Tackling child poverty delivery plan 2022 to 2026: statement by Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government

Statement given to the Scottish Parliament by Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government Shona Robison on the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2022 to 2026.

Presiding Officer, the best start and a bright future is what this Government wants for all children. We want them to thrive, to realise their potential and for Scotland to be the best place for them to grow up. But for that to happen, we need to tackle the inequality and poverty that can, too often, blunt that potential.

There is no silver bullet to tackle child poverty. If there was we would not be faced with the reality of one in four children living in poverty in Scotland today. It is also something no one actor can solve on their own. A national mission to tackle child poverty is just that: a national, collective effort across society, to deliver a bright future for our future generations.

The second Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, is a Plan to drive that effort and enable it to happen. It’s actions recognise the contribution all parts of society must make for all of Scotland. It is a road map towards delivering the ambitious statutory targets to significantly reduce child poverty by 2030, as laid out in the 2017 Child Poverty Act unanimously passed by this Parliament.

Presiding Officer, when we published our first delivery plan in 2018, no-one could have predicted the intervening four years. A global pandemic; a cost of living crisis; the uncertainty and instability of Brexit. And now the illegal invasion of Ukraine, which has brought horror to a nation and a humanitarian crisis to the world.

We have also seen the UK Government’s removal of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit – taking £1,000 a year out of the pockets of low income households. And the ongoing impact of welfare cuts, including the Benefit Cap and two child limit.

There remains a very significant risk to the delivery of our ambitions given this context, particularly within a fixed budget and devolved powers – and the scale of these challenges have only increased.

And analysis that has been done by a number of organisations following the Chancellor’s Spring Statement shows that, as the FM said earlier, there is no doubt it was a missed opportunity to give families the immediate support they need in the face of a cost of living crisis.

The Resolution Foundation predict that, across the UK, a further 1.3 million people are set to fall into absolute poverty in next year, including 500,000 children and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation that the Chancellor’s lack of action means he has cut the incomes of the poorest by £446. There is no doubt that the Chancellor could and should have done so much more to support those who have been hit the hardest.

However, since 2018, we, in this government, have made a real difference to families and laid strong foundations to deliver in the future. This includes through our new social security system, our massive expansion of funded early learning and childcare, and through our devolved employability services.

Across the first three years 2018-21 of ‘Every Child, Every Chance’, our first Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, we invested almost £5.9 billion in support for low income households – of which almost £2.18 billion is estimated to have directly benefitted children.

Despite this investment we know more is needed.

To tackle the cost of living crisis we have already announced an additional package of measures, including the £150 payment to households. This is in addition to our continued investment of over £120 million for our Scottish Welfare Fund and Discretionary Housing Payments.

We are urgently considering how best to allocate the consequentials flowing from the announced increase to the Household Support Fund. We only found out about this funding yesterday and of course we will need to know the detail before making decisions.

Subject to parliament approval, we will also increase the value of eight Scottish social security benefits, including our Best Start Grants, by 6% from April. This rise will ensure these payments keep their real-terms value for families in the year ahead.

In this plan, our Government will go further in its support in order to provide the support families need now, and to drive progress toward the interim targets set.

We will double the ‘game changing’ Scottish Child Payment to £20 in just over a week and extend the Payment to children under 16 by the end of this year. However, I am pleased to announce that we will go further still, and will also increase its value again to £25 per week per child by the end of 2022.

That is five times higher than the £5 payment we were being asked to introduce less than five years ago. Over 400,000 children will be eligible, with the payment expected to lift 50,000 children out of poverty in 2023/24. This is backed by investment of £225 million in 22/23, rising to £445 million in 23/24.

As a result of this increase, by the end of 2022, our package of five family benefits - for low income families will be worth over £10,000 by the time a family’s first child turns 6, and £9,700 for second and subsequent children.

Now, this compares to under £1,800 (£1,728) for an eligible family’s first child in England and Wales, and under £1,300 (£1,228) for second and subsequent children.

That is a difference of more than £8,200 for every eligible child born in Scotland – highlighting the unparalleled support offered by this government to support children across the early years.
But we will go further still.

I can also announce that we will take immediate steps to mitigate the UK Government Benefit Cap as fully as we can within the scope of devolved powers, backed by up to £10 million each year. This will help support thousands of the lowest income families, including lone parent families who are disproportionately impacted by the cap.

This Delivery Plan has been enhanced and supported by working in partnership with the Scottish Green Group, and this particular action is a clear example of this and highlights the commitment in the Bute House Agreement to work together to tackle inequality and poverty.

Presiding Officer, the Poverty and Inequality Commission advised that further investment through social security is needed to meet the interim targets – and I have already set out the measures we will take. The Commission have also been clear of the need to increase incomes from work and earnings and to reduce household costs, and that is what we will do.

