1. Reporting on progress 2020-21
Within this section we provide updates against each of the actions set out within the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan together with actions included in the 2019-20 annual report.
Within the reporting period, we have taken significant action to tackle and mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, backed by over £1 billion of investment through our Communities Funding Package. This activity, together with new actions to support recovery and renewal, is reflected throughout the report.
The actions described below are arranged under the five original chapters set out in ‘Every Child, Every Chance’:
A. Increasing income from employment and earnings
B. Costs of living
C. Social security
D. Helping families in other ways
E. Partnership working
Impact summaries are included for action in sections A-C, aligned to the drivers of poverty reduction.
A. Increasing income from employment and earnings
Sustainable, fair work is a long-term route out of poverty for families. Every Child, Every Chance identified ‘increasing income from employment’ as a main driver of child poverty reduction. However, to be sustainable, employment needs to offer parents decent rates of pay, good training and support, opportunities to progress, a flexible working environment and enough hours in work to provide a wage that, as a minimum, meets basic family needs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on economies worldwide and many people have experienced the loss of earnings or employment as a result of restrictions necessary to limit the spread of the virus. We know that this has disproportionately impacted those in lower income and front-line service occupations, who have not been able to make the transition to home working, including our priority families.
To aid recovery we have committed to strengthening the support available to parents. We have extended Fair Start Scotland (FSS) delivery for a further two years to 31 March 2023, with the aim of providing stability and continuity for FSS participants. We continue to invest in our employability services, including over £27 million this year (2021/22) for FSS delivery, ensuring we can appropriately manage the anticipated COVID-19-related increase in demand for support and contribute to an inclusive economic recovery. We also announced increased investment in the Parental Employability Support Fund, providing £6 million of investment specifically to support disabled parents and increasing annual investment to £8.65 million in 2021/22, to help meet demand for this valuable service and will continue to invest in our Flexible Workforce Development Fund and the Workplace Equality Fund, providing support to train and upskill our workforce and tackle inequalities, and in our Women Returners Programme.
Over and above this we announced new support in the form of our Young Person’s Guarantee, investing £60 million in 2020/21, and a package of support to enable retraining and upskilling, including a new National Transitions Training Fund to support 10,000 people facing redundancy and unemployment. We have committed £125 million of additional investment for these, and other initiatives, in 2021/22 ensuring the future workforce has the skills needed for a green recovery and supporting those at risk of long term unemployment.
Updates on key actions from our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan are below.
New employment support for parents
As set out in our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, parents who have to balance work and home responsibilities can find securing good quality jobs challenging. This can be a particular issue for our priority families who face additional barriers. That is why our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan committed new support through Fair Start Scotland and our Parental Employability Support Fund focused on tackling these barriers and providing the help parents need to enter and progress in the labour market.
A summary of action in 2020/21 is set out below, followed by more detailed updates for commitments in the Delivery Plan.
The impacts of COVID-19, both in terms of restrictions on face to face service delivery and on our economy, have meant that our key employability services have not been able to perform as we would have otherwise anticipated. In particular, participation from parents in both pre-employment and in-work support has dropped considerably due to the additional calls on their time such as home schooling, child care commitments and work responsibilities. In addition, furlough and the closure of many services have adversely affected people’s ability to participate.
Faced with the restrictions in place, Fair Start Scotland (FSS) providers and local authorities rapidly responded to the crisis and completely changed the way they engage with, and support people accessing their services during this challenging time. This ensured that they were able to maintain support for existing participants, as well as continuing to promote the service and engage with potential new participants.
- 4,973 parents supported over first 3 years of FSS delivery
- 1,539 parents started work through FSS, including 685 lone parents, 180 parents with 3 or more children and 115 minority ethnic parents; early evidence that outcomes for parents are broadly in line with those for non-parents
- FSS investment increased by £5.8 million to over £27 million in 2021/22 to ensure appropriate and adequate support for those at risk of long-term unemployment and those facing the greatest barriers to accessing fair and sustained work
- Our increased investment in the PESF will enable a greater number of parents to access the service in 2021/22
- Focused PESF investment will support young parents to access holistic support to engage in education, training and school
- Focused PESF investment will support parents accessing funded Early Learning and Childcare to enhance their skills and progress into employment
Fair Start Scotland
Building on its success in 2019/20, the Scottish Government made a further investment of £20.5 million available to support FSS participation and outcomes in 2020/21. The service has performed well in the last year, despite the ongoing economic and labour market uncertainty and continued local/national COVID-19 restrictions. We also implemented our pre-COVID-19 policy to extend FSS eligibility for particularly vulnerable groups to “Day 1 unemployed” status and would hope to see some evidence of increased participation by these groups in our evaluation reports later this year.
Referrals and starts on the service from April to December 2020 dropped noticeably in comparison to the same period in 2019 - by 25% and 18% respectively. This is due in part to the “pause” in referrals made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) between March to June 2020, as they dealt with an unprecedented volume of Universal Credit claims. All FSS referrals during this period were generated by FSS Providers via digital platforms and social media. Referrals and starts remained at a lower level for the rest of 2020, but the latest statistics show that levels returned to nearer pre-COVID-19 levels in January – March 2021.
Whilst some people disengaged with the service during the course of 2020/21, including due to COVID-19 health concerns, we know that the change in delivery methods has been a positive step for many participants, particularly those who found it more challenging to attend face to face meetings previously. We will actively work with providers to consider how positive changes can be retained to better support those unable to attend physical meetings, including those in rural areas and with mobility or other health issues. Our Year 3 FSS evaluation fieldwork will explore the impacts of COVID-19 on FSS participants in more detail and is due to be published later in the year.
The latest employability statistics show that over 32,500 people, including 4,973 parents, have been supported in the three years since the service launched in April 2018, and more than 10,000 people have moved into work, including 1,539 parents.
For those parents who had started on FSS by December 2019 and therefore had the full time to achieve outcomes, 23% sustained employment for at least 3 months, which is the same proportion as FSS participants overall. 18% of disabled parents sustained employment for three months, compared to 21% of disabled people who were not reported to be parents, and 26% of people who are not disabled and not reported to be parents.
Proportions of other priority parent groups achieving three month job outcomes were similar to those achieved by FSS participants overall, but these figures should be used with caution as some percentages are based on very small numbers. Three months’ sustained employment was achieved by 21% of lone parents, 22% of mothers under 25, 28% of parents with three or more children, and 23% of minority ethnic parents.
In response to the statistics and our evaluation recommendations, we have worked closely with FSS Providers in the last year to focus our Continuous Improvement activity on eligibility groups who are currently under-represented across the service, or who have below average outcomes. This has included significant engagement with stakeholders representing minority ethnic communities, women, refugees, people with convictions and people in rural communities. This work will continue into 2021/22.
Parental Employability Support Fund
Due to the impact of COVID-19, local authorities and their delivery partners have had to adapt their delivery, focusing much more intensively on crisis management. This includes the redeployment of local authority staff to enable delivery of crisis grants to parents, the provision of school meals, management of business grants and financial advice. Whilst these challenges have been present, the economic impact of COVID-19 has driven forward local partnership working with increased levels of engagement with community groups, support organisations, parental groups, and employers.
As a result of COVID-19, the needs among the most disadvantaged in our communities have intensified and people who have not traditionally required support may find themselves out of work and reliant on out of work benefits. We know that many female dominated sectors have been hardest hit and that disabled people have seen a disproportionate impact, and the full impact won’t be known until the job retention scheme ends and the economy starts to re-open.
In recognition of this challenge we have allocated a further £5 million to boost support for disabled parents, and have confirmed an additional £8.65 million for PESF in 2021/22 to enable support to be made available for more parents. This investment will support enhanced service offerings for young parents and further strengthen the alignment of employability services with our Early Learning and Childcare offer – ensuring more parents can access training and employment support.
Tackling low pay and supporting equality at work
Evidence shows that while having paid work can be an effective route out of poverty, having any job is not always enough. The most recent statistics show that two thirds of children in poverty live in a working household, highlighting the challenge faced by families in securing high quality employment with the number of hours they need to lift themselves and their children out of poverty. That is why, in line with our ambition for Scotland to be a Fair Work Nation by 2025, we are taking action to promote fair, inclusive and flexible employment, to help parents work and earn more, effectively lifting them out of poverty.
The impact of action in 2020/21 is set out below, followed by more detailed updates on action taken.
- 4,541 workers saw an increase in their wages as a result of Living Wage accreditation during 2020/21
- The 2021/22 Public Sector Pay Policy delivers a guaranteed cash underpin of £800 for those earning £25,000 or less
- Fair Work First criteria has been applied to £2.4 billion of funding, promoting security of contracts and payment of the Real Living Wage
- The provision of flexible working arrangements is a key factor for workers with caring responsibilities, and in particular women being able to secure and maintain successful employment and career development.
Building a living wage nation
Payment of the real Living Wage continues to be a key strand of our Fair Work agenda and is being progressed through the Scottish Living Wage Employer Accreditation scheme and our Fair Work First approach. The hourly rate paid, which increased to £9.50 in 2020/21, is estimated by the Living Wage Foundation to increase a full time worker’s earnings by more than £1,150 compared to the current UK Government National Living Wage.
The Scottish Government provided £380,000 to the Poverty Alliance in 2020/21 to increase the number of Living Wage Accredited employers across Scotland as a way to drive up the number of workers receiving a real Living Wage. By the end of this period there were over 1,950 accredited living wage employers spanning many sectors of our economy, an increase of 314 over the past year. These accreditations have led to 4,541 additional workers receiving an uplift to the real Living Wage at the end of the financial year. As of 31 March 2021 over 43,000 workers in Scotland will have had a pay rise as a result of accreditation. Scotland remains the best performing of all four UK countries with the highest proportion of employees paid the Living Wage or more (84.8%).
Additionally, through our funding to the Poverty Alliance we will expand the Make Living Wage Places initiative to promote payment of the real Living Wage in localities, including at town, city and regional levels. During this period Aberdeen, Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders are progressing their ambitions to achieve their Living Wage Place accreditation, which will increase the amount of workers receiving a decent wage.
Tackling low pay in the public sector
The Public Sector Pay Policy applies directly to 50 public bodies and covers 10% of the public sector workforce in Scotland. However, the policy sets a benchmark for the wider public sector and informs the decisions they take on pay.
Public sector pay policy continues to focus on targeting higher increases at those in the lower paid brackets as well as requiring all public bodies to pay at least the real Living Wage.
Fair Work First
Through Fair Work First we are driving high quality and fair work across the labour market in Scotland. Our Fair Work First criteria is focused on promoting security of pay and contracts; asking employers to embrace a diverse workforce, not to use zero-hours contracts inappropriately as well as paying the real Living Wage. The Fair Work First criteria seek to address particular challenges in the labour market, and make a real difference to people, businesses and the wider community. It is an agenda for all; even the best employer can do more to strengthen their fair work approach.
We published Fair Work First Guidance in January 2021 to support all those involved in the implementation and delivery of Fair Work First. The criteria has been attached to £2.4 billion worth of funding so far, and we are looking to continue this expansion across other funding streams. We will review our Fair Work First criteria to also include specific reference to fire and rehire tactics, and promotion of flexible and family friendly working.
New support for flexible working
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the critical role that childcare plays in supporting the labour market.
