorities and their partners have a long-standing history of supporting people in poverty, and socially and economically deprived communities, through their policies and universal services. These include education and children’s services, housing, employability, transportation, hardship and crisis support, advice and support, and income maximisation. Many of these services are supplemented by additional partnership programmes and projects with a focus on alleviating poverty.

Local authorities also use their core resources to support third sector agencies to make complementary contributions, often within and with small geographical communities and with communities of interest.

The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 introduced a new Duty on local authorities and Health Boards to jointly prepare and publish annual Local Child Poverty Action Reports (LCPARs). Through these reports, the first of which were published in June 2019, local areas are required to outline the action taken in the previous reporting year, to contribute towards reducing child poverty, and action which will be taken in future years. The reporting process will aid areas in identifying local needs, mapping existing services and gaps which exist and strengthening key partnerships to maximise the impact of investment.

Several Community Planning Partnerships (including Edinburgh, Dundee, Fife, North Ayrshire and Renfrewshire) have set up Fairness Commissions in recent years to consider ways to improve the way that they tackle poverty and reduce inequalities. This work has raised aspirations and challenged ways of working, and the most effective actions. Emerging policy and programme priorities have included increasing access to local savings opportunities; access to affordable credit; increased welfare rights, advice and advocacy; enhanced out-of-school holiday provision; innovative child care provision; and a range of measures to address food insecurity.

Closer Look - Access to Free Sanitary Products

Scottish Government is working in partnership with key stakeholders in the public and third sector to support people to access free sanitary products in a dignified way, following a set of Guiding Principles. Scotland was the first country in the world to provide access to these products in all schools, colleges and universities. In January 2019 the Scottish Government announced further funding to increase the number of places where these vital products are available and to reach more people. This is leading to products being accessed from community settings including libraries, community centres and sports centres. It has provided funding to FareShare to expand access to sanitary products through their network of third sector partners, reaching 35,000 people on lower incomes. In total the Scottish Government will invest around £9 million in tacking this issue in 2019/20. COSLA, and its member councils, were amongst the first organisations in Scotland to offer free sanitary products and this wider rollout further enhances this provision. Support for this issue has not been restricted to Scotland, with some of our funding supporting projects in Malawi and Rwanda which allows local women to learn a trade and gain an income through making and selling reusable sanitary towels.

Child poverty (target 1.2)

Poverty remains a human rights issue facing children in Scotland and was raised as a serious concern by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2016 in its report on the UK as a whole. Since then, the Scottish Government has committed to incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots Law.

In the three year period 2015-18, 24% of Scottish children were living in relative poverty after housing costs. The rate of in-work poverty is increasing with 60% of working age adults experiencing poverty between 2015-18 living in households where someone is in paid employment (compared to 48% in 1996-1999). This raises serious concerns for children living in these families, with 66% of children in poverty across Scotland living in families where someone is working. Certain groups of children and young people are disproportionately impacted by poverty. Younger children are at particularly high risk, with almost half of all families with children experiencing poverty in Scotland having a child under five years-old. Children living with a disabled parent/carer and children with a disability are also at higher risk of experiencing poverty, as are children from minority ethnic backgrounds.

The Scottish Government actions focus on influencing the three key drivers of child poverty reduction: increasing income from work and earning; reducing household costs; and maximising income from social security and benefits in kind. The need to mitigate the detrimental effects of poverty on those children who have already experienced it – improving these children’s life chances so that they do not grow up to become the parents of children in poverty – has also been taken into account.

Closer Look - Reducing child poverty

In 2018 the Scottish Government and the Hunter Foundation (THF) announced the creation of a £7.5 million Innovation Fund aimed at delivering systemic change in child poverty – THF will contribute up to £2.5 million over four years with the Scottish Government contributing £5 million. The focus of the fund is to trial new approaches or attempt to scale existing proven approaches that have proven success in reducing child poverty. Central to this approach is that families and carers needs come first, and system needs second.

The Child Poverty Act (target 1.2)

The Child Poverty Act (Scotland) 2017 places a Statutory Duty on local authorities and NHS Health Boards to work together in their areas to produce annual Local Child Poverty Action Reports (LCPARs). This work is supported by non-statutory guidance that accompanies that Act and reflects the priorities in the national delivery plan. This recognises the pivotal role of local work to contribute towards meeting national targets. Local authorities alongside their Health Board, working closely with local partners, undertake considerable work to tackle poverty, to support low income households to manage their situation, and to narrow inequalities in outcomes.

