Levels of child poverty in Scotland are stagnating and possibly even growing
The Scottish Government has been slated over its lack of progress in tackling child poverty as a new report claimed the problem may be on the rise across the country.
Research by the Poverty and Inequality Commission (PIC) has warned that levels of child poverty in Scotland are stagnating and possibly even growing.
The report, published on Tuesday, provides advice for the Scottish Government on its Child Poverty Delivery Plan and gives a clear warning that unless significant work is undertaken targets to reduce child poverty levels by 2023-24 will be missed.
The PIC found a quarter of children in Scotland are locked into poverty and over half of Scottish children (53%) were in poverty at least once over a 12 year period.
The report also warns the full impact of the pandemic on poverty is yet to hit, prompting concerns child poverty rates could rise further.
Current levels of “relative poverty”, where a child lives in a household which has less than 60% of the median household income, rose to 24% in 2017-20. The interim target is to reduce this to 18% by 2023/24 with an eventual target of ten per cent by 2030/31.
The commission has worked with its Experts by Experience Panel – made up of people with lived experience of poverty – to set out recommended actions for what needs to be done by the Scottish Government in order to meet both its interim and final targets.
Bill Scott, PIC chair, said: ”Our advice shows that, quite simply, too many children are still experiencing poverty in Scotland. As a society we believe it’s wrong for children’s lives to be restricted by poverty. That’s why the child poverty targets were set.
“While we know work is ongoing, progress is not enough to meet the targets, and for some measures the position is worsening. Despite a clear commitment, the action taken by the Scottish Government so far is inadequate.
“We need to see Holyrood using all the levers available to end the scourge of child poverty.”
The commission has set out a range of proposals, alongside these experts, which it feels would go some way to meeting the targets set out by ministers.
These focus on social security, employment and housing and include greater work on creating “good jobs” as part of work to tackle the roots of poverty.
The report also claims parents should be supported to get and sustain suitable employment, or to work more hours, as well as building more suitable, affordable housing for families and ensuring access to benefits for those in need.
However, the commission has concluded that, though much needed, these actions are unlikely to result in the reduction in child poverty required in the time available to meet the interim targets.
Therefore, it believes that the Scottish Government will also have to further increase the Scottish Child Payment or deliver targeted increases to families in the child poverty priority groups - including lone parent and disabled parent households.
The calls come after the first minister announced in November that the Scottish Child Payment will be doubled to £20 per week per child from April 2022.
Mr Scott said: “Targets to reduce child poverty can be met, however the Scottish Government will have to utilise every opportunity and deliver action faster, coupled with a significant increase in funding.
“We need to see action across all areas of government in order to release families from the constraints of poverty. Providing parents with support to apply for a job, for example, won’t have the impact we want if the parent can’t get suitable childcare or doesn’t have a reliable bus service to get them to work.
“We are committed to working with the Scottish Government to eradicate child poverty and ensure it remains one of its top priorities. It will take a concerted joint effort from PIC, the Scottish Government and its partners to resolve these issues and ensure our children have the very best start in life.”
Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said: “We will publish our next Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan in March and it will outline the transformational actions we will take alongside our delivery partners to tackle child poverty.
“We will double the Scottish Child Payment to £20 per week from April and will invest £361 million above the level of funding from UK government on social security in 2022/23.
“The delivery plan will also set out other levers we will use and actions to take - for example, on employment, maximising incomes and affordable housing, which all contribute to reducing child poverty.
“However, we cannot do it alone – we must work together across society to deliver on this national mission.”