Evidence suggests that during periods of lockdown with school and nursery closures, housework and childcare has fallen more on women than men. The provision of flexible working arrangements is a key factor for workers with caring responsibilities, and in particular women, to secure and maintain successful employment and career development. While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on working practices saw a surge in enforced working from home that enabled businesses to reconsider previous practices, beyond COVID-19 a strong social case can be made for normalising flexibility in quality jobs. This will allow those who need to balance work and care to access employment and progress at work. It is important to ensure that ongoing advice is provided to employers to support flexible working and to support those looking for work, including our priority families for whom access to better paid flexible work is evidenced to be a key factor in helping them to raise their household earnings.
To capitalise on this change, we supported Timewise through our Tackling Child Poverty Fund to deliver an eight month programme during 2020/21, beginning in September 2020, which included a programme of webinars and guidance to employers across Scotland on how to manage flexible working through the crisis. Alongside this they provided a four month training programme focusing on those delivering key support including the Parental Employability Support Fund, provided comprehensive guidance and resources for employers and employees, and updated the Flexible Jobs Index for Scotland.
In 2021/22, Timewise will continue efforts to embed and promote the benefits of fair and flexible work. At the end of this year we will review progress made, alongside findings from the evaluation and consultations with partners, and develop an action plan setting out our next steps for this important work.
B. Costs of living
Reducing household costs is one of the keys to delivering a reduction in child poverty levels. This covers many unavoidable costs such as flexible and affordable childcare provision; safe, warm and secure housing; fuel, food and day-to-day essentials; and affordable credit – which is often required due to insecure incomes.
Over the past year we have taken significant steps to support families living on low incomes and those negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure their basic needs are met and to prevent them from financial crisis and destitution. Key supports, including provision of Free School Meals, have been more important than ever for families ensuring that children are able to access the nutritious food they need. Working together with our partners in local authorities and the third sector, we have made considerable investment to protect the people of Scotland, including over £140 million to tackle food insecurity, £40 million of flexible funding to local authorities to tackle financial insecurity alongside £30 million of funding to support people impact by COVID-19 restrictions and guidance.
Whilst the pandemic has forced a softer launch or delayed introduction/delivery of key commitments, including the expansion of Early Learning and Childcare and the 50,000 affordable homes target, we have taken steps to regain the ground lost and committed to new and ambitious action to further reduce poverty.
This includes new action in relation to childcare, expansion of free school meal provision to all primary school children and free bus travel to all young people aged under 22.
Updates on key actions from our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan are below.
Enhanced support through Early Learning and Childcare
High quality and affordable Early Learning and Childcare and School Age Childcare play a key role in tackling child poverty. For children, it supports their development, helping to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap and improving lifelong outcomes – preventing today’s children from becoming the parents of children in poverty. For parents, it can enable them to gain access to employment and training opportunities by giving them more flexibility and more time – and importantly reducing the costs they face when doing so. Together with our action on parental employability and fair work, our focus on childcare has the potential to move more families out of poverty.
The impact of action in 2020/21 is set out below, followed by more detailed updates on action taken.
- 114,222 children were accessing funded ELC as of the end of February 2021
- 98,474 children (86%) were accessing more than the statutory entitlement of 600 hours, and 74,096 children (65%) were accessing 1,140 hours funded ELC
- The numbers of children accessing an expanded offer has increased since August 2020, with an additional 17,399 children now accessing 1,140 hours funded ELC
- 1,140 hours of funded ELC is estimated to save households on average £4,500 per child each year and gives parents and Carer's greater opportunities to consider work, training or study
Expanded Early Learning and Childcare (ELC)
Due to the impact of lockdown on required construction and recruitment, and the need for local authorities to focus on supporting the pandemic response, Ministers took the difficult decision to revoke the statutory duty for all entitled children to receive 1,140 hours. However, throughout the pandemic, the Scottish Government, local government and partners across the sector shown shared commitment that where there is potential to deliver expanded hours ahead of that date, this will be delivered to families.
In May 2021, 17 authorities were offering 1,140 hours to all children, and all authorities are offering 1,140 hours to some or most children. Data gathered by the Improvement Service that the majority of children in Scotland access 1,140 hours.
We are confident that all families will be able to access 1,140 hours by August 2021, when the statutory duty will now come into effect.
Beyond the delivery statutory duty from August 2021, further work will focus on developing the expanded childcare offer, and monitoring to ensure that the benefits of the expansion are fully realised. The National Standard for funded ELC ensures that all funded ELC providers are inclusive, making adjustments where required to allow children with additional needs and disabilities to receive their funded entitlement in an appropriate setting.
Our evaluation of the impact of the expansion to 1,140 hours per year on improving outcomes for children and on labour market outcomes for parents, particularly women will inform what further action the Scottish Government takes to best support our children and further strengthen access to the labour market.
We have set out the next phase of ELC in Scotland and have committed to expand free early years education to all 1 and 2 year olds, starting with children from low income households in this Parliament. In delivering this commitment we will consider the impact of extended ELC on children’s development and behaviour.
School Age Childcare
Beyond our expansion of funded Early Learning and Childcare, we have committed to build a system of ‘wraparound’ childcare, providing care before and after school, all year round. Those on the lowest incomes will pay nothing, and others will make fair and affordable contributions. We will include those with lived experience of poverty within our public panel of children and young people and parents and Carer's who will actively participate in the definition, design and delivery of a future school age childcare offer.
The £3 million Access to Childcare Fund is helping to inform the wider policy development in relation to School Age Childcare. Over the last year, we have published our School Age Childcare Draft Framework consultation analysis and our School Age Childcare Progress Report.
Our consultation analysis showed that the costs of school age childcare can often be significant and/or prohibitive for some families, including those trying to get into work and who have not received their first wage; those with more than one child; those with fluctuating low incomes; or those on low incomes but not claiming benefits. These considerations and others are helping us develop our policy further, including informing the future development and publication of the School Age Childcare Strategic Framework.
In the coming year, we will continue to work collaboratively with a wide range of stakeholders to shape the future system of ‘wraparound’ childcare and our strategic framework for school age childcare. We will also establish a public panel of parents, Carer's, children, and young people to ensure our developing policy meets their needs. We will begin work to produce a children’s charter for school age childcare to complement our strategic framework and undertake a financial sustainability health check to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on the school age childcare sector, taking account of particular challenges for different service types.
Our 15 Access to Childcare Fund projects will test the changes required to deliver more accessible and affordable school age childcare for families on low incomes. We will continue to work in partnership with the Scottish Childminding Association to deliver a school age childcare project focused on childminder provision, which is offering targeted support for families on low incomes as they enter the labour market.
Family Learning Programme
The Family Learning Scotland (FLS) Programme aims to help parents to improve and enrich the home learning environment, and to support the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan by equipping parents with skills and qualifications which can help them move out of poverty.
As noted in our previous progress report, Peeple were commissioned to fulfil the FLS Programme by training and supporting 432 practitioners. Since March 2020, over 300 new practitioners from 28 local authorities have been trained in the Peep Learning Together Pathway (LTP) through the FLS Programme. The remaining Peep LTP training is on track to be completed by the end of June 2021.
Tackling the cost of the school day
Action to tackle the cost of the school day supports children to learn and get the best from their education. This is a key element of the Scottish Attainment Challenge which is covered in more detail in Section D. Within our Delivery Plan we committed to increasing School Clothing Grants to a new national minimum, supporting children to have the school clothing and sports kits they need, alongside wider action to tackle the cost of the school day, food insecurity and encourage access to leisure activities. These actions mean families have more money to spend on essentials and support better lifelong outcomes for children.
The impact of action in 2020/21 is set out below, followed by more detailed updates on action taken – more detail is also provided on our future ambition for housing in Scotland at the end of this section.
- We invested over £140 million to support food insecurity responses between March 2020 and April 2021, including over £56 million to local authorities to provide free school meal replacements
- Free school meal replacements in 2020/21 reached in the region of 156,000 children and young people
- 157,585 school clothing grants issued in 2019/20
Supporting families during the school term
To mitigate the impacts of the pandemic and to support children and families, we made £56 million of additional investment to ensure the continued provision of free school meal replacements during school closures, periods of online learning and school holidays for around 156,000 eligible children and young people. We encouraged local authorities to take a cash-first approach, enabling families to make their own choices about the food they choose to eat. Our 2021/22 Scottish Budget has committed £49 million to continue targeted holiday support this year alongside supporting the expansion of universal Free School lunch provision to primary four and five pupils.
Our planned review of School Clothing Grant levels was delayed due to the pandemic, however we have now committed to increasing the value from £100 for all pupils to new minimum levels of £120 for primary pupils and £150 for secondary pupils. We are working with our local authority partners to implement the increased national minimums which will support an estimated 145,000 children and young people this year.
Through our continued support, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland has helped provide more strategic leadership and support to more schools and local authorities to identify and overcome barriers that children from low income families face in costs associated with their participation and engagement at school. Over the past year, during the pandemic CPAG have looked at the impact lockdown was having on children and families, conducting two research surveys, helping to direct support and address challenges.
We also continued to support young people to further their school education with £24.7 million invested in Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) in the 2020/21 academic year. This represents an additional £2 million spend in comparison to 2019/20, reflecting increased participation and eligibility due to the impact of COVID-19.
As well as providing funding to all 32 local authorities, and the Scottish Funding Council to facilitate payment of EMA, we issued updated guidance to organisations on eligibility and participation to ensure EMA continued to be paid during the pandemic including where students were not physically in attendance due to closure or self-isolation.
Supporting families outside the school term
As a result of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, several projects funded to deliver responses and improve policy learning on tackling food insecurity during school holidays were paused or refocused.
We have been piloting and closely evaluating new and different models of food and activity provision alongside wider family support. Investments have had a particular focus on encouraging local authority and third sector partnership working; improving provision to engage secondary school aged young people; and activity to engage whole families through holistic support.
Aligned with developing school age childcare policy, we have also invested in research conducted by the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Unit (SPIRU) to better understand the nature and extent of school age childcare and holiday activity and food provision across a sample of local authorities, and to evaluate different models of provision. A mapping tool will help local authorities to identify and better understand the existing provision in their areas. These reports are due to be published in early summer 2021.
Together with Scottish Attainment Challenge we are supporting Phase 3 of Young Scot’s #YSAttain project. This has included continued direct delivery of entitlements to young people in three local authorities, alongside the production of case studies, information and resources, as well as the establishment of a learning community to engage new local authorities in adopting #YSAttain models. One case study of #YSAttain activities in North Lanarkshire highlighted that young people claimed over 220 meals, saving over £1,000, at local cafés during school holiday periods between June 2019 and August 2020. Using their Young Scot NEC as proof of entitlement, they could access a free meal deal whilst their peers were able to access a 20% discount.
£20 million has been committed to deliver a range of activities during the 2021 school summer holidays, recognising the impacts that COVID-19 has had on all children and young people. This will include a particular focus on providing targeted support for children from low-income families and others who may otherwise struggle to access such experiences during the holidays. Targeted support will include the provision of activities, alongside food and wider support for families where needed, building on learning from delivery of Scottish Government funded work on tackling food insecurity during school holidays in recent years.