The Act sets targets towards the eradication of child poverty in Scotland. It sets four ambitious targets, based on single year figures, to be met by 2030 and places duties on Scottish Ministers to prepare delivery plans regularly, and report annually on progress. The targets are that, of children living in households in Scotland:

  • Less than 10% experience relative poverty
  • Less than 5% experience absolute poverty
  • Less than 5% experience combined low income and material deprivation
  • Less than 5% experience persistent poverty
Measure 2017/18 AHC (Scot) 2023/24 Interim Target 2030/31 Target
Relative poverty 24% 18% 10%
Absolute poverty 22% 14% 5%
Combined low income & material deprivation 14% 8% 5%
Persistent poverty 17% 8% 5%

Achieving these ambitious targets would exceed SDG target 1.2 as regards children. The first Delivery Plan due under the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act was published on 29 March 2018, backed by a multi-million pound package of support, including a £50 million Tackling Child Poverty Fund. The Plan, Every Child, Every Chance, covers the period 2018-22 and is the first of three to be published, outlining action to progress to the 2030 targets.

The plan identifies six priority families as at highest risk of child poverty – lone parents, minority ethnic families, families with a disabled adult or child, families with young mothers aged under 25, families with a child under one and larger families (3+ children).

Through the Plan and wider commitments, the Scottish Government is taking a range of new action to help families on low incomes, such as increasing the minimum level of School Clothing Grants to £100, estimated to benefit 120,000 children each year; almost doubling publically funded Early Learning and Childcare to 1,140 hours by August 2020; investing in a range of enhanced support through social security; and increasing investment to support children experiencing food insecurity during the holidays. Scotland provides free school meals to all primary 1 to 3 pupils and those most in need from primary 4 to secondary 6. This enables access to healthy, nutritious food and also supports low income families.

The Scottish Government’s first annual progress report[1] sets out the range of actions being taken to deliver progress against the ambition of ending child poverty in Scotland. For the first time, it also includes an estimate of spend targeted at low income households and children in poverty. It finds that £1.4 billion of the total 2018/19 spend was targeted at low income families, and within that, £527 million of spend was targeted at children in poverty.

Early learning and childcare (target 1.2)

In Scotland we are committed to reducing inequality. In order to maximise incomes for working families, and to ensure that all children get the best start, the Scottish Government and local government are making an unprecedented level of investment in early years – through universal measures including the expansion of Early Learning and Childcare (ELC). From August 2020, the entitlement to funded early learning and childcare will almost double to 1140 hours for all 3 and 4 year olds and for eligible 2 year olds (around a quarter of 2 year olds meet criteria). The full 1,140 hours entitlement is estimated to save families over £350 per child per month (£4,500 a year).

The leave no one behind agenda is supported by funded early learning and childcare for around a quarter of two year olds whose parents are in receipt of specified benefits or are seeking asylum. The National Standard for Early Learning and Childcare ensures that all children in receipt of funded hours will get high-quality, accessible services aimed at improving outcomes.

Out of school care (target 1.2)

Out of School Care is care provided to school-aged children outside of normal school hours. It includes breakfast and after school clubs, holiday clubs and childminders. An NHS Health Scotland evidence review from 2015 found that out of school care benefits both children and their parents - the former mainly in terms of social interaction and play opportunities for younger primary aged children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds; the latter in relation to employment and study and training opportunities.

The Scottish Government has committed within the child poverty delivery plan to deliver an out of school care framework and has announced a £3 million fund to delivery community-based out-of-school care which will run over a two-year period starting in April 2020. This also links to areas of food insecurity faced by children and families, as discussed in Goal 2: Zero Hunger. The health and wellbeing of children is important when considering the poverty related attainment gap. If children are arriving at school hungry or are suffering hunger during school holiday periods then we know that it will be more difficult for them to reach their potential.

Work has been carried out with partners to develop the framework, assessing what is currently available and setting out what more needs to be done to ensure accessible and affordable out of school and holiday childcare is available for all children, particularly those who stand to benefit most. A draft Out of School Care Framework was published for consultation in August 2019.

