Blog: The Scottish Government must go further to meet legal child poverty targets

EDINBURGH, UK - 4th October 2018: Scottish MSP's show their support for Challenge Poverty Week. A debate will take place in parliament highlighting the problem of poverty in Scotland and comes as new figures published on Tuesday showed that one in four children are locked in poverty.  (Photograph: MAVERICK PHOTO AGENCY)

Full press release below.

Poverty Alliance news release
For immediate use: Thursday 4th October

Photo to follow at 1.30pm 
Party leaders unite to challenge poverty
Today at the Scottish Parliament leaders of all the political parties represented in Holyrood will join forces to highlight the problem of poverty in Scotland and showcase the solutions we can all get behind to solve it. Leaders will unite for a photocall ahead of a debate in Parliament on the solutions to tackling poverty.[1]
The debate is part of ScotlandÕs biggest ever Challenge Poverty Week.  From upcycling classes and family fun days to workshops on innovative alternatives to food banks, more than 100 events are happening this week. Academics, leading NGOs, churches, community groups, schools and leaders of all the major political parties are among those to show their support for the campaign. 
NHS Health Scotland, Shelter, NSPCC Scotland, Close the Gap, Refugee Survival Trust, The Church of Scotland and Citizens Advice Scotland are among those joining forces to highlight the grip poverty has on peopleÕs lives and the policies we need to solve the problem.  
It comes as new figures published on Tuesday showed that one in four children are locked in poverty and that the majority of these children are in families where someone is disabled or parents are finding it difficult to juggle work and childcare. [2]
Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance said:

ÒIn our society we believe in doing the right thing. And yet, weÕre letting increasing numbers of people get swept up in the rising tide of poverty. 
ÒAll across Scotland people from all walks of life are coming together to

Peter Kelly
The Poverty Alliance

Scotland is a place that believes every child should thrive and not just survive.

But far too many of our children have their life chances restricted and restrained just because they’re unlucky enough to be growing up in households that are struggling in a tidal wave of poverty.

That’s an injustice that we can put right.

The Scottish Government has set ambitious targets to end child poverty, accompanied by a Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan to make those targets a reality. Targets include bringing child poverty levels below 10 per cent by 2030.

But the Scottish Government’s latest progress report, published this week, shows that we need to do much more if those targets are to be met. When assessing the Government’s progress against Best Start, Bright Futures and our statutory targets there emerges a clear implementation gap.

The latest statistics show that 250,000 children are living in poverty in Scotland, which is around one in four children. Worryingly, these numbers don’t reflect the full impact of the cost of living crisis because they don’t cover last winter when energy bills were at their highest. The Poverty & Inequality Commission was clear: “there is a very high likelihood that the Scottish Government will miss the 2030 child poverty targets, unless it substantially increases the pace and scale of delivery.”

That crisis is far from over and is continuing to have far-reaching implications for households across Scotland. Stubbornly high energy and food costs coupled with a growing debt crisis threatens to undo much of the positive work that has been done in recent years.

Child poverty can only be eradicated if the Scottish Government uses all its available policy levers across housing, social security, childcare, and equal access to employment. The Scottish Government has projected that child poverty will fall by 90,000 this year, and if that is correct it is to be very much welcomed. Actions are being taken in Scotland that mean we have lower rates here than elsewhere in the UK, but that is little comfort to anyone struggling to feed their family in Glasgow, Dundee or Inverness.

When we spoke with people with lived experience of poverty about the Scottish Government’s plans, one participant said: “The key is putting money in people’s pockets. People will make the best choices for their families.”

We agree, and in our briefing for MSPs and Ministers this week we called on the Scottish Government to increase the Scottish Child Payment to at least £40 per week. We haven’t picked that figure out of the air – it’s based on analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, looking at what level of investment was needed to actually meet the child poverty targets.

And we must meet those targets. We have to remember that we previously had legal targets to end child poverty across the UK by three years ago in 2020, but they were scrapped by the UK Government in 2016. Our children can no longer wait.

The Poverty and Inequality Commission’s report places focus on employability support as a key area of Best Start, Bright Futures where the Scottish Government’s ambition has not been realised. They stated that “the in-year cut to employability funding in 2022-23 was a blow to the delivery of a significant element of the Delivery Plan’s strand to raise income from employment”. We agree.

It’s clear that employability is an area of the plan where the implementation gap is most acute, and there is insufficient clarity as to how the Scottish Government will rectify this.

As well as boosting the Scottish Child Payment and introducing employability support that meets the needs of priority families, we called on the Scottish Government to commit to further concrete actions to help households with children.

We can pause collections on public sector debt recovery for at least six months, to give people time to deal with the impact of the costs crisis.

We can deliver funded childcare to 50 hours per week, helping parents, particularly mothers, to get access to education, training, and better job opportunities.

We can make sure that Fair Work becomes the norm in Scotland, making life easier for parents who are in employment, raising their incomes and making it easier for them to fit work around family life.

And we can take action to address Scotland’s housing crisis, by building at least 38,500 social homes by 2026 to meet housing need and provide homes with affordable rents for households with children.

One of the key messages emerging from the First Minister’s anti-poverty summit last month was that the Scottish Government must shift its emphasis to delivery. The latest progress report has again underscored that point. It’s time to close the implementation gap and ensure that the Government’s positive rhetoric on tackling child poverty is accompanied by concrete action and adequate funding.

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