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Charities hail turning point in child poverty battle

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Holyrood pledge to publish targets comes after Westminster abolished them

Charities have hailed what they say could be a historic “turning point” in the fight to end child poverty.

The child poverty (Scotland) bill establishes ambitious new targets for the reduction and eradication of child deprivation.

It will place a duty on the Scottish Government to report on how those targets are being met.

For the first time local authorities and health boards will also have a legal duty to report on the action they are taking to reduce child poverty.

It comes as the Westminster Tory government dismantled the UK Child Poverty Act, scrapping the target to eradicate child poverty by 2020.

The End Child Poverty coalition of Scottish leading children’s charities had urged the Scottish Government to put legislation in place to replace – and better – this.

The result is the new bill, which will go before MSPs.

If passed, it will see Scotland become the only part of the UK with statutory targets in a bid to reduce the number of children experiencing the damaging effects of poverty by 2030.

The government will publish a three-year delivery plan by April 2018, which will be updated every five years, and annual reports to measure progress.

This could prove to be a turning point in the lives of children living in poverty in Scotland - John Dickie, CPAG

It was welcomed across charities working with young people.

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “This bill is hugely welcome and could prove to be a turning point in the lives of more than 220,000 children living in poverty in Scotland today.

“The ambitious new targets and the legislative framework that underpins them will help ensure that child poverty remains high on the political agenda and that government is consistently held to account.

“We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to help identify the practical steps that must now be taken to make these ambitions a reality.”

Satwat Rehman, director of One Parent Families Scotland, said: “This is an important commitment by the Scottish Government. We look forward to working with them to improve a situation where 44 % of children in single parent families live in relative poverty.

“This will require an approach which integrates measures around social security & employability with childcare policy to stop that figure increasing over the next four years.

Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “We know from our work across Scotland that poverty is one of the main factors affecting children’s ability to thrive and achieve their potential. We welcome the fact that as a country we will have a clear target to end child poverty. We need to make sure that the legislation creates a situation where we are all clear what steps are being taken to do so”

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, and Jackie Brock, chief executive of Children in Scotland, chimed in.

Kelly said: “The publication of this legislation is very welcome. Too many children in Scotland have their lives blighted both now and into their future as a result of poverty. By taking a more strategic approach and setting realistic targets, we can ensure that Scotland becomes a leader in tackling child poverty.”

Brock added: "No child’s health, wellbeing and future life chances should be blighted by poverty, so we welcome this Bill as a positive step towards its reduction.”

Meanwhile, Alison Todd, chief executive of Children 1st, said: “By creating a framework to hold this and future governments to account for their efforts to eradicate child poverty, this bill marks a crucial milestone in achieving that vision.”

Equalities secretary Angela Constance said: “It’s utterly unacceptable that one in five children in Scotland live in poverty and this bill sets out statutory targets to reduce and ultimately eradicate child poverty.

“Child poverty has been a systemic problem for decades. Tackling the immense challenge is an ambition all of Scotland – be that national and local government, health boards, businesses, the third sector or others – must work together to overcome.

“We’re absolutely committed to tackling the deep-rooted causes of child poverty, addressing the needs of those living in poverty today and preventing future generations from those circumstances.

“This bill is a major step forward as we look to give our children the best start in life, and it establishes a framework by which we can be held to account for our efforts. We look forward to hearing the views of the parliament and of stakeholders on the proposals.”