The summer offer will also be informed by direct feedback from children and young people on what they want, and evaluation of delivery will also involve engagement with participants and their families. This learning will help inform future policy and practice in relation to what is provided for children and young people during school holidays, linking to Scottish Government commitments for lunch and breakfast provision over the holidays.
Delivering warm and affordable homes
Safe, warm and good quality housing plays a significant role in quality of life, providing children and families with a sense of security and wellbeing. It is also one of the most significant costs that many families face each month, which our child poverty targets take into account. That is why we continue to take strong action to deliver affordable homes, tackle homelessness and tackle fuel insecurity.
The impact of action in 2020/21 is set out below, followed by more detailed updates on action taken.
- From April 2020 to March 2021, we delivered 6,466 affordable homes, 4,698 of which were homes for social rent
- Keeping social rents lower than market rents benefits approximately 110,000 children in poverty each year
- 87% increase in weekly referrals to Warmer Homes Scotland from low income households living in or at risk of fuel poverty as a result of a marketing campaign from August to November 2020
- £7 million made available to third sector organisations to help households struggling with fuel costs through the Winter Plan for Social Protection
- £6.79 million being made available in 2021/22 to tackle fuel insecurity as part of the Social Renewal Advisory Board Response Fund
Responding to the pandemic
To provide direct financial support to those struggling with housing costs we significantly increased funding available for local authorities to provide Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) in 2020/21 from £11 million to £19 million in addition to the approximately £60 million we already spend to mitigate the bedroom tax in full, helping them stay in their homes. In 2021/22, the total funding for DHPs will again be over £80 million to support people with their housing costs. We also launched the £10 million Tenant Hardship Loan Fund in order to support people in financial difficulty who did not otherwise qualify for help with their housing costs.
To protect the Gypsy/Traveller community, we also developed a COVID-19 Framework in partnership with COSLA to help local authorities and their partners support those who are living on sites, and roadside encampments. The framework seeks to limit evictions from unauthorised encampments to enable families and children to access services such as education and health support. We also provided direct support for sanitation to roadside encampments through the two lockdowns.
Our response to the pandemic in supporting people into safe accommodation was also a huge success, and we will do all we can stop anyone returning to rough sleeping. We will work with councils to move everyone in to sustainable settled homes, and to prevent anyone falling into homelessness.
Ensuring housing affordability
The latest quarterly statistics, published on 15 June, show that from April 2020 to March 2021, we have delivered 6,466 affordable homes, 4,698 of which were homes for social rent, including 1,784 council homes. This is a reduction of 2,830 on the same period in 2020 (9,296 recorded completions). This means that between April 2016 to March 2021, we have delivered 41,353 affordable homes, 28,154 of which were homes for social rent, including 9,436 council homes – and that, since April 2007, we have delivered 102,055 affordable homes, with 70,866 of these for social rent.
While strands of work were required to be paused as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, during the course of 2020/21 we continued to compare proposed Registered Social Landlord social rent levels for homes at the point of completion with our published social rent benchmarks when assessing projects for Scottish Government grant funding at tender stage, and we commenced a review of affordable housing investment benchmark levels with the affordable housing sector – maintaining rent affordability being a key consideration in this work.
As part of the continuing evaluation of the impact of private residential tenancy, the Scottish Government is participating in the three year Rent Better research programme (2019-2022), funded by the Nationwide Foundation as part of its Transforming the Private Rented Sector stream. Rent Better aims to understand the impact of the changes on tenants and landlords, and involves both quantitative and qualitative research with a wide range of stakeholders including families with children.
The full Wave 1 report from this research was published on 10 November 2020, with the second wave set to feature the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on private renters.
We updated our joint Scottish Government/COSLA Ending Homelessness Together action plan in October 2020, following recommendations from the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group to guide us out of the pandemic. We now have 98 actions (compared to 49 in the original action plan) and we are due to report to Parliament in October 2021 on progress against these actions.
We are making steady progress in developing prevention pathways for the groups most at risk of homelessness. The care leavers’ pathway has already been published and in 2020/21, two more pathways were produced: phase one of the domestic abuse pathway (focusing on social housing) and the youth homelessness pathway. We received and welcomed recommendations from the prevention duty group on changes to the law to prevent homelessness. We also launched a new £1.5 million Homelessness Prevention Fund in August 2020, supporting projects that contribute to tackling child poverty.
Where homelessness cannot be prevented, rapid rehousing is our primary response to homelessness. We have allocated £37.5 million (multi-year funding package) for the delivery of rapid rehousing transition plans (RRTPs) and Housing First. The transition to rapid rehousing in Scotland is well underway- all 32 local authorities have RRTPs in place, and the Housing First pathfinder programme has recently passed the milestone of 500 tenancies (with no evictions).
We are committed to reducing the number of households with children in temporary accommodation. We amended the 2014 Homeless Persons (UAO) (Scotland) Order in May 2020 so that councils can only use unsuitable accommodation for seven days. While temporary exceptions to the order were put in place in response to COVID-19, they are due to end in September 2021.
In 2021/22, we will continue to make progress against the actions in our Ending Homelessness Together action plan. In particular, we will begin work on changes to the law to prevent homelessness and on a new right to adequate housing.
New help with fuel poverty
Key programmes delivering energy efficiency measures to fuel poor households are ongoing. However non-essential works inside people’s homes, such as installation of insulation, were paused during the national COVID-19 lockdowns.
To increase the number of applications to the Scottish Government’s national fuel poverty scheme, Warmer Homes Scotland, we commissioned a marketing campaign which ran from August to November 2020 and resulted in an 87% increase in weekly referrals from low income households living in or at risk of fuel poverty.
Through the various funding streams set up to respond to COVID-19, grants have been issued to many third sector organisations who are providing support to those struggling with their energy costs. This includes £432,000 for the Fuel Bank Foundation to expand their existing network of fuel banks in Scotland, increase provision at existing fuel banks and to work in partnership with Home Energy Scotland, ensuring national access to the scheme. We also provided £40 million to local authorities to use flexibly to support people in financial hardship to meet essential needs, including fuel. And, as part of the Winter Plan for Social Protection, we made £7 million available to third sector organisations to help households struggling with fuel costs, including £2 million for Registered Social Landlords to support tenants.
Looking forward to 2021/22, work on the Final Fuel Poverty Strategy has resumed and this will be finalised in 2021. The independent Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel will also be recruited this year and will provide advice to Ministers on progress in tackling fuel poverty. As part of the Social Renewal Advisory Board Response Fund, £6.79 million is being made available to tackle fuel insecurity.
By the end of 2021, we will have allocated over £1 billion since 2009 to tackling fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency. This investment has already lowered bills and reduced CO2 emissions as well as supported the creation of jobs, training opportunities and innovations.
Focus on our vision for housing to 2040
Scotland’s first ever long-term housing strategy Housing to 2040 was published on 15 March, and sets out a vision for how we want homes and communities to look and feel for people over the next twenty years, no matter where they live and what point in their life they are at. It recognises the crucial role that housing plays in meeting other objectives for people in Scotland, such as tackling poverty and inequality, creating and supporting jobs, stemming depopulation, ensuring we meet our energy efficiency and fuel poverty targets and tackling the climate emergency, and making sure we have connected, cohesive communities to live in.
The strategy sets out a range of actions that will help to address child poverty, including an ambition to deliver a further 100,000 affordable homes up to 2032, with at least 70% of these for social rent, once the current 50,000 affordable homes target has been delivered. This will involve bringing more existing homes into the programme, as well as building new.
Housing to 2040 also commits us to developing a new Rented Sector Strategy setting out proposals to address availability, affordability and standards in the private and social rented sectors, and bringing forward a new Housing Bill to take forward aspects of this new strategy and strengthen the rights of tenants with greater protections from unreasonable rent increases and unfair evictions, and improve the rights of people experiencing domestic abuse.
Supporting financial inclusion
Throughout the pandemic many people have found themselves needing to access advice in order to identify the help and support available to them. To support those in most acute need, we established the National Assistance Helpline, connecting people to their local authority for help in accessing food and other essentials. However, for many more people, accessing sources of trusted help and support through other partners has enabled them to ensure they receive benefits they are entitled to, reduce their household costs and to manage debts.
The updates below focus on key activities within our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan where further progress has been delivered.
- Between 1 May 2020 – 30 April 2021, the Money Talk Team service supported over 4,500 low income families across Scotland and, of those, more than 1,000 clients were better off by over £4 million – an average of around £4,000 per household
- £15 million invested in community lenders to ensure availability of affordable credit
- Between 1 October 2020 and 31 March 2021, 38 tackling problem debt projects covering 29 local authority areas were delivered across Scotland, supporting over 2,000 individual clients
The Money Talk Team service
In 2020/21 we provided further funding of £1.5 million to Citizens Advice Scotland to continue delivery of the Money Talk Team (MTT) service, bringing total investment to £4.8 million since its launch in November 2018. The service, targeted at low-income families and older people, aims to support at least 15,000 households per year and ensure people are receiving all the benefits they are entitled to and are not paying more than they need to for basic goods and services. People can access this free confidential and personalised service in a number of ways including by Freephone, online and by visiting their local Citizens Advice Bureau.
While this local service has been reduced due to lockdown restrictions, where possible, and in line with government guidance, bureaux have provided face to face service for those needing it during the pandemic.
With many families across Scotland facing unexpected financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19 it is particularly important that they claim all the benefits they are entitled to. To raise awareness of the MTT service and the support it provides, we launched a third national marketing campaign on 8 January 2021. This campaign used platforms including TV, radio and social media activity and outdoor marketing to ensure that as many families as possible are aware of the service.
The third campaign also included workshops delivered in partnership with BEMIS, the national Ethnic Minorities led umbrella body supporting the development of the Ethnic Minorities Voluntary Sector in Scotland and the communities that this sector represents. These workshops sought to introduce and increase awareness of the service within the sector, particularly with community groups, advocacy groups, key workers and family support networks, and encourage sharing of the service and campaign with their users.
In delivering the MTT service, the Citizens Advice network in Scotland continues to create and maintain strategic partnerships with other agencies in their local areas to establish and enhance reach to the priority family groups. These partnerships vary from simple referral routes and training opportunities to co-location, and involve a wide range of stakeholders including food banks, housing associations, local authorities, and health and social care professionals.
Benefit Take Up Strategy for devolved entitlements
Between April 2020 and March 2021 we continued to deliver the interventions as set out in our Benefit Take-up Strategy. We provided funding of £600,000 to 26 third sector organisation across our Benefit Take-up and Income Maximisation Funds to prepare staff to support hard to reach groups who will be applying for Scottish benefits, and to ensure people are aware of the financial support available to them. These projects began in April 2020 and were originally scheduled to run until March 2021, although the impact of COVID-19 caused timescales to be extended in some cases.
We will receive Final Learning Reports for the projects funded through our Benefit Take-up and Income Maximisation Funds, which will inform the next Benefit Take-up Strategy to be published in October 2021. Alongside this, we will begin the process of engaging with Seldom Heard Groups prior to the publication of the second strategy.
We have convened a Stakeholder Take-up Reference Group to provide advice and support in the implementation of this strategy, as well as feeding into the development of the next strategy. This group met quarterly in 2020/21. We have also developed stakeholder take-up resources to help existing services to support their clients with Scottish benefits, and – in particular – with issues related to non-take-up. Alongside this we have continued to work on mainstreaming good practice guidance to support third sector organisations and local authorities to borrow from the examples in promoting/supporting benefit take-up within and across those sectors.
