This annual progress report provides an update on progress against the ambitious child poverty targets set and in delivering the range of actions committed through the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan over the period 2019-20. Due by the end of June 2020, the preparation and publication of this report was delayed to enable the Scottish Government to focus on responding to the unprecedented impacts of coronavirus. Scottish Ministers mobilised a range of support, backed by a £350 million Communities funding package announced on 18 March 2020, and officials across the Scottish Government were redeployed to support the nationwide response and reduce the impacts of the virus on those most at risk.
The virus has highlighted the damage of inequalities in our society, with the impacts being felt unevenly across the country both in experience of lockdown and rates of infection and deaths. As we look forward to recovery and renewal the impact of this pandemic has strengthened the case for action on child poverty and to tackle wider inequalities – therefore we remain resolute in our commitment to achieving the child poverty targets set and realising our ambition for a fairer, greener and more prosperous Scotland. We continue to be guided by our National Performance Framework and key legislation including the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017.
Prior to the pandemic we had delivered strong progress across the range of measures set out in the Delivery Plan, including on our expansion of Early Learning and Childcare, delivery of more warm and safe affordable homes, and our game-changing Scottish Child Payment. Whilst the impacts of the virus necessitated a pause to many of our programmes, with inherent delays, we are committed to delivering the support needed as soon as is practically possible and building forward better.
In line with statutory requirements, in preparing this report Scottish Ministers invited the scrutiny of the Poverty and Inequality Commission and provided detail of the progress delivered over the reporting period. We welcome the Commission’s scrutiny and have responded to their seven recommendations through this report. Detail of where we have responded is set out in the summary below.
Through our approach to tackling child poverty we have retained a strong focus on the six priority family types at higher risk of poverty identified in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan. Whilst some actions are specific to these groups, such as our additional investment in support for young parents, our overall focus is on ensuring that actions across government are designed and implemented in such a way that these groups are both able and encouraged to access and benefit from the support available. Through careful design, influenced by the voices of those with lived experience, we can ensure that individuals and families at greatest risk of poverty are not left behind. We will continue to focus on developing our policies, across government, through the lens of child poverty and the groups who are at greatest risk.
In the weeks and months ahead as we navigate ‘Scotland’s Routemap through and out of the crisis’, and begin to see the full impacts of coronavirus on our communities and economy, we will continue to assess the scale of the interventions needed to tackle and reduce child poverty. The Scottish Government will work with experts, including the Social Renewal Advisory Board, to ensure that interventions delivered meet the scale and pace required to mitigate the impacts of the crisis on children and families.
The first section of the report focuses on the progress we have made in delivering the range of actions set out in our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan. As with our approach in 2018-19, we have focused on the key developments in the last year which will have the most significant impact on the child poverty targets and on the lives of children in poverty.
Within this section we respond to the Poverty and Inequality Commission’s recommendations in relation to the impacts of coronavirus on the Scottish Child Payment, Early Learning and Childcare expansion and delivery of affordable homes beyond 2021. We include details of a number of policies influenced by those with lived experience and provide further detail on our support to embed this practice more widely across Scotland.
This section also details new policy commitments, including our investment to support young parents, action to prevent homelessness and phase two of our ambitious Connecting Scotland programme.
Updates are organised by the drivers of child poverty reduction with the final sections focussing on helping families in other ways and on our partnership actions.
In section two we set out the progress made against each of the ambitious targets set and provide the latest data available for each of the priority family types identified in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.
This section reflects the position as of 2018-19 when we commenced delivery of the actions committed in ‘Every Child, Every Chance’ and does not include the full impacts of interventions launched in the course of that year; including our Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment, Money Talk Team service, School Clothing Grant increase and Carer’s Allowance Supplement.
Whilst single year data shows slightly lower child poverty levels across three of the Child Poverty Act target measures compared to the previous year and a similar level for the final measure, we are clear that considerable further action is needed to deliver the reductions required. This need is further reinforced by the economic impacts of coronavirus, which are yet to be felt in full, and forthcoming EU exit which could have a considerable negative impact on living standards.
In response to the Poverty and Inequality Commission’s recommendations this section highlights our approach to evaluation and monitoring impact, including for the priority family types identified in the Plan and for other marginalised groups. This work is helping us to better understand the impact of our actions, the type and scale of further actions required to deliver on our ambition to eradicate child poverty and to continuously learn from and develop our approaches to tackling poverty.
In the third and final section we present the latest ‘at a glance tables’ which provide quick reference updates in relation to efforts to tackle child poverty.
This includes: progress for each of the actions committed and the impact both against the drivers of poverty and future prospects and which of the priority families are expected to benefit; investment from the Tackling Child Poverty Fund; estimated investment targeted at low income households and children in 2019-20, and; how we have met the requirements of the Child Poverty Act. The final summary includes responses to the comments and recommendations of the Poverty and Inequality Commission.
Alongside this report we have also published a series of accompanying annexes providing further information.
At Annex A we provide an update on the 23 measures included as part of our Child Poverty Measurement Framework that are intended to monitor these drivers of poverty. These form part of the wider monitoring and evaluation strategy published as part of our first annual progress report.
Annex B details findings from an evidence review of child poverty and its drivers in Scotland and the UK. This highlights that children are less likely to live in relative poverty after housing costs (AHC) in Scotland than the UK overall. In the period 2016-19, relative child poverty levels in Scotland AHC were 11 percentage points lower than the North East of England and a significant 15 percentage points lower than London. This annex provides comparisons to the UK across employment, housing and the value of support through social security entitlements.
Annexes A and B are discussed within the first section of this report.
Annex C, informed through engagement with One Parent Families Scotland, details an evidence review in relation to lone parent families – one of the six priority families identified in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan. This annex presents, where possible, breakdowns of Child Poverty Measurement Framework indicators by family type. It also draws on wider evidence about the drivers of poverty, and draws conclusions about the actions needed to address poverty among lone parent families. Alongside the data, we present the comments of lone parents who have shared their views and experiences to highlight the day to day reality behind the data.
By continuing to build our knowledge and understanding of poverty, in particular for our priority families, we can enhance our policy responses – helping to lift children out of poverty.