Existing Approach to Tackling Child Poverty in Scotland
Section 1: Legislative Context
In July 2015, the UK Government announced their intention to repeal significant proportions of the Child Poverty Act 2010 via the Welfare Reform and Work Bill  . They proposed to replace the four income-based targets with measures on worklessness and educational attainment; to remove the child poverty aspects of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission's remit; and to rename the legislation the 'Life Chances Act'.
Scottish Ministers fundamentally disagreed with this approach; in particular, the removal of targets, and the use of alternative measures that do not take income into account. In the Scottish Government's view, this represents a shift towards characterising poverty as a lifestyle choice rather than addressing the social and economic drivers that cause people to fall into or remain in poverty.
The Scottish Government therefore requested an opt-out from the UK Government's approach and worked to bring forward amendments to the Bill repealing all parts of the 2010 Act that imposed any duty on Scottish Ministers, and sought legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament  . The UK Government's Welfare Reform and Work Bill was passed with the requested amendments in March 2016, meaning that the Scottish Government is now in a position to bring forward proposals for a Scottish approach to tackling and measuring child poverty.
The UK was examined on its performance under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child ( UNCRC) in May. The UN Committee noted 'serious concern' regarding the UK Government's repeal of the child poverty targets. It recommended that the UK 'set up clear accountability mechanisms for the eradication of child poverty, including by re-establishing concrete targets with a set timeframe and measurable indicators, and continue regular monitoring and reporting on child poverty reduction in all parts of the State party'.
A further examination under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ( ICESCR) has just taken place, and concerns relating to child poverty are again expected to feature in the conclusions. The Scottish Government has made clear that concerted and effective action to confront poverty and inequality are fundamental to meeting the UK's international human rights obligations.
Our approach must live up to the UNCRC recommendations and set out a clear agenda for tackling, reporting on and measuring child poverty. If we genuinely want Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up, and that lives up to the Fairer Scotland vision, eradicating child poverty is fundamental. That is why we are proposing that the key purpose of the Child Poverty Bill will be to enshrine in legislation a Scottish Government ambition to eradicate child poverty. That ambition will be underpinned by the reinstatement of statutory income targets, against which our progress can be judged, and a robust 'Team Scotland' Delivery Plan.
Do you agree with the Scottish Government including in statute an ambition to eradicate child poverty?
What are your views on making income targets statutory?
Section 2: Child Poverty Strategy 2014-17 and Ministerial Advisory Group on Child Poverty
The UK Government's Child Poverty Act 2010 set out four UK-wide targets to reduce child poverty significantly, which are discussed in more detail in the following pages. Under that Act, Scottish Ministers were required to publish a strategy every three years, and to report on progress towards these targets annually  .
The Scottish Government appointed a Ministerial Advisory Group on Child Poverty in 2012. The remit of the group is to provide Scottish Ministers with advice on priorities and actions relating to child poverty. The Group acts as the advisory body for the Child Poverty Strategy and the related annual reports, and provides a forum for the discussion of evidence, dissemination of good practice and the development of new thinking to support the delivery of the strategy.
The Group has been a valuable source of advice, challenge and input as we have developed our policy in recent years. In particular, they were instrumental in helping to develop the measurement framework set out in the Child Poverty Strategy 2014-17. The Strategy includes a range of actions to maximise household incomes, boost life chances and build high-quality places where children can thrive and prosper. The detailed framework set out in that Strategy is discussed in more detail in Section 10.
We want to ensure that we retain the experience and expertise of the Group as we move forward with our Scottish approach to tackling child poverty. We would be keen to hear views on how their role might best be developed so that they continue to play a key role in taking forward actions and legislation.
How do you think the role of the Ministerial Advisory Group on Child Poverty can be developed to ensure that they play a key role in developing the legislation?