In March 2021 we announced that, launching in September, GP practices in some of the most deprived communities will receive £3.17 million to fund dedicated welfare rights advisors to address growing mental health concerns caused by money and housing insecurity. In the coming year, we will also undertake a consultation exercise on our proposals for Mainstreaming Best Practice Work and will begin work to pilot advice in education settings, helping to ensure families are aware of the support available to them.
In addition to the work we have taken forward, we continue to call upon the UK Government to take the action needed in this space. This includes writing jointly with Welsh and Northern Irish Ministers to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions urging a more strategic approach to maximising the take-up of reserved benefits.
New support for affordable credit
Affordable credit is key to tackling the poverty premium paid by low income households and the Scottish Government is committed to supporting this vital sector. Accessible and affordable credit is often essential to managing money, particularly for those on low incomes, and access to these services has become even more vital as the impact of COVID-19 continues to squeeze household finances.
Our support to date has included investment of £1 million in the Affordable Credit Fund to support social lenders and the £10 million Credit Union Investment Fund, of which £2 million was repurposed into the Credit Union Resilience Fund to support the sector and provide liquidity, allowing organisations to offer support to those in financial insecurity as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In February 2021 we announced a new £15 million Scottish Community Lenders Fund to support affordable lending services including both Credit Unions and Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs). The funding will support lenders to both promote the availability of affordable credit and strengthen the balance sheet of affordable credit providers. All of the funding has now been distributed with £13.5 million awarded to Credit Unions and the remaining £1.5 million to CDFIs.
In response to an early recommendation from the Social Renewal Advisory Board, the Programme for Government 2020/21 contained a commitment to do more on affordable credit. To help meet this commitment, Carnegie UK Trust held a series of roundtables in November 2020 with a range of affordable credit providers and other stakeholders with an interest in this area to explore the ways in which we might develop the affordable credit sector.
A final report has been presented to the Scottish Government which contains 10 recommendations on how we might bolster the affordable credit sector in Scotland. The Scottish Government welcomed the report and issued a response to Carnegie on 24 March 2021 which outlined that it will be for the incoming Minister and the new Government to take decisions on how the recommendations should be progressed. The recommendations will also be considered in light of the final recommendations from the Social Renewal Advisory Board and the expected Money and Pension Service Scottish Delivery Plan which, together, will help set the direction on affordable credit policy for the future.
Tackling problem debt
In 2020/21 we provided £700,000 to AdviceUK to distribute on our behalf to its members, with a specific focus on providing free debt advice to priority families. Between 1 October 2020 and 31 March 2021, a total of 38 projects covering 29 local authority areas were delivered across Scotland, supporting over 2,000 individual clients with over £3.6 million of debt. While debt advice does not always result in financial gain to have a successful outcome, over £1.1 million of financial gain was also recorded. These projects were particularly successful at targeting support for lone parents and larger families.
We also allocated over £200,000 to Christians Against Poverty to help expand its service at a time of growing demand, including from priority families. This funding contribution helped Christians Against Poverty to support over 400 households in the last six months of 2020/21 and, despite continuously difficult circumstances, 43 households have gone debt-free. Targeted marketing resulted in a 20% uplift in appointment bookings.
Additional funding was also used to enhance technical capabilities in the sector by piloting videoconferencing software to ensure clients could continue to access high quality debt and money advice online.
Help for basic essentials
Access to basic essentials is fundamental to equality, dignity and rights for all children – and is crucial if we are to tackle poverty successfully. In a society as wealthy as Scotland, no-one should have to suffer the indignity of not having the means to meet their basic needs.
Throughout the pandemic we have taken strong action to ensure that children and families were able to access the essentials needed for a good quality of life. We delivered almost 980,000 free grocery packages to those unable to access food as a result of shielding, when the service ended on 31 July 2020, as part of over £140 million invested to tackle food insecurity during the pandemic. We also provided £40 million to local authorities to tackle financial insecurity and £30 million to support people impacted by COVID-19 restrictions and guidance – enabling a flexible approach to meet local need and meaning fewer people are forced to rely upon charitable aid.
The impact of action taken in 2020/21 as part of our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan is set out below, followed by more detailed updates.
- To date, the Connecting Scotland programme has delivered over 35,000 devices in total
- Over 17,000 families with children, 4,000 young care leavers and 1,500 other vulnerabilities (other family types such as kinship Carer's) were awarded devices during Phase 2 of the programme
Access to period products
We also continue to fund the provision of free period products for those who are unable to access them, including those who lack the money to purchase the products they need.
In order to ensure products could be accessed during the COVID-19 lockdowns, we asked local authorities and further and higher education institutions to make alternative arrangements. New delivery methods were implemented, such as period products in food boxes and an online order system for individuals to have products delivered directly to their home address. The charity FareShare continued to ensure access to free period products to those who need them through its network of third sector organisations.
On 18 June 2020, we introduced the Period Products in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2020 which effectively placed a duty on local authorities and grant-aided schools to provide free products for pupils. The Regulations formalise the provision already put in place by schools and came into force on 19 October 2020.
The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill passed Stage 3 on 24 November 2020. The Bill gained Royal Assent on 12 January 2021 to become the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act 2021. The main duties on local authorities and education providers will come into force within two years of that date, but voluntary provision will continue in the meantime backed with £7.3 million of Scottish Government funding.
Over the coming year, we will work with stakeholders, including COSLA, education providers and gender equality organisations, to develop guidance for the Act and to agree reporting obligations, as well as working with our key partners to further develop the policy to ensure provision meets the needs of students as we move towards implementation of the Act.
We will also work in partnership with the social enterprise Hey Girls to develop and launch a period products locator app – which will make identifying locations where products are available easy and dignified, without having to ask anyone – once lockdown restrictions ease.
Eradicating digital exclusion through Connecting Scotland
The Connecting Scotland Programme was launched on 7 May 2020. The COVID-19 outbreak highlighted the digital divide in Scotland: those who are most likely to be digitally excluded are people and families on low incomes and those with additional challenges such as care leavers, people with long term health conditions, disabled people, and older people. People who are digitally excluded are disproportionately disadvantaged due to the extensive role digital plays supporting people to flourish in educational, economic, social, employment, access to services, and wellbeing terms.
Set up in May 2020 in response to the pandemic, Connecting Scotland initially aimed to reach up to 9,000 people at clinical risk from COVID-19 with a device, connection with unlimited data for two years, as well as training and support. Building on the success of the programme, over the past year it has been expanded to reach households with low income families with children, young care leavers, people seeking employment and socially isolated older and disabled people. The programme is one of the most comprehensive national programmes aimed at tackling digital exclusion in the world and unmatched elsewhere in the UK.
In total, the Scottish Government has committed over £48 million to Connecting Scotland so far and is committed to delivering 60,000 devices by the end of the year.
Action on transport strategy, policies and programmes
Transport policy has an important role to play in addressing child poverty, through its impact on both household income – improving access to employment, education, goods and services for parents and Carer's – and living costs - direct and indirect transport costs are a significant component of many households' expenditure.
The impact of action in 2020/21 is set out below, followed by more detailed updates on action taken.
- Free bus travel for under young people is expected to reduce household outgoings which will aid children and families, particularly those living in poverty
- People from lower income households are more likely to take the bus, with research indicating that 41% of people with an income of less than £10,000 travel by bus once a week or more compared to 16% of those with an income over £40,000
In December 2020 our first annual National Transport Strategy (NTS2) Delivery Plan was published, bringing together the actions the Scottish Government will take to deliver the priorities set out in our NTS2 Strategy. The Delivery Plan sets out how we will reduce inequalities and highlights our commitment to deliver a National Concessionary Travel Scheme for free bus travel to young people under the age of 19.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the second Strategic Transport Project Review (STPR2) is now taking a two Phased approach. Phase 1 recommendations, which were published on 3 February 2021, identify short-term investment priorities over the next five years, help ‘lock in’ the sustainable travel choices observed over the past year, and provide a step change in investment which supports the priorities and outcomes of NTS2.
The National Bus Travel Concession Scheme for Young Persons (Scotland) Order 2021 was approved by the Scottish Parliament in March this year. This enables the creation of a new scheme to provide free bus travel to all Scottish residents aged under 19. Work is progressing to launch the scheme as soon as is practicable in the financial year 2021/22.
Further, in March 2021 the Scottish Government announced that the new free bus travel scheme for young persons would be extended to include 19 to 21 year olds and committed to make as much progress as possible to implementing this scheme during financial year 2021/22.
Over the past year, Transport Scotland has worked in tandem with the Poverty Alliance to gather lived experience research of the six priority groups identified in the Scottish Government’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2018-22. The research highlighted how families living in poverty were disproportionately affected by transport related issues including availability, cost, service timing, and frequency of services; all challenges that were exacerbated due to individuals and families often being exclusively reliant on public transport for access to key services. The research also showed that while entitlement cards for free travel removed cost as a barrier for families who were eligible, other barriers, e.g. poor availability, remained an issue. Policy interventions such as discounted travel, combined ticketing, and staff training on accessibility and discrimination were also identified.
We intend to publish the research conducted by the Poverty Alliance in early June. We will consider how the findings of this research can be used to support effective interventions and targeted policy actions in the future. We are also working collaboratively with the Poverty Alliance to continue engagement with research participants to ensure lived experiences are central to transport policy making.
We have also worked with the Transport Equality Network and liaised closely with stakeholders including Young Scot, the Scottish Youth Parliament, the Poverty Alliance, and the Poverty and Inequality Commission to develop an understanding of how young people have been impacted by restrictions relating to transport and travel over the past year, alongside discussions relating to future use of public transport and concessionary travel.
The Transport Equality Network (virtually) reconvened at the end April 2021. The Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan recognises the importance of ensuring those with lived experience of poverty are involved in the decision making process. By working closely with stakeholders we continue to ensure that, where data exists, our data is current and our evidence is therefore reflective of the lived experiences of users of the current transport system. With this, we can improve our approach and fulfil our commitment to taking a rights-based approach to the National Transport Strategy recognising that access to suitable transport facilitates fulfilment of other human rights
Further action beyond June will be considered in the context of NTS2 and the Poverty Alliance research.
C. Social security
Social security has a key role to play in tackling child poverty, putting money directly in the pockets of those in need. Because the six priority groups are more likely to be excluded from the paid labour market, they are often more reliant on the social security system. Therefore, the impact of UK Government welfare cuts is even more apparent and, as noted by the Children and Young People’s Commissioners of the devolved nations, risks undermining action to tackle child poverty. However, while social security has the ability to lift significant numbers of children out of poverty, we are clear that reaching our child poverty targets cannot be achieved through this measure alone and long lasting change is needed.
Over the course of the past year more people than ever have found themselves in need of support through the social security system as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Scotland we acted quickly and strengthened key supports including our Scottish Welfare Fund, Council Tax Reduction Scheme and help through Discretionary Housing Payments – ensuring the demand was able to be met for these sources of essential help. We also developed and delivered the new Self-Isolation Support Grant of £500, offered through the Scottish Welfare Fund, to ensure that people who are self-isolating don’t have to choose between this and supporting themselves and their families financially, and extended eligibility to include parents on low incomes whose children are asked to self-isolate.