Therefore, I am also pleased to say we will significantly strengthen our employment services to support parents to enter, sustain and progress in work. Our ambition is to support up to 12,000 parents to enter and sustain employment as a result of action taken over the life of this Plan.

This will be backed by up to £81 million in 2022-23 alone, and will include additional investment for our No One Left Behind approach with Local Government. This will focus on providing holistic key worker support to our six priority families, access to training and skills, and will enable Local Employability Partnerships to create supported labour market opportunities.

We will also deliver a new Challenge Fund – backed by up to £2 million in 2022-23 - to test innovative approaches to support parents from priority families into work.

And we will deliver a brand new £15 million Parental Transition Fund with our Local Government partners to tackle the financial barriers parents face in entering the labour market.

Families will be further supported by enhancement of our childcare offers and even greater action to tackle the digital divide in Scotland.

And, to support the economic transformation needed, we will develop a shared vision for tackling child poverty in partnership with business and employers and will continue drive progress on our commitment to be a Fair Work Nation.

This Plan also sets out steps to ensure that families are able to access a holistic package of support and entitlements when they need it.

This includes investing £50 million of the Whole Family Wellbeing Fund in 2022-23, improving access to mental health services by investing £36 million over two years, and investing £10 million to increase access to holistic advice services in the current parliamentary term.

Of course we will also place the prioritisation of tackling child poverty at the heart of the Affordable Housing Supply Programme, continuing to invest in order to deliver 110,000 more affordable energy efficient homes by 2032. And we will continue our work to tackle homelessness.

We will also tackle fuel poverty for families by doubling our investment for Home Energy Scotland Loans and Grants scheme up to £42 million in 22/23.

To enable us to break the cycle of poverty once and for all, we will also take actions to support the next generation to thrive. This includes through continued investment in the Scottish Attainment Challenge, our Young Person’s Guarantee, and enhancing the total student support package over the next three years.

Presiding Officer, this gives a flavour of the significant and, transformational actions this government will take forward though our Delivery Plan to give every child the best start and a bright future in Scotland.

Our ambition, our intention and our policies will help us achieve our ambitions for Scotland’s children and families. But we must also work differently to improve the outcomes from our investment and make the impact needed.

This will not happen overnight, it is about delivering whole system change that is focused on providing integrated services and opportunities for families, helping them to flourish. It is the national mission we talk about – it is for all of society to take this forward.

Our partners have expressed their commitment to this ambitious work, and we will seek to identify a small number of early adopters in the first year of this Plan – supporting this phased approach with up to £5 million from our Tackling Child Poverty Fund, which will enable robust evaluation and learning to support this approach to scale over the life of the Plan.

We will also scale up our investment in innovative approaches, building on the learning of our Social Innovation Partnership in order to test and accelerate approaches which bring together the support families need to thrive.

Presiding Officer, in terms of reaching the interim targets, economic modelling cannot precisely account for what may happen, particularly in the context of the cost of living crisis, inflation rises and increasing international instability.

However, current modelling, which we have published in full, projects that by 2023 the actions we have taken to date, together with those set out in this plan, could help to deliver the lowest levels of child poverty in Scotland in the last 30 years and to keep around 90,000 children out of poverty.

Using current projections we anticipate that in 2023, over 60,000 fewer children will live in relative poverty compared to when the Act was passed in 2017, with 17% of children projected to live in relative poverty.

We also anticipate that over 50,000 fewer children will live in absolute poverty compared to 2017, with 16% of children projected to live in absolute poverty in 2023.

I will be clear, we will not know for certain until data is available in 2025 whether we have met the targets. However this Government will continue to consider further actions required over the lifetime of this plan to achieve these targets, to support families, and to break the cycle of child poverty.

That is why we have prioritised additional investment of over £100 million in 23/24 to provide immediate support to families, and to drive forward the wider changes needed to address all three drivers of poverty reduction.

In conclusion, we want to ensure that everyone in Scotland has enough money to live with dignity, that is why we have committed to begin work to deliver a Minimum Income Guarantee for Scotland.

We cannot accept a future where families have to choose between heating and eating and where children are unable to access the essentials they need to thrive.

As a Parliament we unanimously rejected this future in 2017, when we set our child poverty targets in statute. And we must reject it now.
We have already made such a difference together, and we must continue. This is a Plan for Scotland and we must all work together to deliver on the national mission to end child poverty.

The actions I have set out today pave the way to 2030, putting the targets set within our grasp. Our Delivery Plan establishes the action needed to deliver the best start and a bright future for families and children across Scotland.

I commend the plan to Parliament.


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