Section 3: Scottish Government Policy Context
Significantly reducing child poverty has key links to a number of our priorities, such as reducing the attainment gap, achieving equity and excellence in education, closing the gap in healthy life expectancy and reducing youth unemployment. We already have a whole range of policies and approaches in place which contribute towards tackling child poverty. Some key examples include:
- our commitment to promoting the Living Wage;
- free school meals;
- expansion of funded early learning and childcare;
- the Early Years Collaborative and Raising Attainment for All Programme;
- the Play, Talk, Read and Read, Write, Count campaigns;
- the Scottish Attainment Challenge: support by the Attainment Scotland Fund (£750 million over this parliamentary session);
- new duties introduced by the Education (Scotland) Act 2016 to tackle inequalities of educational outcome experienced by pupils as a result of socio-economic disadvantage;
- implementing the recommendations of the Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce;
- delivery of our affordable homes and social rent targets;
- the People and Communities Fund;
- the Building Safer Communities programme;
- reducing re-offending and supporting families affected by parental imprisonment;
- enhancing the rights of young carers as set out in the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016, to be commenced;
- the proposed Best Start Grant;
- the deployment of 250 links workers in GPs' surgeries in our most deprived neighbourhoods to help people get access to the services that they need;
- increasing the Health Visiting workforce and implementing the refreshed Universal Pathway;
- expanding the Family Nurse Partnership programme; and
- a review of maternity and neonatal services.
But we know that we need to do more. Poverty is complex, with a wide range of underlying drivers. For some families in poverty, the experience of low income may be short-lived; others will dip in and out of poverty over an extended period perhaps because of insecure employment; still others will experience persistent poverty over many years and this latter is arguably the most difficult 'poverty' to tackle of them all.
The resilience of communities is often linked to poverty and inequality. There is a direct link between poverty on the one hand and vulnerability and victimisation on the other. Therefore we must ensure, through an increased emphasis on prevention and protection, that any engagement with the justice system delivers better outcomes for individuals and communities.
Legislation on its own will not deliver all of our aims for our children. However, we believe that by making the eradication of child poverty a central, cross-cutting priority, we can bring together action across all of Government and beyond to deliver real change.
The Child Poverty Bill will be complemented by a range of activity, including the Government Economic Strategy, which has Inclusive Growth at its heart. Inclusive Growth underpins our dual ambition to tackle inequality and boost competitiveness, so that the benefits of a flourishing Scotland can be shared by all. Without tackling poverty, deep-rooted inequalities and poor outcomes will continue to impact on our performance across all aspects of the economy - a challenge that will only become more significant in the context of the EU referendum result and associated economic uncertainty. Tackling child poverty means tackling all poverty, ending the cycle of poverty for good. In this respect, Inclusive Growth is central to the tackling poverty agenda; and as we build a skilled healthy productive workforce we will be better equipped to face up to economic challenges and create prosperity in the future.
Section 4: Importance of Partnership
The Bill will be backed up by a robust 'Team Scotland' Delivery Plan. We want the Child Poverty Delivery Plan to be clear and comprehensive. Most importantly, we want everyone in Scotland who seeks to help children in poverty to understand and work towards the same key ambitions. We will work closely with local authorities, COSLA and other public, third sector and community stakeholders, to strengthen the relationship between national policy and local action.
Local partners are vital in any plan to tackle poverty in Scotland. We collaborated with COSLA in the development of the 2015 annual report on child poverty to ensure that the excellent work taking place in local authorities across the country was reflected in the report. But we need to do more than just reflect that work. We need to work together to gain a clear picture of how the national Delivery Plan is being put into practice at a local level, and ensure that it is delivering outcomes by measuring success, reporting on it and sharing best practice across Scotland.
We are mindful of the duties and reporting requirements that already exist, for example under the Community Empowerment Act and the Children and Young People Act, and we are therefore open to suggestions that allow us to engage with local partners and communities on child poverty in a way that minimises the reporting burden wherever possible, recognising that this is a key priority for us all.
How can links between the national strategy and local implementation be improved? What could local partners do to contribute to meeting these national goals? This might include reporting and sharing best practice or developing new strategic approaches.
Email: Gillian Cross, email@example.com