We have also made strong representation to the UK Government, calling on them to retain the £20-per-week uplift to Universal Credit whilst extending these to legacy benefits, and to abolish policies which push more children into poverty in Scotland – including the two-child-limit and benefit cap.
Looking toward our child poverty targets, and the role which social security can play in helping us to drive down levels of poverty and inequality, we will explore ambitious proposals for a Minimum Income Guarantee and Universal Basic Services in Scotland – ensuring that the support everyone needs to live a happy and healthy life is in place when they need it.
The updates below focus on key actions from our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan and new Pandemic Payments delivered to support families who may be struggling financially due to COVID-19 – more detail is also provided on how we are promoting uptake across the range of benefits we deliver at the end of this section.
[New] Pandemic Payments
- The COVID Winter Hardship Payment of £100 reached 144,500 children and young people in December 2020, with two further £100 payments to be made to this group in 2021
- Up to 168,000 children and young people benefitted from the COVID Spring Hardship Payment as this was also available for younger children
- Around 500,000 households will benefit from the Low Income Pandemic Payment of £130, including around 75,000 lone parent families
Supporting low income families through the pandemic was a key priority for Scottish Government. Building on the approach taken to Free School Meal provision during school closures and holiday periods, we allocated an extra £31.2 million to local authorities to deliver two rounds of COVID Hardship Payments to support low income families. The COVID Winter Hardship Payment reached over 144,000 eligible children and young people. A few months later, the COVID Spring Hardship Payment supported up to 168,000 children and young people.
To ensure that support was available quickly, payments were made based on receipt of Free School Meals with no further application required. Eligible families received the payment directly into their bank account where possible.
Two additional Family Pandemic Payments for children receiving Free School Meals on the basis of low income in both primary and secondary school settings have been announced. These £100 payments will reach around 144,000 children and young people.
Additionally, we will deliver a Low Income Pandemic Payment of £130 for all households in receipt of Council Tax Reduction in April 2021 and for other households who are exempt or who have no liability – including those in temporary accommodation. The payments will be made by local authorities by the end of October 2021 and will reach around 500,000 low income households in Scotland.
In delivering each of these payments we have engaged with the UK Government, seeking to ensure families are not taxed and that this support does not take away from other benefits to ensure it has the maximum impact for families.
Under our existing plans, families will receive £300 for each child in receipt of Free School Meals on the basis of low income in 2021 – reaching an estimated 144,500 children and young people. We will increase this support to pay £520 in both 2021 and 2022 – providing cash support equivalent to the Scottish Child Payment until it is rolled out in full.
Scottish Child Payment
- At the end of March, we had received over 104,000 applications with over 81,000 of those applications having been processed and cleared
- As of 31 March we had made awards totalling £3.6 million, which are estimated to have benefitted 78,775 children
- Up to 163,000 children, in 134,000 households are expected to be eligible for Scottish Child Payment in 2021/22
The significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the operations of Social Security Scotland meant difficult decisions on future roll out had to be made. The Scottish Child Payment was prioritised as a key way of tackling child poverty. The new benefit opened for applications on 9 November 2020 and started on 15 February 2021 with the first payments arriving within that month.
The decision to open applications early allowed Social Security Scotland to process and start making payments as quickly as possible. It also provided a greater opportunity to promote take-up, with an extensive communications and marketing campaign encouraging people to access their entitlements.
Even with the significant operational challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Scottish Child Payment opened for applications by the end of 2020 and made the first payments in February 2021. By the end of March 2021, we had received over 104,000 applications, with over 81,000 of those applications having been processed and cleared, and had made awards totalling £3.6 million, estimated to have benefitted 78,775 children.
In addition to the wider action to promote uptake of Scottish benefits, which we say more on below, we took additional steps to raise awareness of the payment. This included promotion on commercial radio in November and December 2020, a toolkit of marketing materials, and 18 online Scottish Child Payment Stakeholder Roadshows held in late 2020 attended by over 1,600 individuals representing the third sector and local authorities.
We are continuing to develop phase 2 of the payment for under 16s to meet our ambition for roll out by the end of 2022. In order to deliver this top up payment in time we are dependent on DWP to give us the data we need for 6-16 year olds.
Best Start Grant
- From 1 April 2020 to 28 February 2021, around £16.9 million was made in awards of Best Start Grant
- This includes over £6.4 million in Pregnancy and Baby Payments, £4.9 million in Early Learning Payments and £5.6 million in School Age Payments
- Payments of Best Start Grant increased in value by 1% from 1 April 2021
- The Best Start Grant takes provision for the first child from £500 under the UK Sure Start Maternity Grant up to a total of £1,111, over 3 payments
- We do not put a cap on the number of children we help, so subsequent children, who receive nothing from the UK Government, receive up to a total of £808
- A 2 child family will receive Best Start Grant payments totalling £1,919 in their children’s early years. This is £1,419 more than the Sure Start Maternity Grant it replaces.
We continued to deliver Best Start Grant to support low income families across the early years, and have awarded over £40 million to families from the time the first payments started, in December 2018, to the end of February 2021.
We conducted an interim evaluation of Best Start Grant in 2021 that looked at the impact of the payments. This highlighted that Best Start Grant had eased the financial strain on low income families, preventing clients from going into debt or having to cut down on other essential household spending, such as for food and bills. Clients also thought that the Best Start Grant had a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of both them as parents or Carer's and for the children. They were proud that they were able to provide for their child rather than being dependent on others, and also as they could buy the items they wanted without having to compromise due to cost. Some purchases, such as social outings, provided opportunities for parents, Carer's and the children to bond as a family.
Due to the additional stresses that low income households are experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the payments of Best Start Grant have been increased by 1% from 1 April 2021, which is 0.5% higher than the inflation-adjusted level of assistance, providing £1,111 across the three payments.
Best Start Foods
- From 1 April 2020 to 28 Feb 2021, over £10.3 million was provided to families who need it most
- £17 every 4 weeks paid during pregnancy and between the ages of 1 and 3
- £34 every 4 weeks paid from when a child is born up until they're a 1 year old
Best Start Foods payments continue to be delivered by Social Security Scotland, providing support to families across the early years. Between launching on 12 August 2019 and 28 February 2021, more than 72,000 applications had been authorised for Best Start Foods with over £13.5 million provided to those families who need it most.
Payments in 2020/21 were made at a higher value than comparative schemes offered by the UK Government and delivered through a pre-loaded payment card to tackle stigma. Uptake for this support has been high due to the simple eligibility criteria and linked application to Best Start Grant.
We have committed to increasing the value of support provided through Best Start Foods, with regulations due to come into effect on 1 August 2021 and the first increased payments due to be received by clients in mid-August. Additionally, to maximise the support available to families, these regulations will increase income thresholds which apply to certain qualifying benefits.
Once the regulations come into force, payments will increase to: £18 every 4 weeks throughout pregnancy; £36 every 4 weeks from birth until a child turns one; and, £18 every 4 weeks from one until a child turns three. We will widen eligibility by around 50% to all families in receipt of Universal Credit later in this Parliamentary term.
Increased support for Carer's
- Through Carer’s Allowance Supplement and the Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement, Carer's in Scotland received £690.30 more than Carer's south of the border in 2020/21
- Our total investment in Carer's through Carer’s Allowance and these supplements was almost £350 million in 2020/21
- Benefitted more than 83,000 unpaid Carer's, with some of the most intense caring roles and usually on lower than average incomes
In recognition of the impacts of the pandemic on unpaid Carer's, we made an additional Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement of £230.10 to over 83,000 unpaid Carer's following the April 2020 qualifying date, in addition to planned payments.
The recent evaluation of the Carer’s Allowance Supplement (CAS) indicated that it impacted positively on carer finances and quality of life and that it has provided greater recognition of the essential societal contribution that Carer's make. In exceptional cases, the research suggested that CAS had a transformative impact on carer mental health and wellbeing.
We are extending our commitment to providing additional support to people who are receiving Carer’s Allowance and caring for more than one disabled child, to people providing carer to more than one disabled person of any age. This will put an extra £10 a week into the pockets of those Carer's, and like CAS, is unique to Scotland. This December we will also pay a further Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement in recognition of the added pressures, including financial pressures, that Carer's have had to deal with as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a further investment of £21 million, paying an extra £231.40 each to around 91,000 Carer's.
Further support is also in place for Carer's during the pandemic, specifically additional funding to enable carer centres to provide support remotely and an extra £750,000 in the Time to Live scheme, to allow for Carer's to take short breaks away from caring, usually virtually.
We will continue to use evidence to inform improvement going forwards, specifically the next review point will be the Young Carer Grant Interim evaluation to be published in Summer 2021
Job Start Payment
- Over 1,000 young people had a Job Start Payment application approved between August 2020 and March 2021, with over £277,000 issued in payments
- Payments worth £95,200, were made to young people with responsibility for a child
- 55 applications from young people identified as Care Leavers were authorised
- £400 is paid to young parents, £250 paid to young Care Leavers
The Job Start Payment was introduced on 17 August 2020 to help young people with the costs associated with the transition into employment, after a period of time out of paid work.
It delivers a cash payment to eligible 16 to 24 year olds who have been out of paid work and receiving a low income benefit for six months prior to finding employment. The one-off payment is £250, or £400 for applicants with children. In recognition of additional challenges faced by young Care Leavers in entering the labour market, they are not required to have been out of paid work for six months, and will be eligible for a year longer – until their 26th birthday.
High level statistics published in May show that applications from more than 1,000 young people were approved between the launch of the benefit and 31 March 2021. That represents an investment of more than £277,000 in helping young people into employment, with over a third of the total awarded paid to young people with responsibility for a child.
Funeral Support Payment
- In 2020/21, almost £11 million was issued through 6,120 payments to support bereaved families with an average award of £1,791
Funeral Support Payment (FSP) continues to be delivered for all eligible clients across Scotland to help reduce funeral poverty; this support is especially key for families that have children, and those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We increased the value of the flat rate payment from £700 to £1,000 in April 2020, and from 1 April 2021 FSP has been uprated by 1% – which is double the rate of inflation – to ease financial pressures and help people avoid funeral poverty. We are undertaking an evaluation of FSP this year, to be published by Spring 2022.
Child Winter Heating Assistance
- 14,015 payments made in 2020/21 for severely disabled children and young people, with a total value of £2.8 million
- 105 payments, with a value of £21,000, were paid for children aged less than one year old
- 690 payments were made in respective of multiple children or young people in the same household
- £200 paid per child
Our brand new Child Winter Heating Assistance started in November 2020 to help ease financial pressures caused by winter fuel costs for families of the most severely disabled children – one of the priority families identified in our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.
Not available anywhere else in the UK, Child Winter Heating Assistance is an automatic payment of £200 for children and young people aged 18 and under who get the highest rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance for children on any one day in the qualifying week. The qualifying week is the third week in September each year.
We have prioritised families because they will generally need to heat the home to a consistent temperature throughout the day and at night, in line with World Health Organization (WHO) Guidance on room temperatures for vulnerable people. This has delivered £2.8 million of assistance at a time of significant financial pressures on families in Scotland.
