Tackling child poverty delivery plan: fourth year progress report 2021-2022 - focus report on households with babies under one

Evidence about child poverty in households with a baby under one. The report presents the latest data on the child poverty targets and includes further evidence on the drivers of child poverty among this priority group.

Child poverty rates in families with a baby

Households with a baby under one are among one of the family types known to be at particularly high risk of poverty[2].

A third (34%) of children in households with a child under one were in relative poverty in 2017-20 (compared to 24% of children overall). Children in these households are also at higher risk of absolute and persistent poverty, as shown in Table 1[3]. Therefore, policies aimed at supporting low income families with new babies are likely to help drive progress towards overall child poverty targets.

Table 1: Child poverty rates. The proportion of children in Scotland who are in different types of poverty. Relative poverty, absolute poverty and low income and material deprivation 2017-20 . Persistent poverty 2016-20.
  All children Children in a household with a baby under one
Relative poverty 24% 34%
Absolute poverty 22% 30%
Combined low income and material deprivation 13% 13%
Persistent poverty (2016-20)[4] 10% 18% (with a child < 5)

Data for 2017-20 represents the most recent figures on relative poverty, absolute poverty and low income and material deprivation for this family group. Data for persistent poverty covers the period 2016-20. The next statistical update will be available in 2023. While there have been variations in poverty rates for this family type over the recent time periods, changes are not statistically significant.

As the data currently only covers the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the statistics do not yet show the full impact of the pandemic on child poverty targets. However, it would be expected that the pandemic and wider restrictions associated with it will have put additional financial pressure on households. A UK wide report from the First 1001 Days Movement and Isos Partnership reported that 45% of the 235 UK family service providers surveyed in 2020 found many of the families with babies they worked with had been impacted by a sudden loss of family income, or were at an increased risk of food poverty during the spring 2020 lockdown[5].

Having a baby can have significant financial implications for some households, even moving some into poverty. A tenth (11%) of UK households who were not in relative poverty in 2018-19 and who increased the number of children in their household moved into relative poverty in 2019-20[6]. One in twenty of all households who moved into relative poverty had increased their number of children.

Poverty is not a fixed state. Households may move in and out of poverty at different points in time. However, understanding that increasing the family size can be a catalyst for moving into poverty is important for policy development in supporting families. Further, early childhood is a critical period for laying healthy foundations for cognitive, social, emotional and physical development and functioning, which in turn play key roles in shaping economic, social and health trajectories in later life. Additionally, parent-child relationships are fundamental in shaping early childhood. These can sometimes be disrupted due to factors outwith the parents control, such as being in poverty.

Mothers can play an important role in contributing to their child's trajectory, but they need to be supported by a strong system. As the system currently stands, there are various challenges young mothers have to face. A recent publication[7] suggests that there needs to be a balance between policies that boost income from employment with interventions targeting inequalities in a young child's environment (both inside and outside of the home). The research suggests policies ought to focus on three main pillars:

  • Comprehensive support for families in early parenting in order to foster strong attachment and healthy parent-child relationships
  • Boosting income and reducing social segregation for example through housing policy
  • High quality mental health care and reducing barriers for parents in accessing that care

Our interview data reaffirms how pregnancy and birth affects mothers' mental health in various ways. Some mothers spoke about post-natal depression and the support they received from Family Nurses in terms of prevention and treatment. Others found that pregnancy was a time of increased depression and/or that anxiety peaked once their child was born. Whereas, one mother told us how having her baby had improved her mental health by promoting a more outgoing lifestyle, including baby classes and socialising with other mums.



Back to top