Child poverty: time for action

Written by Kate Shannon on 22 December 2016 in Inside Politics

Child poverty is still a real problem in the UK

Poverty overview: Credit - Holyrood

A recent study found there are more than 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK – with 220,000 in Scotland. And the Scottish figures show a disparity, with 34.1 per cent children affected in Glasgow, while the Shetland Islands (10.6 per cent), Aberdeenshire (13.1 per cent) and Orkney (14.1 per cent) are the least affected.

According to the Child Poverty Action Group, which assessed benefit data, about 23 per cent of children in Scotland live in low-income households. That figure is up from 19 per cent five years ago.


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John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “There’s no doubt that many of the key drivers of child poverty are UK-wide and if the Prime Minister is serious about supporting families then decisive action must be taken to end the freeze on children’s benefits and reverse sharp cuts to in-work support under Universal Credit.

“But this new map also makes it clear that child poverty plays out in different ways at local level. Local authorities and their partners know their communities and are in a great position to work with local people to prevent poverty.

“Many are already doing important work to make sure local childcare, housing and employability policies are working for low-income families.

“The new Scottish child poverty legislation must now be drafted to ensure all local authorities are supported in law to take a strategic approach, and that all levels of government are pulling in the same direction – towards a Scotland free from child poverty.”

The legislation which Dickie alluded to is the Child Poverty Bill, which opened for consultation in August this year. 

The Scottish Government also said the bill will set the framework to “eradicate” child poverty and build on work already under way, including free school meals, expansion of funded early learning and childcare and new duties to tackle inequalities of educational outcome experienced by pupils as a result of socio-economic disadvantage.

Angela Constance said: “We’ve promised children a better start in life and more opportunities as they grow up; we’ve offered parents more and better paid jobs and greater security in which to bring up their families; and we are committed to tackling deep-seated inequalities, especially in education and health.

“This isn’t only a job for government. The ambition to tackle child poverty must be shared across the whole of Scotland. I want to talk about how we can work together with local governments, businesses and the third sector, but most importantly with people who experience poverty.

“Around one in five children live in poverty in Scotland. This is simply unacceptable in a modern, thriving country like ours. I want to be absolutely clear that we are serious about our ambition to eradicate child poverty, and I want to work together with partners across Scotland to make that ambition a reality.”

Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, Alex Rowley, said it is clear that “the Tory reforms to welfare are not working and are directly leading to more children in Scotland being in poverty”.

He called on Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson “to bring to an end to these unfair, unjust and unworkable reforms of welfare and instead invest in Scotland’s greatest asset, our people”. 

“But it is also time for the SNP government in Edinburgh to drop the excuses and use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to help tackle child poverty head on,” he said

 

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