In limited circumstances clients may also apply for Child Winter Heating Assistance. This could apply for example when clients receive a backdated Disability Living Allowance award for the qualifying week. In these circumstances, clients may apply by phone or by completing a paper form.
If a child or young person usually gets the highest rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance but was not being paid in the qualifying week due to staying in residential care, they will still get Child Winter Heating Assistance. If there is more than one child or young person in a household who qualifies, there will be a payment for each of them.
Focus on maximising take up of devolved benefits
Driving the take-up of benefits is a legal and moral imperative, and a fundamental priority for the Scottish Government. It is clear that maximising household incomes is crucial to tackling poverty, and we are committed to supporting this through accessible design and effective promotion of Scottish benefits.
To make sure families in Scotland on tax credits or certain benefits with children under 6 understand what additional financial support is available, Social Security Scotland has been proactively promoting each payment including writing to everyone on the Universal Credit and HMRC tax credit databases who may be eligible to invite them to apply.
We have also simplified the application process so families can apply for Scottish Child Payment, Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods using a single application form in order to reduce the administrative burden on applicants, and to increase awareness all payments.
Further to this a major awareness-raising campaign was launched in March 2021 based around the Five Family Payments:
- Scottish Child Payment
- Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment
- Best Start Early Learning Payment
- Best Start Grant School Age Payment
- Best Start Foods
The £300k year-long campaign includes TV, radio, digital and social media ads and encourages parents and Carer's to check if they are eligible for any of the payments.
Social Security Scotland is also working closely with key organisations who work with families to ensure they have the information they need and to provide them with information to give to the parents they work with/support. Marketing materials will continue to be included in the baby box, NHS midwife and health visitor packs, and these will be available to school, nurseries, food banks and other family support organisations.
As noted in our update on the Benefit Take Up Strategy, we will also take action in the coming year to deliver welfare rights support in 150 GP surgeries in deprived areas and invest to pilot advice in education settings, helping ensure families get the support available to them.
D. Helping families in other ways
The importance of supporting the wellbeing of children and their families has been highlighted throughout the pandemic, demonstrating the need for a continued focus on improving the lives and outcomes of children and protecting their rights.
Working together with our partners, and with children and young people, we have put in place the support needed throughout the pandemic, including through our £375 million investment in education recovery over the course of 2020/21 and 2021/22. We also provided £23.5 million of additional funding to support vulnerable children and young people as part of our Winter Plan for Social Protection. This included £9 million allocated to Secure Care, Third Sector and Local Authority providers, an additional £6 million for local authority support services including for Social Work direct aid budgets and £8.5 million to support recovery of the Children’s Hearing system.
Whilst responding to the pandemic has been a key area of focus, we have also made considerable progress in our commitment to fulfil The Promise and introduced the landmark United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, which was unanimously supported by the Scottish Parliament.
Ensuring children are supported to reach their full potential, protecting their rights and ensuring they have a voice in decision making, will help us to end child poverty.
Updates on key actions from our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan are below.
Working to deliver the best start to life
We continue to take wide ranging action to support children’s health, wellbeing and development, including through our Family Nurse Partnership programme and Universal Health Visiting Pathway.
A recent study of the Family Nurse Partnership in England, Building Blocks, found that The Family Nurse Partnership improved early childhood development and improved levels of school readiness – highlighting the importance of our continued investment in this approach, linking to our commitment to tackling the attainment gap. At Key Stage 1, the Family Nurse Partnership increased reading scores after taking account of factors such as the child’s month of birth. Writing scores improved as a result of the Family Nurse Partnership for boys, and for children of younger mothers and of mothers who were not in employment, education or training when first recruited to the study.
As at 31 December 2020 there are an additional 716.4 Health visitors in post since 2014, ensuring, through implementation of the Universal Health Visiting Pathway, every new baby and family receives a minimum of 11 core contacts before they start school. It includes child developmental reviews and key public health interventions including income maximisation, to build parenting capacity and strengthen access to wider community supports.
A process and outcomes evaluation of the Universal Health Visiting Pathway is underway, led by Edinburgh University in collaboration with Ipsos MORI, University of Stirling, University of the West of Scotland and National Services Scotland. The evaluation will be conducted over two phases and undertaken over 4-5 years. We expect the first phase report to publish by Summer 2021.
To provide extra support for those who need it, we have committed to build upon the success of our Neonatal Expenses Fund and will expand it to become the Young Patients Family Fund to support families with the costs of visiting children at hospital. More details on the fund will be announced in due course.
Support to Disabled Children and Young People
Over the last year, we have continued to provide clear, accessible information on national policies, entitlements, rights and the different provisions of support available to families with a disabled child through the Supporting Disabled Children, Young People and their Families website. Early on in the pandemic, we created a COVID-19 Support page within the resource which included information for parents and Carer's on sources of support, online safety and financial support.
We committed £3.85 million to the Family Fund Scotland grant scheme in 2020/21, which included additional funds of £880,000 to meet the increased demand for support seen by the Family Fund since the onset of the pandemic. This grant enabled the Family Fund to provide support, advice and direct grants to 8,468 families on a low income across Scotland who are raising seriously ill or disabled children and young people. Through the grant scheme each family has choice and control over what grant items they request, based on what they think would best help their own family needs and help improve their quality of life. Items provided have included digital technology, white goods, family breaks, furniture and sensory items.
In 2021/22, the Scottish Government committed funding to ARC Scotland to continue to lead the work of its Scottish Transitions Forum, and to deliver the two year Principles in to Practice trial programme which launched in December 2020 with 10 participating local authority areas. This improvement programme aims to help embed the seven ‘Principles of Good Transitions’ into policy, planning and practice. Based on these Principles, Principles into Practice sets out practical steps to be taken locally to coordinate planning and practice to deliver better outcomes for young people who require additional support to make the transition to young adult life, and to measure the difference they are making. By the end of the trial we hope to have a fully developed and tested framework with evaluation resources that will be freely available to every local authority in Scotland.
Improving inclusion and wellbeing
We remain firmly committed to making Scotland the best place in the world to grow up and to making the changes needed to ensure every child can reach their full potential. This includes delivering the transformative changes needed to implement the outcome of the Independent Care Review - The Promise, which involves taking a whole system approach to ensure people with care experience can flourish. Provision of holistic family support at all stages in life will be key to keeping The Promise.
As detailed in Section B, to help restore the wellbeing of children and young people during the summer of 2021 and to offer opportunities to reconnect, socialise and play, we have announced a £20 million summer programme to be delivered in 2021. This offer will have children’s rights and needs at its heart, and will provide opportunities to socialise across a range of activities, combined with broader support where needed.
Our action to promote inclusion and wellbeing is wide ranging and updates are provided below for those commitments set out in our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.
Addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences
We continue to work across government and with partners to address adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including abuse, neglect and a range of difficult household and other experiences which negatively impact healthy development. This includes actions across Ministerial portfolios to help prevent ACEs by supporting parents, Carer's and families, as well as actions to mitigate the negative impact of such experiences for children, young people and adults. This overarching agenda to address ACEs is very much inter-related with tackling child poverty, UNCRC incorporation, the Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) approach and the implementation of The Promise.
It includes work being taken forward in partnership between the Scottish Government, NHS Education for Scotland and the Improvement Service to develop a trauma-informed and responsive workforce that can recognise where children, young people and adults are affected by trauma and adversity, and respond in ways that prevent further harm and support recovery.
In 2020/21, the National Trauma Training Programme developed trauma training support for people working with and caring for looked after children, and developed plans for more targeted support for trauma informed justice services, maternity services and the wider health and social care sector. The Programme also supported three local authority delivery trials currently underway in Argyll and Bute, Glasgow and Midlothian testing different approaches to rolling out trauma training across the workforce. The Programme has also funded a network of ‘Transforming Psychological Trauma Implementation Coordinators’ who are based in Health Boards across Scotland to help facilitate trauma training requirements across every sector.
These areas of activity are all continuing in 2021/22. In addition, the Programme is building capacity in the system through a newly established network of senior ‘Trauma Champions’ from local authorities, health boards and community planning partnerships across Scotland who are being supported by the Improvement Service to raise awareness, share learning and help influence change in their local areas.
Action on parental imprisonment
Over the last 12 months, we have focused on a range of action to mitigate the impact that COVID-19 has had for those in prison and their families. We have maintained our £700,000 grant funding to each of the 12 Prison Visitor Centres and to Families Outside who provide an oversight function.
In 2020, the suspension of in person visits to prisons as a result of COVID-19 led to Visitors’ Centres adapting their offering to provide a remote service for families. Designated helplines were set up so that families affected by imprisonment could continue to access information and advice at a time of particular need. Visitor Centres opened social media accounts, developed newsletters, facilitated peer support groups, and shared contact details with prisons/prisoners to raise awareness of their ongoing availability to provide help and support through a particularly challenging time
To maintain family contact, virtual visits were rolled out by the prison service in all prisons and mobile phones were distributed to all prisoners (apart from Kilmarnock where an in-cell phone option was installed). We also invested over £76,000 of funding through our Winter Plan for Social Protection in two areas: 1) to provide directed support to a number of families disproportionally disadvantaged by the imprisonment of a family member, this included targeted support for a variety of different needs including access to household goods; and 2) to bolster the support available to families to access virtual visits.
In 2021/22, we are again providing £700,000 to Prison Visitor Centres to enable them to continue to support families affected by imprisonment.
Supporting redesign of the care system
Over the last year, our work has focused on recruitment of The Promise team and establishment of The Promise Scotland as an independent entity, the introduction and delivery of the £4 million Promise Partnership Fund to provide funding to organisations to deliver holistic family support, recruitment of the independent oversight board and publication the Plan 21-24, which sets out key priorities for the first phase of implementation of The Promise.
The Scottish Government will play a pivotal role in delivering the transformative changes within The Promise and the Plan 21-24, and officials across directorates have worked to develop a response that outlines how the Scottish Government will keep The Promise.
We will take the necessary steps to establish The Promise for success. This includes developing a simplified and more coherent Scottish Government policy and governance landscape, and taking steps to gather evidence to identify and resolve the unintended impacts of organising around the administrative priorities of the current system. To ensure we put the voice of children and families at the centre of our work, we will apply the Scottish Approach to Service Design to policy development, as well as delivery, support and funding. We will also ensure the UNCRC and the principles of GIRFEC shape all of our work and will further refine our response in partnership with The Promise Scotland and partners across Scotland.
Help for children’s neighbourhoods
Driven by the views and involvement of children, young people and their families with lived experience of poverty, Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland (CNS), led by the University of Glasgow and the Glasgow Centre for Population and Health, aims to identify and deliver local priorities for change through a programme of participatory research in six sites across Scotland.
This year has seen the expansion and development of CNS. The programme has a dedicated Local Coordinator in each of the six sites, with locally tailored work underway in each area. These include a range of different actions such as working with local professional networks to re-develop their approach and plans to work with young people to help them increase the number of volunteers involved in community activism.
CNS had to adapt its approach due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Spring 2020, a new programme of qualitative research was developed with local partners to capture the impact of COVID-19 on children and families. The research presents the pandemic’s effects from the perspectives of children and young people, families, frontline workers, refugee and migrant families in Glasgow, and those living and working in rural areas.
