Ending Child Poverty
The Fairer Scotland conversations made it clear: no child should have to grow up in poverty in a country as wealthy as Scotland. We have an ambition to eradicate child poverty which will mean reducing the number of people in poverty across all ages. Ultimately, this ambition will make Scotland stronger, healthier, smarter and fairer.
Here are a range of actions the Scottish Government will take to make progress.
An Ambition To End Child Poverty
To end child poverty, we will strengthen our approach, which focuses on maximising family incomes, boosting life chances and helping build sustainable communities in which to grow up.
In early 2017, we will introduce a new Child Poverty Bill.
We have already published a consultation on proposals to
introduce child poverty income targets for 2030. We have proposed
that these should be still more ambitious than the child poverty
targets originally set by the
UK Labour Government in
2010 and scrapped by the
Government. A Delivery Plan will be developed with all our partners
- and crucially, with people with experience of poverty - focusing
on how we can deliver and advance equality for all. We will also
learn from the valuable work many local authorities are already
doing to tackle poverty and inequality.
We will listen to any ideas proposed and consider all options, to make sure we meet this commitment.
Other actions in this Plan will help with our ambition to eradicate child poverty. We will introduce a new socio-economic duty on public authorities (Action 1), set up a new poverty and inequality commission (Action 3), and make sure that people with experience of living in poverty have greater opportunities to influence national and local policy going forward (a range of actions in the plan).
Maximising Family Incomes
Our focus on income targets reflects the fact that providing low income families with a range of financial support is crucial for children's long term prospects. We will put more money into these families' pockets by the end of this parliament, providing parents with basic necessities, financial support, and affordable childcare.
As part of our support for families with children in the early years, we will introduce a Scottish Baby Box in 2017 to help reduce the costs of providing for a child in the early days and weeks of life that some families may find challenging. The Box will be a universal entitlement, and will contain essential items such as bedding, clothing and books. We hope that the Box will come to be seen as an iconic celebration of childhood, sending a signal about the importance of parenting.
We will create a new Best Start Grant ( BSG) to bring together the system for Healthy Start food vouchers and the UK Sure Start Maternity Grant ( SSMG) when powers transfer to Scottish Ministers, as part of our focus on reducing inequalities in early years, and subject to the outcome of the consultation on the Future of Social Security in Scotland. This will simplify and improve the service for parents and carers by streamlining the application process, providing more joined up support. It will also make it clearer what families are entitled to from pregnancy through to children starting school, ensuring we minimise the impact of UK Government welfare cuts on children's health and wellbeing. The Best Start Grant will pay £600 on the birth of a first child, £300 for second and subsequent children and will make additional payments of £250 around the time that children start nursery and school, providing greater support for families through early years. Healthy Start will help families access affordable, nutritious food. We will promote this scheme for parents and carers to improve the current take up of the grants, meaning that more families receive the support they are entitled to and children are given the best start in life.
"On behalf of the Dundee Partnership, I pledge that all the recommendations of the Dundee Fairness Commission will be taken forward. This will include funding for a new organisation for the city, modelled on the Poverty Truth Commission, to make sure that the voices and experiences of people struggling against poverty in Dundee continue to be heard. Jointly funded with the Scottish Government, this new organisation will inform future efforts to tackle and reduce the causes and impact of poverty in the city.
We will also commission joint work with the Child Poverty Action Group ( CPAG) Scotland to facilitate a Cost of the School Day initiative during the 2016/17 school year. CPAG will work with pupils, parents and teachers to identify and remove key cost barriers so that all children and young people from low income households can fully engage in their education."
Cllr Jimmy Black,
Chair of the Dundee
By 2020, entitlement to free early learning and childcare ( ELC) will almost double for all 3 and 4 year olds, as well as those 2 year olds that stand to benefit most, to 1140 hours per year (from current levels of 600 hours per year). This transformational change in ELC provision - with substantial infrastructure investment and the creation of up to 20,000 new employment opportunities - will give our children the highest quality start to their learning journey. ELC is critical to our inclusive growth ambition, as not only is it important for improving children's outcomes, it will support a more inclusive workforce by reducing the burden parents face in paying for childcare, in particular enabling greater female participation in the workforce. We will also develop new and innovative models of delivery:
- From January 2017, a programme of trials, supported by £1 million of Scottish Government investment, will be taken forward to help inform the development of new delivery models. The trials will allow us to test what works, where and why, and to assist in the dissemination of best practice across ELC providers.
