2. An ambition to eradicate child poverty
2.1. Broad support for including an ambition in statute
Question 1 asked:
Do you agree with the Scottish Government including in statute an ambition to eradicate child poverty? (105 respondents answered this question)
Most respondents answered Question 1 (90%). Of these, almost all (101 respondents: 94%) agreed with the Scottish Government including in statute an ambition to eradicate child poverty. Only four respondents disagreed.
Respondents were given an opportunity to comment on their response to Question 1, and the majority (92 respondents) provided comments. Of the four respondents who disagreed with including the ambition in statute, two organisations noted that they supported the ambition, but one thought the consultation paper had not made the case for including it in statute and the other did not believe poverty could be completely eradicated.
Many of the respondents who agreed with including the ambition in statute, highlighted that they 'support', 'welcome' or 'share' the ambition in their comments.
"We both welcome and share the Scottish Government's ambition to eradicate child poverty, and agree that by placing the proposed Child Poverty Bill in statute this can progress the aims of the Scottish Government to that end." (Aberlour Child Care Trust)
"Save the Children very much welcomes the general principles of the Child Poverty Bill. We believe that giving legal force to the commitment to eradicate child poverty is a major opportunity to shape and drive policy to tackle poverty and thereby improve the quality of children's childhood and their future life chances." (Save the Children)
A range of reasons for this support were outlined. Several respondents felt that the ambition would be a 'clear and public expression' of the Scottish Government's commitment; provide focus or a 'clear direction of travel'; place child poverty 'high on the agenda'; and generate commitment/act as a driver of change.
"…the introduction of a Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill constitutes a clear and highly public expression of the Scottish Government's intention to tackle child poverty. By enshrining the commitment in legislation, the Scottish Government will help to ensure that the targets - and the political impetus behind them - endure, regardless of variations in popular opinion. Vitally, legislation will also provide a means of ensuring future governments are bound by the duty to eradicate child poverty." (Barnardo's Scotland)
As in the above quote, another important reason mentioned by several respondents was that placing the ambition in statute would ensure current and future governments can be 'held to account' and their progress in tackling child poverty subjected to 'scrutiny'.
Explaining their support, many respondents underlined the prevalence and impact of child poverty, including the impact on children's development and life chances:
"For the children we support growing up in poverty means feeling cold, going hungry and being unable to fully join in activities at school, with friends or in the wider community. Child poverty not only blights children's childhoods, it is likely to result in poorer financial prospects, health and wellbeing throughout the course of a person's lifetime." (Children 1 st)
The impact of growing up in poverty on health, increases in the number of people lacking basic necessities, the relationship between poverty and child abuse and neglect, and child poverty's role as a driver of inequality, were also mentioned. Some local government councils discussed the prevalence of poverty in their local authority.
The young people consulted by the Scottish Youth Parliament broadly agreed that the government should set a target for addressing or targeting poverty; however some were sceptical about using the words, "eradicating" or "ending" poverty as, "It's too unreachable to aim to eradicate poverty." (Scottish Youth Parliament)
2.2. Need to consider the wider policy context of child poverty
Several responses provided thoughts on additional issues that ought to be considered alongside the ambition. The need to consider Child Poverty legislation within the wider context of other policy and legislative developments, and to make sure it is aligned with existing structures, was highlighted:
"At a higher, more strategic level, it is of crucial importance that the proposed legislation should be set within the context of the Government's overall strategic direction. There already exists a wide range of legislation and policies, all of which seek to improve outcomes for our most disadvantaged citizens, and there requires to be clarity in relation to where the proposed child poverty legislation fits within this wider landscape, for example its relationship to the Economic Development Strategy, Fairer Scotland, Welfare Reform, Education Reform, Community Justice and Community Empowerment legislation. This will ensure a clear focus on agreed priorities." (Local authority council)
Taking a 'collaborative', 'holistic' or 'partnership' approach was also seen as important. Several responses noted that other aspects of poverty or inequality are also important, including gender inequalities and gendered dynamics within the family; racial inequalities; the relationship between disability and poverty; and the need to consider the structural causes of poverty. A few respondents questioned why the Bill was limited to child poverty.
"However, we question why the framework is limited to Child Poverty and doesn't adopt a broader focus on 'poverty' as a whole. The extent and existence of inequalities cannot be attributed to a single cause or risk factor. They are the result of economic and social circumstances and reflect an underlying unequal distribution of resources. For children, the circumstances of their parents or carers directly impacts on their experiences." (Local authority council)
"At the start of September 2016, JRF published an independent strategy for solving poverty in the UK. It has much in common with the Scottish Government's proposals, but it is an all-age strategy, reflecting the risks and costs faced by people at various points in their lives. We would encourage the Scottish Government to consider how far the Child Poverty Bill combined with the Fairer Scotland Action Plan and the approach to Inclusive Growth will provide the basis for a comprehensive approach to solving poverty across the population." (Joseph Rowntree Foundation ( JRF))
2.3. Legislation alone will not eradicate poverty
Although the majority agreed with including the ambition in statute, many also made the point that 'legislation alone won't eradicate poverty'. These responses noted that the ambition must be backed up by 'actions', 'policies' and/or 'clear strategies':
"We also emphasise the need to back up this process with a clear and robust Action Plan designed not just to measure Child Poverty but to eradicate it." (Citizen's Advice Scotland)
Similarly, the young people consulted also felt that "This needs to come with a real action plan and not be tokenistic" and "If you do have targets it has to be backed up by appropriate resources". (Scottish Youth Parliament response) Others suggested the language for the proposed Bill should be stronger than 'an ambition', suggesting it be strengthened to a 'commitment' to eradicate child poverty, or the inclusion of a duty on Scottish Ministers to take action:
"While the ambition to eradicate child poverty is very welcome, we believe there is scope for the legislation to go further in terms of the strength of the obligation placed on the Scottish Government. While an ambition might be an appropriate means of expressing the government's overarching intention to eradicate child poverty, we believe there is a need for that ambition to be underpinned by a duty on Scottish Ministers to take action. In particular, we believe the legislation should include a duty on Scottish Ministers to meet the four income based targets set out in the consultation document by 2030." (Child Poverty Action Group ( CPAG) in Scotland)
A few responses mentioned other concerns, including that the Scottish Government does not have all the relevant 'income-generation and maintenance' levers to address income inequality; the negative impact on poverty of UK Government welfare reform and the current economic conditions:
"I have a general concern that without the full levers of power regarding income generation and maintenance, including social security powers, it will be difficult to fully address income inequality." (Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland)
A few also noted concerns around whether sufficient funding would be available to achieve the targets. Local authority respondents in particular were concerned about reductions in Council finances undermining efforts.