To reflect the current context, the CNS team have redesigned the Capabilities research model and approach used with children and young people to identify the capabilities people need to live ‘a good life’. This research is again underway in a number of schools across CNS sites with further organisations and youth groups coming on board in the near future. This will generate further local action based on the findings from the research with priority being given to the voice of children and young people making change in their communities.
Targeted opportunities for cultural participation, including access to music education
We fund a range of programmes and projects which increase opportunities and improve access for young people to participate in cultural activities.
In 2020/21 we expanded the out-of-school Youth Music Initiative programmes to wider youth arts through the new £4 million Youth Arts Emergency Fund, to support young people affected by the pandemic. This new funding included a small grants scheme and retained the out-of-school fund focus on targeting specific groups of young people, including those from high areas of multiple deprivation, disabled young people, and those from a Black and Minority Ethnic background. Sistema Scotland continue to tackle poverty and support families in Raploch, Govanhill, Torry, and Douglas using music, providing opportunities for cultural participation for children living in poverty through this work.
The Creative Communities programme seeks to support activity where communities are empowered to take the lead to provide sustainable opportunities for more people from areas with limited opportunities and lower levels of cultural engagement. The programme is match-funded by the Justice portfolio to provide support for cultural projects that produce positive outcomes for young people at risk of offending/reoffending. To support projects to adapt to the pandemic restrictions and ensure communities and individuals had access to cultural projects, the programme was boosted with an additional £500,000 from COVID-19 emergency support funds.
In the year ahead, the Scottish Book Trust will deliver the Arts Alive programme as a blended model of in-school (where allowed) and online sessions. This will ensure children still have access to the programmes delivered by the National Performing Companies. The Creative Communities programme began delivery of Phase 2 projects in January 2021, with Phase 2 being complete in March 2022. In 2021/22, projects funded by Youth Arts Emergency Funding will begin or continue, while Sistema Scotland will continue to deliver their core programmes, and test ways to expand their model.
Improving inclusion in sport
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disruptive impact on sport during 2020/21. Sports facilities have been closed for much of the year, and many sports organisations have had to either suspend or significantly modify activity, with some sport and physical activity provision moving online. However, sportscotland and their partners have looked for opportunities to ensure that sport continues to contribute to tackling child poverty and improve inclusion in the sports activity that has taken place.
During summer 2020, 149 childcare hubs – set up for vulnerable children and the children of key workers – were supported by 268 Active Schools staff and 22 Community Sport Hub Officers, providing at least 25,319 hours of support. The Active Schools network undertook a wide range of roles, including hub management, direct delivery of activity, and social media promotion. Working closely with care experienced and vulnerable children allowed Active Schools to gain a better understanding of individual children’s challenges, in turn leading to ideas for improved provision moving forward.
Many sports clubs and community organisations responded to the pandemic by contributing to efforts to support their local communities, including activities such as running food banks and food larders, delivering food and prescriptions, engaging their members online in free activity and fundraising for good causes. sportscotland used its networks and social media channels to promote this approach to clubs and community organisations that had the capacity to do so, sharing examples of what is working. Webinars were delivered through the Changing Lives through Sport and Physical Activity partnership to support sports organisations to consider their role in their communities and to exchange ideas.
In addition Scottish Sports Futures, with funding from the Scottish Government, will build on their wellbeing support which is a core part of their work through developed training modules in Mental Health & Wellbeing as well as ACEs and Trauma. This support will be a strategic element of the Changing Lives Through Sport and Physical Activity programme and align with wider support through sportscotland and Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), ensuring the right people get the right support.
Increased funding for mental health
Since the last progress report, we have been working across sectors to ensure that everyone who needs help can access the right support in the right place at the right time – which has been of even greater importance due to the pandemic. Our Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan outlines our response to the mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic containing over 100 actions. The Transition and Recovery Plan is supported by a £120 million Recovery and Renewal fund to transform services, with a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention.
Our £262.2 million programme budget for mental health and autism in 2021/22 – over and above NHS spending – is more than double when compared to the previous year, given the additional £120 million investment in our Recovery and Renewal Fund.
We have agreed early priorities for Recovery and Renewal investment. NHS Board allocations of £34.1 million have already been agreed to deliver: improved community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services; expansion of community CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) from age 18 up to the age of 25 years old for targeted groups and those who wish it; and clearance of any waiting list backlogs for CAMHS and Psychological Therapies – recognising that this may take up to two years.
We will allocate the remainder of the investment over the next few months, with a focus on wider support for mental health and wellbeing including Primary Care and Community Services. The total anticipated spend, including by NHS Scotland on mental health in 2021/22, is estimated to be in excess of £1.2 billion.
Supporting better life long outcomes through education
We want every child to have the same opportunity to succeed in school and to have an equal chance of entering and succeeding in higher education. As a key element of this we are committed to closing the poverty-related attainment gap. Our action on education will help to support today’s children and young people to reach their full potential, and help to tackle poverty for the next generation of children.
The updates below focus on the key actions set out in our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.
Scottish Attainment Challenge and Education Recovery
Our mission to reduce the poverty-related attainment gap remains central to our plans to tackle child poverty. There is a strong body of evidence that shows good progress is being made towards closing the poverty-related attainment gap and that the Scottish Attainment Challenge, supported by the Attainment Scotland Fund, is having a positive impact.
The impact of COVID-19 has been wide-ranging, not least in the resultant closure of school buildings and delivery of remote learning. This meant efforts to support children and young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds had to be adapted and additional action taken to provide further support.
We have committed to almost £400 million of new funding over last year and this year (2020/21 and 2021/22) as part of education recovery. Investment has to date secured the recruitment of over 1,400 additional teachers and 200 additional support staff, as well as distributing over 67,000 digital devices and 14,000 connectivity solutions to children and young people who need them.
We are committed to investing £1 billion over the term of this Parliament to close the attainment gap and will pay the first instalment of the expanded Scottish Attainment Fund in the first 100 days of the new Parliament. As part of this, record investment of over £200 million has been announced in 2021/22, including: a £20 million Pupil Equity Funding Premium, increasing the investment in Pupil Equity Funding from almost £127 million to almost £147 million; £50 million in funding for Challenge Authorities and Schools Programmes; and over £11.5 million in Care Experienced Children and Young People funding. All of this funding is focused on ensuring the children and young people who need it most in our schools and communities are supported.
Tailored learning support for Gypsy/Traveller families with children
Whilst challenging, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to highlight how successful flexible learning can be. Young Gypsy/Travellers showed high levels of engagement with Scottish Traveller Education Programme’s (STEP) pandemic eLearning programme and further steps will be taken with local authorities to discuss best practise for implementing flexible learning long term.
In addition, the Scottish Government invested £155,000 in COVID-19 response work specific to the Gypsy/Traveller community. This included funding for STEP to mitigate digital exclusion, including the distribution of MiFi units, iPads and online teaching resources for Gypsy/Traveller families.
As we move into 2021/22, Scottish Government officials from Equality, Education, Accommodation and Health are meeting and working with STEP and others to organise and deliver a successful and culturally appropriate programme that benefits the community going forward. This includes targeted support for young Carer's in the Gypsy/Traveller community, undertaken by Article 12, and research focused on the educational experiences of the Gypsy/Traveller community to further enhance support available in future – supported by our Tackling Child Poverty Fund.
Throughout our efforts we are undertaking community consultations to ensure that everything we are doing is fully reflective of the community we are working for, and that their voice is truly heard.
Support to tackle bullying
With around £300,000 of annual investment from the Scottish Government, respectme, Scotland’s anti-bullying service, continues to provide direct support to local authorities, youth groups and all those working with children and young people to build confidence and capacity to address all types of bullying effectively, aligned to ‘Respect for All’. respectme adapted quickly at the beginning of the pandemic by moving online and offering virtual training, strengthening the prejudice-based bullying aspect.
We also continue to support Childline to provide a helpline giving confidential advice and information to children and young people affected by any issues including bullying. The service, backed with over £115,000 of Scottish Government funding per year, has provided invaluable support to children and young people throughout the pandemic.
Going forward, a formal evaluation will be carried out in 2021/22 to assess how successfully the new approach for recording and monitoring bullying incidents in schools has been introduced across Scotland.
In 2021/22, respectme will deliver online learning seminars on approaches to address prejudice-based bullying for all those working with children and young people.
Support for students and communities from further and higher education
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Scottish Government officials and Scottish Ministers have had regular contact with relevant stakeholders including the National Union of Students (NUS) to keep the Scottish Government up to date with issues faced by students during the pandemic, and using their feedback to develop student support action plans.
Ministers established a Student Hardship Taskforce to assess the impact of the pandemic on student hardship and to determine if the mechanisms and measures currently in place are sufficient to mitigate against student hardship in further education and higher education. The National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA) and Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) are both members of this group.
Student Awards Agency Scotland statistics for 2020/21 will not be available until later this year. However, data is available for some of the support measures that were introduced.
Expansion of the Care Experienced Accommodation Grant, providing up to an additional eight weeks’ of support for Care Experienced Students, supported 243 students at a cost of approximately £205,000.
Emergency hardship funding for students studying at a private provider of Higher Education or studying at a Higher Education institution via the EU Portability Pilot or through a historically arranged scheme supported 63 students at a cost of around £20,000.
In the year ahead, we will continue to closely monitor students’ financial situations as circumstances change as lockdown restrictions ease. We will also continue to engage with NUS Scotland and the sector to monitor the spending of Hardship and Discretionary funds we have made available.
Supporting positive outcomes through Colleges
Supported by investment from our Tackling Child Poverty Fund, a number of colleges are delivering or implementing programmes designed to address various aspects of child poverty. This includes Dundee and Angus College which delivered the Find Your Future project, reaching 48 young people and providing vital skills and increased wellbeing, and the Touchpoint programme, which has engaged 115 new young people not in employment, education or training and 42 young or lone parents. Touchpoints engaged individuals through a range of measures, including online one-to-one meetings and group sessions – with evidence showing the majority of young people who engaged in touchpoints in 2019/20 successfully transitioned into part time or full time learning at the college.
We will continue to support colleges to deliver additional opportunities for training and learning in 2021/22 with increased funding of £500,000 available from the Tackling Child Poverty Fund.
E. Partnership working
The importance and power of partnerships has been brought into sharp focus throughout the national response to COVID-19, helping to break down barriers, strengthen approaches and deliver new and enhanced support at great speed. Mitigating the impacts of the pandemic on children and families on low incomes has been a key consideration throughout our collective efforts.
Working closely with national third sector organisations, community anchor organisations and local Third Sector Interfaces, we delivered over £100 million of new funding to third sector and community organisations in order to build resilience and meet the needs of people across Scotland. In 2021/22 we will continue to deliver support through the Community and Third Sector Recovery Programme, making up to £50 million available overall through the Programme.
Our local authority partners have also led on delivery of new and enhanced support for people impacted by the pandemic, including specifically to tackle food and financial insecurity. Working in partnership with local third sector and community organisations, together with volunteers and supported by national guidance, local authorities have played a key role in protecting people and communities impacted.
We have taken steps to secure learning from the unprecedented response to the pandemic, including through the Scottish Leaders Forum and Social Renewal Advisory Board – which made its final report to Scottish Ministers in February 2021. We will continue to consider what more can be done to ensure we continue to build on this momentum in our national mission to eradicate child poverty.
Updates on these and key actions from our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan are below.
