Reacting to the First Minister’s Programme for Government, Poverty Alliance Acting Director David Reilly said: “When he was elected, the First Minister said tackling poverty was to be his defining mission. But this Programme for Government is a critical missed opportunity to turn our shared values of justice and compassion into meaningful action.
“On childcare, the extension of funded provision should have far reaching positive benefits for low income families but we remain too focused on limited extensions and pilots. We know what is needed to really help families in poverty - a universal funded entitlement of 50 hours per week for children aged 6 months and above to enable particularly single parents – the majority of which are women - to access good quality employment and reduce essential household costs.
“Increasing the pay of childcare workers is welcome. It’s wrong that these vital members of our society, the vast majority of whom are women, are so underpaid and undervalued. These workers have the future of our children in their care – they deserve more.
“We are bitterly disappointed with the scope of todays actions. Right now the Scottish Government are not on track to meet their legally binding child poverty targets. If we want to make poverty a thing of the past we need the Scottish Government to go further and faster.”
“The Scottish Child Payment is a great example of how politicians can turn care into meaningful action. But we know that if Scotland is to meet our legal child poverty targets, we need to invest at least £40 a week into eligible households. Today’s commitment of raising the current £25 with inflation is nowhere near enough. Although welcome, an inflation increase wont keep pace with the cost of essentials, meaning it will cover less food, less clothes, and less energy.”
“We welcome commitments to a Minimum Income Guarantee, including making sure that the new Carer’s Allowance in Scotland is tied closely into the work to make MIG a reality. We look forward to further announcements about this once the MIG Expert Group has reported.
“We also welcome the Scottish Government’s support for an Essentials Guarantee, to make sure that Universal Credit is paid at a level that actually covers people’s basic needs.
“And we welcome further moves to make the real Living Wage a bigger part of Scotland’s enterprises, through the use of Scottish Government commitments around Fair Work and procurement.”
“In a just and compassionate Scotland, everyone would be able to access affordable, sustainable travel. But too many people are prevented from getting on board - simply because they don't have enough the money to pay unaffordable fares.
“Piloting the end of Scotrail peak fares will help many, but to really help people on low incomes, this Government must do much more on bus travel. For people on low incomes, unaffordable buses restricts their freedom, lessens their opportunities, and badly impacts their health and wellbeing. We urge ministers to urgently consider expanding free concessionary fares to people on social security benefits, starting with people in the asylum system.
“We welcome the fact that the Government is finally going to introduce the secondary legislation needed to allow local councils to regulate buses, and run their own bus services. It’s long overdue and will allow us to get better value for money, create better transport networks, and help us meet our climate commitments.
“Having a safe, secure, warm home is one of our most basic needs. It lays the foundation for many other human needs to be met. Sadly, Scotland is facing a housing emergency, and this Programme for Government has failed to make the fundamental changes we urgently need. We called for 38,500 new homes for social rent by 2026. The First Minister has pledged to build around 11,000 by 2032.
“We await details about rent controls and greater protections for homeless people, but on the wider issue if urgent action is not taken, this will make it much more difficult to address child poverty and improve health, education, and employment outcomes.
“It’s completely wrong that poverty and low incomes are being allowed to affect a child’s attainment in school. The First Minister said there has been a welcome decrease in the attainment gap between children from poorer and wealthier households, but we believe the figures tell a different story. The attainment gap is still a glaring injustice
“Our research has found recommendations that could be effective, including more one-to-one tuition and supporting parents to help home learning. There is also positive evidence on the impacts of careers education and guidance, tutoring, and mentoring on improving educational outcomes for disadvantaged children and young people.”