A coalition of children’s and anti-poverty organisations are calling on the Scottish Government to introduce legislation in this parliament that will identify and tackle child poverty in Scotland.
New official figures released by the Scottish Government today show over one in five (220 000) of Scotland’s children are still living in poverty – with two thirds of those children living in working families (1).
Members of the End Child Poverty coalition are urging the Scottish Government to set an ambitious but achievable target for the eradication of child poverty in Scotland. This is an approach that was recently supported by the report of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The call comes after the UK Government dismantled the UK Child Poverty Act 2010, scrapping the target to eradicate child poverty by 2020. As a result of the UK Government’s move there is currently no requirement on public bodies (including the Scottish Government) to produce strategies on how they will tackle child poverty or its effects.
The Scottish Government opposed these changes and has said they will develop a “distinctive Scottish approach” (2). ECP members are now calling on the government to introduce a Child Poverty Act for Scotland as the bedrock of that approach.
The recent report of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called for 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” (3).
Campaigners believe that political and economic uncertainty following last week's vote to leave the European Union could have an adverse impact on families on low incomes and that this strengthens the case for having clear targets, monitoring and reporting of child poverty.
Satwat Rehman of End Child Poverty and Director of One Parent Families Scotland said: “The figures released today show that child poverty remains a persistent problem for far too many children in Scotland today. That is why we must use every means at our disposal to end the misery of poverty and inequality.
The scrapping of the Child Poverty Act represented a backward step in efforts to tackle child poverty. We welcome the fact that the Scottish Government opposed this and would now urge them to bring forward legislation in this parliament that re-establishes a target to eradicate child poverty and which will give a clear purpose to other measures and strategies aimed at poverty reduction”
Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance and Vice-President of the European Anti-Poverty Network, said: “Every day in Scotland, families are forced to make difficult choices as a result of living in poverty, and this is likely to be exacerbated as a result of the economic uncertainty following the Brexit vote.
“Last year, the Trussell Trust gave out 133,726 food parcels in Scotland, including almost 44,000 to children. In one of the richest countries in the world, this is unacceptable. It is these families that have been hit hardest by austerity, as have families on low incomes all across Europe.
“All of those who care about the protection of rights and social justice must work together to ensure that impact of the vote to leave the European Union does not fall most heavily on those already living in difficult circumstances. It is now more important than ever that we set clear targets for the eradication of child poverty, and ensure that they are monitored and reported on in a transparent manner”.
John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “With so many children across Scotland still suffering the terrible damage that low family income wreaks on health, education and wellbeing it is vital that government at every level is required to prioritise the prevention and eradication of child poverty. We urge Scottish Ministers to now fill the legal gap left by the UK government’s abandonment of any strategic duty to end child poverty”.
Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo’s Scotland said: “Our services are reporting ever greater levels of need with increasing numbers of families with children in crisis. At the same time we recognise that legislation itself will not end child poverty. However having clear targets to report on the efforts being taken to do so and requiring public bodies to produce a strategy on what they will do is essential if we want to take steps to eradicate child poverty in Scotland”.
Jackie Brock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland said: “In our work with schools and through dialogue with our members we increasingly hear how poverty continues to blight children’s wellbeing and undermine life chances. Establishing an achievable new target would represent Scotland’s distinctive and progressive perspective on how to tackle poverty – and ultimately help families throughout the country."
Notes to editors
1. The latest statistics on poverty and inequality in Scotland can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Social-Welfare/IncomePoverty
2. Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners Rights, Scottish Parliament debate on Social Security 1st March http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/28862.aspx?r=10400&i=95712
3. UN Committee on Rights of the Child Report published a report on the implementation of children's rights across the UK and devolved nations. The Committee raised a number of 'serious concerns', including the high levels of child poverty (para. 69a)