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by Tom Freeman
11 May 2018
The Holyrood baby - a report card on the second year

Kirsty the Holyrood baby - David Anderson/Holyrood

The Holyrood baby - a report card on the second year

The Holyrood baby was conceived to shine a light on legislation, policy and initiatives that impact on the prevention agenda. So what has the Scottish Government done to help children like Kirsty during her second year?

Child Poverty Bill

The most obvious piece of legislation is the introduction of targets to reduce the number of children living in poverty by 2030, which was passed unanimously in November. Equality minister Angela Constance told Holyrood in December: “If we are successful in meeting our targets, by the time Kirsty is 14 in 2030, only one in ten of her classmates will be living in poverty. The bill is the first important step on our journey towards making a Scotland without poverty a reality for Kirsty and her peers.”

But success in meeting those targets depends on the actions government take to meet them.

The Child Poverty Delivery Plan, published in March, aimed to provide the first of these. It had at its core 15 key actions, including measures to increase the employment rate among people like Caley and help them manage their finances.

There was also a commitment to ensure the expansion of childcare is flexible again to support parents back into work.

Social Security Bill

The promise of a new devolved social security system with a focus on “respect and dignity” could have a big impact on Caley and Kirsty.
A new, expanded Best Start Grant, which replaces the Sure Start maternity grant, will pay qualifying families £600 on the birth of their first child and £250 when each child begins nursery.

Kirsty will likely miss these, but may get the further £250 when she starts school at the end of this parliament.

These are to provide support at important transition periods where unexpected costs might arise.

Control over Universal Credit, however, remains largely reserved to Westminster. Recent statistics showing a 17 per cent rise in foodbank use indicate the biggest rises are where the single payment system has been introduced.

In the last year, applications for crisis grants through the Scottish Welfare Fund have also increased, but among the new devolved welfare powers is the ability to modify the housing part of Universal Credit, so there is another way in which the Scottish Government can mitigate the impact.

Childcare expansion

The Scottish Government and COSLA have finally agreed how much this flagship policy will cost if it is to meet the ambitions of being flexible enough for working parents, whilst also being of a qualitative level sufficient to close the attainment gap. That figure is £990m.

However, unless something is done about the low take-up among eligible two-year-olds, Kirsty will wait at least another year before she finds out for herself.

In conclusion, then, there has been a good effort to support Kirsty this year, but whether it has the desired impact on her development still places a lot of faith in her mother Caley's capacity to engage with services.

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