- In 2017-18, we will pilot approaches, in locations throughout Scotland, to reducing upfront childcare costs. We are concerned that these upfront costs - such as initial deposits, administration fees, or paying the first month's fee in advance - may be a real barrier for some parents or carers in low income households who want to start or return to work, or increase their hours, after a period of caring for young children. As part of the pilots we will focus on the initial deposit that often has to be paid to secure a childcare place. One potential approach that will be explored is a deposit guarantee scheme.
We will take action to reduce the costs of school for low income parents. The Scottish Government already provides money to local authorities to help low income parents afford basic costs associated with school. We want to support schools in their efforts to identify and remove any barriers to children having the same opportunities regardless of their background. Child Poverty Action Group ( CPAG) have been working with schools, parents and children in Glasgow to do this and we now want to explore how we can spread the learning from it across Scotland.
From April 2017, our proposed reforms will make the current Council Tax system fairer for low income families. Subject to parliamentary approval, there will be a 25% increase of child allowance within the Council Tax Reduction Scheme which will provide additional support to families on low incomes across all council tax bands. This will benefit up to 77,000 low income families by an average of £173 per year, supporting up to 140,000 children. The additional £500 million revenue generated over the next parliamentary term from all reforms to council tax will be invested in schools to improve education locally.
High Quality Education For All
We will ensure high quality prospects for all, with a particular focus on children in deprived areas from when they first start nursery. We will tackle the educational attainment gap - our top priority in government. And we will take further action to tackle bullying.
By 2018, we will ensure that every nursery in our most deprived areas has an additional qualified teacher or childcare graduate. International evidence tells us that increasing the amount of time that children from disadvantaged backgrounds spend with graduate practitioners can help narrow the attainment gap and improve outcomes.
We are committed to making real progress in closing the attainment gap during the lifetime of this Parliament and to eliminate it, as far as we can, over the next decade. Closing the attainment gap requires the full efforts of all those involved in education and a focus on early intervention - from supporting children and parents, to early learning, through school and in our colleges, universities and beyond.
We will test innovative models of third sector involvement in raising attainment through a share of a £2 million Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention project fund. However, our efforts must go beyond the classroom and across our communities, third sector and wider public service if we are to succeed in our ambition. To support this, we will increase investment in the Scottish Attainment Fund to £750 million over the course of this parliament with more money allocated directly to headteachers.
Over 300 schools across Scotland - with high concentrations of children living in poverty - are currently benefitting from the Attainment Scotland Fund. However, we recognise that children are living in poverty beyond these specified areas and so will allocate £100 million per annum to schools based on the numbers of children eligible for Free School Meals, to provide support to these children wherever they live.
We will do more to address bullying in schools - including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic ( HBT) bullying.
- We will launch a refreshed National Approach to Anti-Bullying for Scotland's Children and Young People. This review ties into broader work to foster good relationships and positive behaviour within the learning environment, which underpins Curriculum for Excellence.
- We already provide funding to support third sector initiatives against bullying. For example: We fully fund respectme, Scotland's anti-bullying service.
- We have provided funding to LGBT Youth Scotland and respectme to produce resources and deliver training to improve the knowledge, confidence and skills of teachers and other staff in dealing with HBT bullying.
- We support Childline, which offers confidential advice and information to children and young people affected by bullying and any other issues.
- We will provide additional funding, where needed, to make sure that all promoted teachers - and eventually all teachers - undertake training on equality, so they are confident in addressing prejudice-based bullying - for example, because of perceived sexual orientation or gender identity issues.
- In addition, in 2014 we published guidance that clearly states how important it is that Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood education addresses diversity and reflects issues relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex young people or children with LGBTI parents, such as same sex marriage and hate-crime reporting.
- We expect these actions together to have a powerful impact on bullying, but we will monitor the situation across Scotland so we can take further action as needed.
We will tackle poverty directly for some of our most vulnerable children by delivering parity of child allowances between kinship and foster carers. We will continue to implement the deal between Scottish Government and COSLA agreed in October 2015. This provides additional funding of £10.1 million a year to improve allowances paid to kinship carers to ensure each child receives comparable financial support to a child in foster care. We will also end the variation between local areas by introducing a single national scheme of allowances.