This progress report captures the range of activity taken forward in 2020/21, the third year of our four year delivery plan period. Despite the considerable impacts of COVID-19, which necessitated the pausing of key activity, we have continued to drive forward progress in implementing the actions committed. As a result, all of the actions reported on last year are now either in progress or being delivered.
We also brought forward a wide range of new and additional support to help people and communities impacted by the pandemic, backed by over £1 billion of investment. Key programmes are reflected within this report and summarised below.
Where planned progress has been delayed due to the pandemic, we have reflected this within the updates provided and given revised timescales for delivery.
Within the reporting year we continued to deliver progress as part of our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, but also introduced a wide range of additional support to protect people and communities through our response to COVID-19. Key actions taken this year include:
- Introducing the Scottish Child Payment for eligible children aged under 6 on 15 February 2021, with thousands of families already benefitting from this new support worth £40 every 4 weeks
- Investing over £56 million in the continuation of Free School Meal provision for low income families during school closures, periods of online learning and school holidays
- Delivering two £100 hardship payments benefitting around 145,000 children and young people from low income households receiving Free School Meals
- Delivering over 36,000 devices through our Connecting Scotland programme which aims to eradicate digital exclusion in Scotland, with over 17,000 families with children and 4,000 young care leavers supported to date
- Providing over £100 million of additional investment in third sector and community organisations to enable them to respond to local and community need – including to tackle food insecurity and promote wellbeing
- Committing over £375 million in education recovery funding over the course of 2020/21 and 2021/22, supporting a range of work to accelerate learning recovery, support children and young people’s health and wellbeing, targeted youth services and digital devices and connectivity for those who need it
- Allocating considerable resource to local authorities to tackle food and financial insecurity through a cash-first approach, including an additional £22 million for the Scottish Welfare Fund, £8 million for Discretionary Housing Payments, £30 million to tackle food insecurity and £40 million to tackle financial insecurity
- Introducing the Job Start Payment on 17 August, and awarding over £277,000 by the end of March 2021
- Opening our Access to Child Care Fund which is now supporting 15 projects to deliver a range of childcare models
In the coming year we will focus on delivering further progress on our ambition to eradicate child poverty and will support recovery and renewal from COVID-19 by building upon our response. Key actions include:
- Making additional payments for children and young people in receipt of Free School Meals, paying £520 in 2021 and 2022 until the Scottish Child Payment is rolled out in full
- Doubling the value of the Scottish Child Payment to £80 every four weeks by the end of this Parliamentary term
- Commencing the expansion of universal Free School Meal provision in primary schools and delivering alternate Free School Meal support for all eligible children in holiday periods staring with P4s this year
- Completing roll-out of 1,140 hours of funded Early Learning and Childcare
- Increasing the School Clothing Grant to at least £120 per primary school child and £150 per secondary school child
- Continuing delivery of our ambitious Connecting Scotland programme, reaching 60,000 households by the end of 2021
- Rolling out our £20 million summer programme for pupils, helping children socialise, play and reconnect
- Increasing the value of Best Start Foods payments to £4.50 per week from 1 August 2021
We will also work to develop our next Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, undertaking consultation with people with lived experience, including children themselves, and key partners. In developing our plan we will give careful consideration to the learning which has emerged as part of the COVID-19 response in order to maintain the momentum and focus on delivering positive outcomes for the people of Scotland. We will also consider the calls to action of the Social Renewal Advisory Board and the recommendations of our Poverty and Inequality Commission, as we set out a plan to deliver the progress needed on our ambition to eradicate child poverty in Scotland.