Sustainable work (targets 1.2, 1.3)

Sustainable and fair work is a long term route out of poverty for families, and is particularly important given the rate of in-work poverty in Scotland. The Scottish Government is taking action to support parents to work and earn more. Scotland is the best performing of UK countries in paying the living wage, as outlined in Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth, with 80.6% of employees being paid at least that level (£9 per hour). Plans are in place to lift at least 25,000 more people onto the Living Wage through work to build a Living Wage Nation. Additional actions relevant to this Goal include:

  • £12 million investment to help unemployed parents move into work and parents in-work to build skills, progress and earn more – focusing on intensive key worker support
  • Funding for the Workplace Equality Fund (£800,000) has been increased, with a focus on parenthood, progression, and families at high risk of poverty
  • £6 million investment to support disabled parents into employment

Older people (targets 1.2)

According to Poverty and Inequality in Scotland: 2015-18, relative poverty rates for pensioners in Scotland is rising. After housing costs, for the period 2015-18, relative poverty for pensioners was 15%. Relative pensioner poverty had been stable for years after a long decline, but started to rise again in 2013-16 (before housing costs) and 2014-17 (after housing costs). The absolute poverty rate (12% AHC) and the proportion of pensioners in material deprivation (6%) are both broadly stable.

To tackle the inequalities that older people face, the Scottish Government published A Fairer Scotland for Older People: framework for action in April 2019. The framework is shaped by the voices of older people, through the Older People’s Strategic Action Forum, and focuses on older people in their communities; accessing services; and financial security. It outlines the work going on across Scotland to ensure that older people are financially secure and not at risk of poverty. For example, the Scottish Government and Age UK worked together to raise awareness of the financial support available to older people. An estimated £292 million in Pension Credit and Housing Benefit goes unclaimed each year. Increasing public awareness of these benefits would help lower poverty levels among older people.

Social protection (targets 1.2, 1.3, 1.5)

The Scottish Government has set out how it will utilise its devolved social security powers to better meet the needs of the people of Scotland and is working to create a social security system in Scotland based on our values of dignity, fairness and respect. Key aspects of social work and social security remain reserved to the UK Government – notably, Pensions and Pension Credit; Child Benefit; Jobseekers Allowance; Employment and Support Allowance; Housing Benefit; Income Support; Tax Credits and Universal Credit.

UK Government reform of the welfare system is having a negative impact on people in Scotland. The Scottish Government invests over £100 million each year to mitigate against the worst impacts of welfare reforms. In 2019-20 this includes:

  • At least £64 million in Discretionary Housing Payments, to mitigate the bedroom tax and support families impacted by other areas of welfare reform
  • £38 million in the Scottish Welfare Fund, to support those in crisis and provide Community Care Grants. Evidence shows that 13% of Crisis Grant applications in 2017-18 were due to benefit delays

In 2019-20 the Scottish Government is continuing to invest to support those on low incomes. It is investing:

  • £351 million in a Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which saves recipients an average of £701 per year
  • An additional £2 million for our Fair Food Fund, increasing it from £1.5 million in 2018-19 to £3.5 million in 2019-20; with £2 million specifically to tackle food insecurity during school holidays
  • £1.5 million funding to support advice services to alleviate the impact of welfare reforms. £3.3 million for the Money Talk Team service (see below)
  • A total investment of £21 million through the Best Start Grant in 2019-20, this is £19 million more than previously provided by the UK Government

Money Talk Team

The Money Talk Team service (previously Financial Health Check) was launched in 2018 and is delivered by Citizens Advice Scotland and the network of bureaux. The check is aimed at low income families and older people, however, it can accessed by anyone either face-to-face in their local Citizen’s Advice Bureau or through the Freephone telephone number. There are 17 different components, including advice on reducing household energy costs, increasing benefit uptake, council tax reduction, and support for child related costs such as the Best Start Grant, the School Clothing Grant and free school meals. Each check offers tailored, accessible and holistic advice personalised to the individual’s circumstances. We know that people don’t claim all the benefits they are entitled to for a range of reasons, and the Money Talk Team has been launched to help address this. Ensuring people can get practical help and support to maximise their incomes and understand their rights is fundamental to tackling poverty. In recognition of the impact of the ‘poverty premium’ – where those on low incomes pay more for essential goods and services – the introduction of the Money Talk Team was a specific commitment in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan. At least 15,000 households each year are expected to benefit from the check.

Carer’s Allowance

In 2018 Social Security Scotland made its first payments through the Carer’s Allowance Supplement. This increased Carer’s Allowance by 13% and is an investment of more than £30 million a year to support carers in Scotland. More than 75,000 carers received the payment which recognises the vital contribution they make to society. It brings the payment in line with Jobseekers Allowance. The Young Carer Grant will be available in autumn 2019.

