This is the third annual progress report on our delivery plan. It strengthens our knowledge and understanding of poverty and informs our long term strategy. It covers the period immediately following the country’s move into a national lockdown in response to COVID-19 and reflects the progress delivered to 31 March 2021 and the response to the pandemic to support low income families.
Over the course of 2020/21 we made over £1 billion of additional investment to help local communities through the pandemic, and to build resilience in public services. This includes over half a billion through the Communities Funding Package, distributed across councils, local services and initiatives to support those in need. A further £479 million was awarded to local councils in addition to this to meet demand for local services and build resilience across the sector. How this funding has been allocated across local authorities can be found using our Communities Funding Mapping Tool and we estimated over half of the total funding available was focused on supporting low income households.
In total we estimate that around £2.5 billion was invested in support targeted at low income households in 2020/21, including almost £1 billion focused on supporting children in those households.
Our response placed a strong emphasis on protecting children and young people and on mitigating the impacts of poverty, building on the shared knowledge and approach established by our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan. This includes a focus on those at greatest risk, including within our priority families. Our Communities Funding included an additional £56 million to enable the continuation of alternate Free School Meal provision, £32 million to deliver new COVID Hardship Payments to around 145,000 children and young people and almost £5 million of additional funding, to support families through the difficult winter period, through children’s charities. We also tackled new and emergent challenges such as digital exclusion through the introduction of our ambitious Connecting Scotland programme.
Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, we also introduced the Scottish Child Payment, which is now supporting around 79,000 children in over 60,000 families across Scotland. We remain committed to completing the expansion of the Scottish Child Payment for children and young people aged 6 – 15 by the end of 2022 and have committed new bridging payments, delivered through local authorities, to support many families on the lowest incomes immediately.
However, as a result of the restrictions in place to protect people’s lives and wellbeing, we were not able to deliver the progress anticipated for key programmes - including our expansion of Early Learning and Childcare, delivery of affordable homes and Parental Employability Support Fund. In recognition of the significant importance of these commitments to our national mission to eradicate child poverty, we have made as much progress as is possible. Where commitments have not already been delivered, we have agreed ambitious and realistic timescales for completion.
In the year ahead we will have a strong focus on recovery and renewal, ensuring that we build back in a fairer way which embeds the learning from our COVID-19 response. We will help to drive this progress through a range of new actions which are reflected in this report. This includes delivering payments, equivalent in value to the Scottish Child Payment, for children and young people in receipt of Free School Meals in low income households, delivering a new £20 million summer programme, and commencing the expansion of universal Free School Meal provision for primary school children.
We are clear that further progress is needed on child poverty and that all in our society have a role to play. Alongside delivering new and existing commitments, we will work collaboratively across government and with key partners, including local authorities, to develop our next Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan – setting out further ambitious action to deliver progress on the child poverty targets set.
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 and the new actions taken forward through our response to COVID-19. As with our approach in previous years, we have focused on the key developments which will have the most significant impact on the child poverty targets and on the lives of children in poverty.
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. For each grouping of actions in section A-C we include an impact summary setting out how many people have been supported as a result of these policies.
Within this section we respond to the recommendations of the Poverty and Inequality Commission where appropriate, however will consider these more fully in development of our next Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.
This section also includes details of new policy commitments made to help deliver further progress to reduce child poverty, including those to be delivered within the first 100 days of the Parliamentary term.
In section two we provide an overview of key measures around child poverty in Scotland, including overall progress toward the targets and data on child poverty amongst each of the priority families identified in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.
This section reflects the position as of 2019/20 which precedes the introduction of major policies and therefore does not reflect their contribution. However the latest available data highlights that, whilst levels of child poverty remain considerably below the UK average, significant progress needs to be achieved over the next Delivery Plan period to meet the child poverty targets.
This section also highlights that some drivers of child poverty were moving in the right direction before COVID-19 - including key employment indicators, skills and childcare availability – and that housing costs and other costs of living remained relatively stable.
The third and final section sets out the latest progress ‘at a glance’, providing quick reference to progress and investment as of 31 March 2021.
This section includes a summary of progress against each of the actions committed, and detail of investment from our Tackling Child Poverty Fund directed at low income households. The final summary sets out how we have met the statutory requirements under the Child Poverty Act, including responding to the Poverty and Inequality Commission’s comments and recommendations.
As with previous years we have also published further technical information in an annex.
Annex A presents details of trend data for the drivers of child poverty, updating on each of the 23 measures included as part of our Child Poverty Measurement Framework. This annex is discussed in the second section of this report.
We will shortly publish an additional annex detailing an evidence review in relation to households with a disabled family member. Informed through engagement with families with a long-term health condition, this annex will also present, where possible, breakdowns of the Child Poverty Measurement Framework by family type.