Poverty during a child's formative years can have lasting effects
More than a third of families with a baby under one in Scotland are living in poverty.
The findings are revealed in a new report by Save the Children Scotland, urging the Scottish Government to urgently do more to protect the most vulnerable from the long-lasting harms of poverty.
The report, Better for Babies, highlights that the first year of a child’s life is critical to their development in infancy, and significant in defining future outcomes and warns that this is when the impacts of poverty can be the most severe and harmful.
With 34% of families with a baby living in poverty in Scotland (1 in 3), this is significantly over the national average where 24% (1 in 4) are living in poverty.
A Scottish mum supported by Save the Children, said: “I found having my first child really hard. I was employed but it wasn’t a great environment – there was no option to move so I had to take early maternity. By the time when she was 6 months old, I was on no pay. I ended up quitting my job. I simply couldn’t survive on maternity pay.”
Another Scottish mum supported by Save the Children, said: “It’s not fair on babies who have to miss out. It impacts their development, and I noticed a real difference in my child during Covid.”
Despite the Scottish Government recognising families with a baby under one as a priority group in their efforts to meet the 2030 child poverty targets, and making some progress to increase incomes and reduce essential costs for this group, the report highlights that progress is slow and more needs to be done to improve outcomes for babies and their families in Scotland to make sure it’s the best country in the world to be born into.
Claire Telfer, head of Scotland at Save the Children, said: “We believe all children should have a fair start in life. Childhoods don’t wait. That’s why getting it right for children in the first year is so important.
“Families with babies face the same struggles as other families - low income, insufficient income from social security and the high cost of essentials. These challenges interact with the specific circumstances of families with a baby - a time of reduced work in families, and increased costs associated with a new baby.
“The systems that are supposed to help families are not doing enough to protect them. Maternity pay and leave along with social security support isn’t enough to provide a decent standard of living and the costs of essentials are at an all-time high.
“This means too many families with babies, often single parent and young parent families, don’t have enough money to live on.
“And while efforts are being made to target support at this group – including announcements from the recent Programme for Government that the Scottish Government will proceed with plans to remove income thresholds from Best Start Foods, and will trial introducing funded childcare from 9 months – it's not yet enough to lift families out of poverty.
“There is a narrow window to make sure all babies develop the right building blocks for a happy, healthy life; it’s time to do better for babies.”