Tackling child poverty - progress report 2023-2024: annex B - focus report on other marginalised groups at risk of poverty

A focus report looking at other marginalised groups at risk of poverty. It provides an evidence review on barriers across the three drivers of poverty and available evidence on what works.


Policy context

The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 sets statutory targets on child poverty to be met by 2030, with interim targets to be met in 2023-24. In order to meet the targets, Scottish Government has published two delivery plans so far, alongside an evaluation strategy setting out the approach to measuring progress.

The original evaluation strategy introduced the concept of priority family types. The analysis identified the types of households more likely to experience child poverty. These are families with a lone parent; with someone disabled; with three or more children; minority ethnic families; families with a baby under 1 year old; and families where the mother is under 25 years old. We know that 90% of children in poverty belong to one or more of the priority family groups.[1] We also know that characteristics overlap, meaning that families will experience different challenges at the same time.

The priority family type concept is used as a lens to better understand people’s experiences of poverty, identify gaps in delivery, tailor policy to minimise barriers faced, and help us understand whether policies are likely to support reductions in child poverty. It gives policy makers an equality tool for understanding specific barriers that people may be facing.

The second delivery plan was developed with the understanding that policies that support the complex circumstances of disadvantaged groups, services and approaches need to: [2]

  • Be flexible and able to cope with complexity rather than single issues
  • Be available when and where families need them
  • Prioritise building trusting relationships with a lead worker, and
  • Not give up on people too quickly.

Over time our understanding of people’s experiences of poverty has broadened. Beyond the experiences of the priority groups that official statistics can identify, there is a wide range of evidence highlighting other disadvantaged groups who face specific barriers, too. Many of these disadvantaged families face particularly complex circumstances because of multiple adversities. These can include stigma, trauma, marginalisation or mental health problems, and many families will fall into various groups, including existing priority family types. Families facing multiple disadvantages are often amongst those deepest in poverty and will therefore face particularly challenging journeys to get out.2

As such, there is a need to strengthen our understanding of the complex nature of poverty experienced by families across Scotland and the need for tailored and person-centred approaches.

This evidence review aims to provide a deeper understanding of the challenges and barriers certain disadvantaged groups face when avoiding poverty or getting out of poverty. This review specifically focuses on families who are:

  • Facing homelessness
  • Gypsy/Travellers
  • Victims/Survivors of domestic abuse
  • Families of people in prison
  • Care experienced
  • Seeking asylum and refugees

While we are looking at these groups in broad terms, it is important to highlight that their experiences are intrinsically linked to the barriers we already see amongst other groups, such as those who live with a disability, are from a minority ethnic background, or who are women. There will be multiple layers of disadvantage that they will be facing. This report is a first attempt at highlighting their experiences as known from published literature thus far.

Research approach

Learnings from this report aim to support the development of policy interventions that address the needs of our broad communities. Specifically, this evidence review aims to improve our understanding of the experiences of six disadvantaged groups in relation to the three drivers of child poverty: income from employment; income from social security and benefits in kind; and costs of living. This would involve understanding the unique needs of these disadvantaged communities living in Scotland, the barriers and challenges they face in trying to move out of poverty, and the level of support required for these families.

The main research questions for the evidence review are:

1. What barriers and challenges do those from each of these six disadvantaged groups experience in relation to child poverty?

2. What is currently working well, and what should the Scottish Government and partners continue to do or do more of, for those from each of these six disadvantaged groups in relation to child poverty?

3. What new policies, actions or approaches should the Scottish Government consider implementing when considering tackling child poverty for those from these six disadvantaged groups?


This report presents a rapid review of empirical evidence relating to the above research questions. We searched the academic and grey literature to find out how each group experiences poverty, what the Scottish Government is already doing to tackle child poverty for each group, and what additional policies or actions could be considered.

The search of evidence covered a wide range of sources, including the databases: Idox; KandE; Knowledge Network; Policy Commons; and ProQuest; as well as Google Scholar. In addition to evaluations undertaken by the Scottish Government, stakeholder websites were also identified and searched for relevant empirical evidence to include in the review. Finally, stakeholder responses to the Scottish Government Child Poverty Delivery Plan consultation and call for evidence were reviewed to identify any additional or missing evidence sources.

Searches were carried out across the three key drivers of child poverty to identify policies or approaches that could have impacts on income from employment, income from social security and benefits in kind, or costs of living. The searches were carried out separately but then cross-referenced against each other to identify areas of overlap and cross-cutting themes in tackling child poverty relevant to several or all drivers. To capture evidence which has been published since the development and publication of the first two Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plans (in 2018 and 2022), evidence from the past six years was reviewed. Peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed evidence was included.

We anticipated the evidence base for some of these groups would be limited as many represent a small number and are under-researched. As a result, we were keen to learn from empirical evidence in countries outside of Scotland to develop a deeper understanding of the challenges facing each of the groups in relation to child poverty. As such, while the primary focus of the review was on evidence from Scotland and the United Kingdom, international evidence was also included where relevant.


This was a rapid evidence review conducted in a short timescale, and not an exhaustive, systematic appraisal of the research evidence. Whilst care was taken to assess the robustness of all evidence included and to capture a full picture of what works, given the broad scope of this project across multiple drivers of poverty and exploration into under researched disadvantaged family types, it should not be interpreted as a fully comprehensive review of all the relevant evidence.

In addition, while the focus of the review is to assess empirical evidence on what works in tackling child poverty, it should be acknowledged that the evidence base across the drivers of poverty and priority families is inconsistent and of varying quality.

Where research gaps in empirical evidence do exist, these have been identified throughout the report.

Structure of this report

Each chapter is dedicated to examining one disadvantaged family type. Chapters begin by stating key terms of reference and outlining the extent to which families in the group experience child poverty. Each chapter then delves further into the specific challenges and barriers they face in increasing income through employment and social security, and in keeping control of daily living costs. Chapters conclude with evidence or suggestions on what works to support families in this group where the information is available.


Email: TCPU@gov.scot

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