Longer term planning needed to end child poverty in Scotland, watchdog finds
Longer-term planning is needed to tackle rising child poverty in Scotland, according to Audit Scotland and the Accounts Commission.
A paper released today says the Scottish Government's policies and spending are more focused on taking children out of poverty than on longer-term measures to prevent deprivation in the first place.
More than one in four Scottish children (260,000) were living in poverty before the pandemic, the report says, with the total up since anti-poverty targets were set in 2017.
The cost-of-living crisis "risks making the situation worse", Audit Scotland says.
Meanwhile, disruption from the pandemic means no child poverty statistics are available after 2019-20, which was the half-way point in the Scottish Government's first child poverty plan. However, it would "not be possible" to assess the effectiveness of the 2018-22 child poverty plan even if that data was available, the report says, because the Scottish Government failed to set out what impact its plan was expected to have. While the second child poverty delivery plan has a "more joined-up approach" that takes in central and local government as well as partners, detailed planning is needed and the views of children and families must be "meaningfully" involved.
Auditor General Stephen Boyle said: "Poverty affects every aspect of a child's wellbeing and life chances and has wider implications for society.
"The Scottish Government needs to work with its partners to quickly set out the detail of how the second child poverty plan will be delivered, monitored and evaluated.
"Government policy takes time to have an impact on child poverty and so it is essential ministers also act now to set out options for reaching their long-term targets in 2030."
Accounts Commission chair William Moyes added: "Councils have a key role to play in tackling child poverty through measures such as housing, education, childcare and employability. But there is limited information available across councils about what they are doing and its impact. Better collection and sharing of information about councils’ child poverty work will help support learning and improvement across Scotland."
Responding to the findings, Chris Birt of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the Scottish Government "have the diagnosis right, but the prescription needs to be much stronger".
"A huge cut in the funding promised for employment support for parents, when they are already struggling and there are significantly challenging business conditions forecast for next year, is not an encouraging sign,” he continued.
"While, as Audit Scotland argue, these programmes would benefit from more substantial evaluation, it is worrying that such preventative action is being sidelined."
A Scottish Government spokesperson said the report will be given "careful consideration", stating: "Tackling child poverty is a national mission. We invested an estimated £8.5bn in supporting low income households between 2018-22, of which £3.3bn directly benefitted children.
"Our second Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, 'Best Start, Bright Futures', sets out our actions to tackle child poverty still further, including our focus on long-term parental employment support, increased social security, and measures to reduce household costs.
"This includes increasing the Scottish Child Payment to £25 per eligible child per week from 14 November, a 150 per cent increase within eight months, with the 'game-changing' anti-poverty benefit also opening to applications for eligible under-16s from that date."