Learning from the COVID response
During the response to the COVID-19 pandemic there was a significant amount of work undertaken to support people and communities which was delivered at pace and challenged traditional ways of working, cultures and mind sets. To capture this learning, Scottish Ministers established the Social Renewal Advisory Board (the Board) to consider how we ensure that tackling poverty and inequality, and embedding a human-rights based approach, is central to our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supported by the Scottish Government, the Board met 11 times between June 2020 and January 2021 to develop its ideas. Its final report ‘If Not Now, When?’ was published in January 2021 and contains 20 calls to action to transform Scotland. The calls to action were informed by nine policy circles and a wide range of public engagement activity, including community listening events across 31 local authority areas, four discussions with Poverty Truth Commissions, engagement with equality groups, and over 100 responses from organisations to a call for evidence and ideas.
In addition, on behalf of the Scottish Leaders Forum Action Group, the Scottish Government commissioned a review of local learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. This review focused specifically on the priority attached to child poverty, how local governance has adapted in the face of COVID, future priorities identified and lessons that have been learned.
We have also continued to work closely with partners, including the Children’s Sector Strategic and Policy Forum, to challenge our thinking and to provide critical feedback of what more is needed to support children and young people through the pandemic and beyond.
The Scottish Government published its initial response to the Board’s report in March 2021 and has actively promoted the findings of the review of local learning. We will consider the calls to action and lessons learned in greater detail during the coming year and will work closely with partners to develop the next Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.
Working with partners to tackle the impacts of COVID-19
In addition to the core actions committed within the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan our response to COVID-19 included a strong focus on supporting children living in low income families, helping to mitigate poverty and increased pressures on household finances caused by the pandemic.
We made almost £38 million of awards through our new Wellbeing Fund. Of this £21.58 million was distributed through an open application process, with analysis published in November 2020 showing that £6.9 million was targeted at supporting children and families and a further £1.88 million at supporting young people. Additionally, £2.57 million was awarded to support people with disabilities and £1.37 million to support minority communities. Projects funded focused on six main areas: mental health; food; physical health; home life/housing; money; and employment.
Further analysis, published in March 2021, showed that awards were much more likely to be made to organisations working in areas of higher deprivation. Overall, 48% of the amount awarded went to organisations working in SIMD 1 areas (the most deprived 20% of areas), and a further 24% went to organisations working in SIMD 2 areas (the second most deprived quintile).
Evaluation of the Supporting Communities Fund, which made over £20 million in awards to community groups and organisations, has been commissioned and will be published later in 2021. Awards through the Community and Third Sector Recovery Programme are ongoing, with around £50 million expected to be invested by the time the fund closes later this year.
Alongside these funds, considerable investment was directed to children’s charities including Aberlour, Barnardo’s, Cash for Kids, the Family Fund and others. The additional investment in these and other organisations facilitated cash awards for families in order to access essentials during the pandemic, and delivery of wider support.
This includes £4.8 million through our Winter Plan for Social Protection. Shared among 10 charities, this enhanced the support available during the challenging winter months. Our investment included £1.66 million through the STV Appeal, enabling them to reach up to 12,000 families through their network of grass roots organisations offering a range of support to families, from vouchers and assistance with basic material needs through to in-kind support. We also provided £225,000 to One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) enabling around 2,000 cash grants to be made to single parent families with pre-school age children, and discretionary cash awards to families who needed it most – OPFS linked these awards with wider advice, ensuring families received other support available to them.
Investing in innovative action to tackle child poverty
Our partnership approach is supported by investment in innovative projects that respond to local needs. The updates below focus on key commitments within our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.
Investing in Communities Fund
The Investing in Communities Fund (ICF) in 2020/21 was backed by investment of over £11 million and was the second year of the three year funding round launched in 2019/20. As COVID-19 began, communities were at the forefront of supporting essential activities and services for people in their communities. The ICF provided much needed and welcomed flexibility to help communities tackle the issues the pandemic presented.
The vast majority of community organisations receiving ICF continued to operate, although many re-focused their activity to support the emerging needs, or increase the amount of support for particular existing elements of their ICF project – for example, provision of food and financial support. Projects delivered their activities in different ways utilising online or telephone services instead of face to face services.
Given the impact of COVID, we have decided to delay the launch of the second round of the fund and have agreed to deliver a year of extended funding for round one projects, of which 32 directly address child poverty and 55 are helping to tackle food insecurity.
Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on the ability of Innovation Fund partners to deliver their core work, many have rapidly adapted their operations to meet the needs of people in their communities – including with food, basic essential needs, wellbeing, mental health and digital access. Innovation-funded projects form part of our wider Social Innovation Partnership (SIP) with The Hunter Foundation.
We are continuing to support projects and scale up activity. Following positive evaluation, we have now announced further investment to allow MCR Pathways to expand its programme to up to a further 300 schools, working in partnership to improve education outcomes, career opportunities and life chances. This investment, over the next six years, will potentially reach 15,000 young people.
Our learning partner, I-SPHERE, has found that the SIP’s relational approach supports increased confidence, self-awareness and better mental health which, in turn, allows people to better manage their day-to-day and family lives, improve their social capital, gain news skills and qualifications, and move towards employment.
Investment in the STV Children’s Appeal
In addition to the considerable support delivered through the Scottish Government’s Winter Plan for Social Protection, we have continued to support the work of the STV Children’s Appeal with continued investment of £1 million in 2020/21. STV committed a total of £3.6 million during 2020, including action to support need arising from the pandemic.
During the year, the Appeal supported 10 larger projects – reaching 2,500 people – and 850 smaller projects reaching thousands of families across the country. Many of these smaller projects use holistic approaches with families, helping parents to build strong relationships with their children and to support the wellbeing of the family unit.
Over the coming year, the Scottish Government will make a further £1 million available to the STV Children’s Appeal to allow it to continue to support children and families across Scotland affected by poverty.
Building stronger links between economic development partnerships and tackling child poverty
Given the significant impact of the pandemic on our economy and particular industries, we allocated more than £3 billion of support to businesses during 2020/21, including through sectoral schemes not available in the rest of the UK, helping businesses to weather restrictions and protect jobs across the country. In the year ahead we have extended 100% non-domestic rates relief for retail, leisure, hospitality and aviation businesses and offered restart grants for retailers and hospitality and leisure businesses, helping them to re-open progressively.
Focusing on our future economic development, the majority of Scotland’s developing network of Regional Economic Partnerships now have economic strategies and COVID economic recovery plans in place. These are built on a strong and shared understanding of the challenges faced, and include reducing child poverty as a key objective.
In the coming year we will continue to support this activity, focusing on how the £1.9 billion of Scottish Government investment over the next decade can help create new jobs, maintain existing jobs, aid recovery, and raise household incomes. Complementing this is specific work focused on stimulating local economies, for which updates are provided below.
Community wealth and localism
Community Wealth Building (CWB) is a practical mechanism to deliver on our ambitions for a wellbeing economy in Scotland. It seeks to deliver a fairer distribution of economic opportunity in local communities and remains an important focus for our work on reducing child poverty. In 2020/21 we selected five areas to pilot the CWB Action Planning process – Clackmannanshire, Glasgow City Region, Tay City Region (Fife Council), South of Scotland, and the Western Isles – all of which have now either published or will soon publish their Action Plans. These look at how the economic system in place can be reformed upstream to improve local economic opportunity that reduces the need for social intervention.
In the coming year we will continue to support these areas to focus on delivery, looking at ways to make best use of public investment and assets. We will also look at ways to embed CWB principles into capital investment such as the City and Region Growth Deals, the Energy Transition Fund, and the Clyde Mission. We will continue to work with sectors such as health and housing to maximise their roles as economic agents in place.
We have also announced ambitious plans to bring forward a Community Wealth Building Bill to maximise public bodies’ impact on local enterprise, resilience and economic wellbeing.
Town Centre Fund and Business Improvement Districts
The £68 million capital Town Centre Fund, together with over £4 million in additional COVID-19 resilience and recovery funding to towns, smaller settlements and Business Improvement Districts, have secured and supported hundreds of local jobs throughout the pandemic. Collaborative local partnership working through these funds has supported thousands of local businesses and their partners, enabling them to decide and direct local improvements, boost local economies and support town centres to meet the needs of their communities. The resilience and recovery funds enabled direct additional support for vulnerable communities and those in poverty, including support to foodbanks and local charities.
A strong partnership with local areas
We have continued to work together with partners to support local action to tackle child poverty, and to ensure that this is a key focus through recovery and renewal from COVID-19. This includes through investment in National Coordinators for both child poverty and the Fairer Scotland Duty, hosted at the Improvement Service, and in the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit (SPIRU), hosted at Glasgow Caledonian University.
Local Authorities and Health Boards across Scotland jointly produced their second Local Child Poverty Action Reports (LCPAR), articulating their commitment and outlining their activity to reduce child poverty. These reports build on the recommendations made by the Poverty and Inequality Commission following their review of the year 1 reports. The LCPARs represent a significant investment in tackling child poverty locally with a diverse range of policy and practice across the key drivers of poverty.
Through the National Coordinator for child poverty, tailored support was provided to local areas to support them to consider child poverty as part of the COVID response. Detailed individual feedback was given to local areas on their LCPARs supporting their further improvement. An online peer support network for those leading on this work was also established to provide a space to share policy and practice on child poverty across Scotland, and encourage learning exchange on key topics including food insecurity, children’s rights, digital inclusion and evaluation practices.
To examine in greater detail how local action is contributing to the objectives and outcomes of the national Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, SPIRU are undertaking a systematic analysis of the second round of LCPARs (2019-20). This analysis will also identify examples of promising and innovative local practice to inform discussion and development of the next Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, to be published by the end of March 2022.
This work supports the efforts of all national partners to ensure that awareness and strategic consideration of child poverty is at the forefront of recovery and renewal.
To ensure the continued success of the Fairer Scotland Duty, we are preparing revised guidance for public bodies to reflect the learning and practice over the last three years, and commenced consultation with relevant bodies and organisations on 24 March 2021. Final revised guidance is expected to be published in Summer 2021.
Working with our partners and people with lived experience
We have continued to support those with experience of poverty and inequality to develop solutions, actions and shape delivery of our policies to reduce poverty at both a local and national level. This includes through continued investment in the Poverty Alliance, supporting delivery of their Get Heard Scotland (GHS) programme focused on engaging communities impacted by poverty in the development of policies aiming to support them. In 2020/21, GHS worked intensively in Inverclyde and Renfrewshire council areas, focusing on embedding the approach to engaging with experts by experience. Poverty Alliance published a report on its findings in Renfrewshire in February.
In addition, we continued to provide funding to the Glasgow Poverty Community for their ongoing work in this area which has adapted to online meetings as a result of COVID-19, and continues to engage with their community commissioners to discuss the issues affecting them.
At the start of the pandemic, we engaged with each of the five poverty truth commissions across Scotland (in Glasgow, Edinburgh, East Ayrshire, Shetland and Dundee) to help build our understanding of how the pandemic was affecting those on a low income and the possible policy solutions. A summary of these findings was presented to the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government who subsequently met digitally with participants from each of the groups to discuss the issues. Issues highlighted included digital exclusion, extra costs of heating and access to food, and this learning was used to focus and enhance our response in these areas.