Best Start Grants

Social Security Scotland started accepting applications for the Best Start Pregnancy and Baby Payment on 10 December with the first payments made before Christmas 2018. The Best Start Grant (BSG) gives families on low incomes some additional money at key stages in their children’s early years, adding to the family budget and reducing the need for borrowing. It replaces the Sure Start Maternity Grant (SSMG) in Scotland. The BSG’s package of three benefit payments provides extra money to qualifying lower income families during key early years of a child’s life:

1. A Pregnancy and Baby Payment of £600 on the birth of their first child and £300 on the birth of any second or subsequent children

2. An Early Learning Payment of £250

3. A School Age Payment of £250

This package of support helps parents and carers to buy the equipment they need for a baby and to support the child’s transition to early learning and childcare and then school.

The Best Start Grant Reference Group (with membership from a wide range of organisations) was set up in October 2016 to support the development of the BSG. The group represents the views and interests of people with lived experience of the benefits system and helps facilitate co-production of certain aspects of the BSG with people who will be eligible or in receipt of the benefit.

Scottish Child Payment (Income Supplement)

The Scottish Government announced its intention to introduce a new income supplement – now known as the Scottish Child Payment – which will be a new benefit to provide additional financial support to low income families, and help tackle child poverty. The Scottish Government will be guided by two principles: reaching the greatest number of children in poverty, and topping up incomes sufficiently to lift those households out of poverty. The income supplement is a significant commitment, and shows the scale of the ambition – but designing and delivering it is a complex task.

The Scottish Child Payment will be fully rolled out by the end of 2022, paying eligible families in receipt of qualifying benefits £10 per week, per child – with no cap on the number of children a family can receive a payment for. However, there is recognition that child poverty is deep-seated and that it can affect the life chances of children. As such, it will be introduced for eligible children under 6 at an earlier date, with the first payments being made before Christmas 2020.

It is anticipated that around 170,000 children in around 140,000 households will be eligible for the Scottish Child Payment in this early delivery age group. Almost 60% of children living in poverty are in households where the youngest child is under 6 years old and as such, policies that help families with children in the early year’s age groups are likely to be impactful. Once fully rolled out, it will benefit up to 410,000 children and reduce child poverty by 3 percentage points, lifting 30,000 children out of relative poverty.

Further detail is available in a policy position paper which was published alongside the announcement.

While the Scottish Child Payment is a key action to tackle child poverty – with direct cash transfers widely recognised as one of the quickest and most immediate ways to increase incomes and reduce poverty levels – there is also recognition that they cannot be the only action, and through the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment we want to ensure a sustainable route of poverty. The Scottish Government will work closely with internal and external stakeholders to consider how receipt of the Scottish Child Payment could be used to secure outcomes beyond redistribution, and support people to access wider services and support should they want and require it – for example, fast-tracked access to a financial health check or employment support.

Access to economic resources, basic services and property (target 1.4)

Closer Look - Fairer Scotland Action Plan

The Fairer Scotland Action Plan, launched in 2016, brought together central and local government, the private sector, and civil society to tackle and reduce poverty. Virgin Money and the Carnegie UK Trust both made pledges to increase access to financial services to those who need them most.

“On behalf of Virgin Money, I pledge to do my best to make banking fairer and more accessible for the people of Scotland. We are building a bank that aims to treat our customers fairly. That’s why we recently launched our basic bank account, the Essential Current Account, a fair and simple product that can help those who are finding it difficult to get a bank account. We are currently working with Scotcash to make basic bank accounts more readily available to people in the Glasgow area.” (Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO Virgin Money Plc, 2016).

“The Carnegie UK Trust pledges to help improve access to affordable credit in Scotland. Thousands of people borrow money from high cost lenders to meet every day needs. Offering attractive and affordable alternatives could save people in our poorest communities thousands of pounds every year. We want to help Scotland’s not-for-profit affordable credit providers to grow and to reach many more people. And we will commit resources and work in partnership with the Scottish Government, local authorities, affordable credit providers, housing associations, banks and charities to achieve this goal.” (Angus Hogg, Chair of the Carnegie UK Trust, 2016).


Lower rent levels are a factor in reducing poverty rates. In recent years, poverty rates for those living in social or private rented accommodation have typically been higher after housing costs have been taken into account compared to equivalent poverty rates before housing costs are considered, with housing costs generally having a greater impact on poverty rates for those living in private rented homes compared to those living in social rented accommodation, reflecting the higher average rents seen in the private rented sector. This demonstrates the importance of affordable housing in reducing poverty.

The Affordable Housing Supply Programme (AHSP) is helping to revitalise some of the most deprived areas in Scotland. Over the course of this Parliament, the Scottish Government is investing over £3.3 billion in the delivery of 50,000 affordable homes, 35,000 of which will be for social rent. This is the single biggest investment in, and delivery of, affordable housing since devolution. The Scottish Government is currently on track to meet this target within the term of Parliament, with over half already delivered.

