We want Scotland to be the best country in the world to grow up and are taking strong action to make this a reality. We want children from all backgrounds to be able to access the same opportunities and achieve their full potential. In a country as rich and prosperous as ours every child should be able to rely on access to the essentials that so many of us take for granted; such as a warm safe home, access to nutritious food and clean clothes.
We have put in place legislation to meet our ambitions underpinned by our vision for a fairer and more prosperous Scotland and our Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) approach.
By supporting children to realise their potential, we will support them to achieve better lifelong outcomes and help to reduce child poverty levels in the long term – sustaining the reductions delivered through our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.
But legislation and vision alone will not help families to achieve better outcomes, for this it takes action. The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 requires Scottish Ministers to publish an annual progress report on the progress made during the year towards meeting the child poverty targets and implementing the Delivery Plan. This progress report includes that and also shows how we have brought together the wide range of key policies which help children get off to the best start and go on to lead successful lives and how we are laying the foundations for future delivery.
Realising the powers under the Scotland Act 2016, we have established a new programme of devolved employment support, Fair Start Scotland, and established our new Social Security Agency – both based on the principles of dignity and respect. We have also made use of new powers over income tax – raising new revenue to invest in vital public services and to tackle poverty.
These are important platforms from which to deliver the longer term actions committed to within the Plan, including our ambitious new Scottish Child Payment and programme of parental employment support.
This first report sets out our progress and future plans in detail. In the forthcoming years we will provide a shorter update on progress made, with a fuller report at the end of the four year plan period covering progress made over the term of the Plan.
In preparation of this report, and in line with the Act requirements, the Scottish Government has consulted the Poverty and Inequality Commission on the progress made within this first year. The Commission’s feedback, based on information shared in April 2019, has been incorporated into this report and is available on their website. Our responses to the Commission’s recommendations are set out within the relevant action updates. How we have responded to the Act requirements and the Commission is set out in section 4.
In the first section of the report, we set out our unique support for children and families in Scotland and how this helps achieve our vision for Scotland as the best place in the world to grow up. This ‘timeline’ shows how key actions in the Plan, and within our wider approach, fit together to support children and families throughout their lives.
The support and services to children and families in Scotland is unique: from our universal Early Learning and Childcare free hours for three and four year olds and targeted support for eligible twos; Education Maintenance Allowance and Attainment Scotland Fund; to our investment in affordable homes – we’re making significant investment to support families throughout their lives. These policies and investments are supporting children to reach their full potential, helping families build resilience to challenges they face and helping to lift families out of poverty once and for all.
In section two, the report outlines our approach to assessing progress toward meeting the ambitious child poverty targets set for 2030, and presents the most recent data for the four targets and the main drivers of poverty reduction.
This includes the most recent child poverty data for the six priority groups identified in ‘Every Child, Every Chance’. The focus on these priority families helps us make sure that the actions we take are reaching and meeting the needs of families who are at an increased risk of being in poverty.
Whilst the statistics available predate the Delivery Plan’s first year (i.e. the activity outlined in this report), it is clear that we will need to make strong progress, particularly given the ongoing UK Government austerity and cuts to welfare, and that this will require further considerable investment to achieve.
Nevertheless, it is worth noting that the relative child poverty rate in Scotland continues to be lower than in the UK as a whole.
Section three, in line with advice from the Poverty and Inequality Commission, focuses on the key developments over the last year which will have the most significant impact on the child poverty targets.
As outlined in the Delivery Plan, our efforts are focused on three main drivers of child poverty reduction. So this section sets out action:
- to increase income from work and earnings, e.g. the intensive parental support programme.
- to reduce household costs, e.g. our increase to School Clothing Grants and new Financial Health Check service.
- to maximise income from social security and benefits in kind, e.g. through our Carer’s Allowance Supplement and Best Start Grant.
The Commission’s original advice noted that we shouldn’t ignore issues of quality of life for children in poverty now. So we also outline here action to help families in other ways – for example, our new support for students and communities from further and higher education.
The Commission also recommended that we focus on creating and improving jobs in relation to child poverty and take account of the Commission’s research on inclusive growth. So within this section, we set out action to work with partners to stimulate local economies and develop local responses to poverty including through our new Innovation Fund.
In addition to updates on Delivery Plan action, this section also includes a number of new actions to support families. Enhanced support through the new Best Start Foods helping low income families with young children to buy healthy food – worth over £200 a year – begins in August. We have also committed to introduce a new programme of intensive employment support for disabled parents, backed by £6 million by 2022, a new Out of School Care Fund worth £3 million, and a feasibility study for a new centre on flexible work – which is key for working parents and for mothers in particular.
In section four of the report, we set out a series of ‘at a glance tables’ including: in relation to progress, and impact for priority families; investment from the Tackling Child Poverty Fund and more widely, and; how we have met the requirements of the Child Poverty Act.
This shows 48 of the 58 actions are either in progress or being delivered. We have made good progress since the publication of the Plan – we have already started delivering a number of the actions which will go on to provide vital support for children and families in the coming years – including those in our priority families.
In line with the recommendations of the Poverty and Inequality Commission, we have set out the spend committed through our Tackling Child Poverty Fund. To the end of 2018-19, £2.35 million was spent, with a further £29.8 million committed. Over the coming year we will identify further projects and policies to invest the remaining Fund into in 2020-21 and 2021-22.
We have produced best estimates on the wider investment directed at low income households with children – totalling over £527 million in 2018-19 – and set out how we have responded to the requirements of the Child Poverty Act, including responding to the comments and recommendations of the Poverty and Inequality Commission.
Alongside this report, we have separately published a series of accompanying annexes.
At Annex A we have published an evaluation strategy, setting out how the impact of key actions will be assessed over time. This ambitious work will help us understand the impact our investment is having against the four child poverty targets.
Annex B sets out the trends over time for each of the 23 indicators in the Child Poverty Measurement framework, which are intended to monitor the drivers of poverty, and form part of the wider evaluation strategy.
In accordance with our focus on priority families, Annex C gives consideration to the experiences and issues faced by minority ethnic groups living in poverty. This paper presents ethnicity breakdowns, where possible, for the Child Poverty Measurement Framework indicators. It also draws on wider evidence about the drivers of poverty, and draws conclusions about the actions needed to address poverty among minority ethnic families. Future progress reports will include a focus on other priority families.
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