The Data Picture: Housing standards

Target 1.4 (Indicator 1.4.1): By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance.

The 2018 Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS) found that 41% of dwellings, regardless of tenure type, failed to reach the Standard. This improved on the 45% failure rate recorded in 2015. Failure rates varied by tenure type, with the private rented sector having the highest proportion (57%) of dwellings failing.

Line graph showing the proportion of people in Scotland living in persistent poverty slowly rising from 11% in 2010-14 to 13% in 2014-18.

Proportion of dwellings failing the Scottish Housing Quality Standard, by tenure type

Source: Scottish House Condition Survey

Resilience (target 1.5)

A number of organisations collect disaster loss data in Scotland - a 2018 report for the National Centre for Resilience characterises data collection as “fragmented” and “sometimes sporadic”. There is evidence to show there is an increased risk of fire in more deprived areas of areas of Scotland. In response to this, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) is working in collaboration with partners and communities to ensure collective resources jointly tackle issues related to inequality and protect those at greatest risk. The SFRS offer everyone in Scotland a free home Fire Safety Visit, and are particularly focused on delivering this to the most vulnerable citizens. SFRS staff are alert during these visits to the signs of loneliness, fragility, potential slips, trips and falls hazards, signs of drug addiction, alcoholism and general health risks within the homes of our most vulnerable Scottish citizens.

Challenges and next steps

The targets in this Goal are challenging. However, if Scotland achieves its own child poverty targets this will be a significant step towards meeting the ambitions in Goal 1. The complexity of tackling poverty is recognised, and this review does not attempt to summarise or identify all of the relevant challenges. However, in the course of this review the following areas have been identified as particular challenges and possible next steps:

  • The impact of UK Government welfare reforms and a decade of austerity has compounded existing problems, with commentators such as the Child Poverty Action Group predicting a further 200,000 children and young people projected to be pushed into poverty across the UK
  • Brexit also presents a series of potential challenges. The need to ensure children have additional protections through the incorporation of the principles of the UNCRC into Scots law is greater than ever. EU Exit may result in a regression of legal rights and protections through the loss of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, including its provisions on social security and housing assistance (Art.34) and children’s rights (Art. 24). Further potential challenges include the uncertain short and long term economic impact of Brexit; risks to EU funding for breakfast clubs, education, and training and youth work projects. The Together Alliance has been working alongside Children in Scotland to support the Children and Young People’s Panel on Europe, a group of 19 children and young people aged 8-19 who have been sharing their views on Brexit and working to build recommendations for UK and Scottish Government decision-makers
  • The Fairer Scotland Duty has the potential to lead to improved outcomes and representation for some of the most disadvantaged people in our society and there is already some emerging evidence of decisions being changed in light of the duty. However, broader benefits will only be realised if the duty is fully integrated into the policy making process and meaningful, timely and evidence based assessments are routinely undertaken and acted upon
  • In order to build on understanding of the causes, consequences and solutions to poverty, the Scottish Government is investing in the new Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit (SPIRU), based at Glasgow Caledonian University. SPIRU is a multi-disciplinary research group providing an independent, evidence-based commentary on poverty, inequality and social policy in Scotland
  • The Scottish Child Payment is an important next step for this Goal and presents an opportunity to broaden public understanding of this Goal and the purpose at the heart of the NPF

Commitments in the Scottish Government’s 2019-20 Programme for Government that relate to this Goal

  • To help meet challenging targets to reduce child poverty, the Scottish Government will bring forward the date for the first Scottish Child Payments to Christmas 2020, which will provide eligible families over £500 per year for each child. This is estimated to lift 30,000 children out of relative poverty when fully rolled out
  • The credit union movement in Scotland has more than 410,000 members and provides ethical savings and loans to safeguard people against exploitative rates and cycles of debt. The Scottish Government will introduce a £10 million Credit Union Investment Fund – this will provide loans to support credit unions to grow memberships and improve systems
  • Helping more young people with the cost of moving into workplaces after a period of unemployment with the Job Start Payment, to be delivered in spring 2020. Around 5,000 could benefit from this support
  • Boosting parental employability programmes to facilitate better local connections between employability services and the expansion of early learning and childcare, back by £4 million of funding
  • Introducing a £500,000 Family Learning Scotland Programme to help parents gain new skills and take up learning and training
  • Preventing homelessness for low income families through supporting the work of social landlords with a £1.5 million Homelessness Prevention Fund
  • Investing £1 million to improve the life chances of young parents and their children, through using key workers to enable young parents to receive the support they need



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