Poorest toddlers more than twice as likely to have development concerns
Young children living in the most deprived areas of Scotland are more than twice as likely to have concerns raised about their development, new figures have revealed.
New data from ISD Scotland shows that 22 per cent of children from the most deprived areas had a concern raised about their development during their 27-30 month health review in 2017/18, compared to just nine per cent from the least deprived communities.
Health visitors assessed more than 56,000 youngsters last year, checking for a range of problems from speech issues to emotional difficulties.
The figures revealed that a child in Inverclyde is six times more likely to have problems than one in Aberdeenshire.
While just four per cent of children in Aberdeenshire registered problems, that figure jumped to 24 per cent for the council area of Inverclyde.
Across Scotland, 15 per cent of the 56,088 children checked had a concern recorded, which represents a decline from 19 per cent in 2013/14.
Concerns were most commonly recorded about children’s speech, language and communication (11 per cent of children), and their emotional and behavioural development (five per cent of children).
Claire Telfer, head of Save the Children in Scotland, said: “Whilst it’s encouraging to see a decrease in the number of children with recorded development concerns, today’s statistics are a stark reminder of the devastating impact poverty can have on children’s early learning and development.
“Before the age of three, children from the most deprived postcodes are more than twice as likely to fall behind their peers from more affluent areas.
“What’s more, poverty is rising amongst our youngest children so more children could be at risk.
“We must do more to turn this tide and prevent the impact of poverty on the most important development stage in life. We know attending high quality early learning and childcare from age two can make a huge difference and help overcome early disadvantage.
“Scottish Government needs to ensure all eligible children can access their place. Growing up in poverty doesn’t have to condemn children to struggling with their learning; if we act now, we can help all children achieve their full potential.”
Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon said: "Nicola Sturgeon promised Scotland’s children the best start in life, but instead poverty is increasing and is harming the life chances of Scotland’s poorest children.
“These startling poverty-related health inequalities are failing children.”
The Scottish Conservatives urged the Scottish Government to analyse the figures as a “matter of urgency” to ensure this gap is closed in future years.
Shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said: “It won’t be a surprise to health visitors that youngsters in more deprived areas are more likely to have developmental issues than those in the wealthiest. But the geographical gaps across Scotland are stark.
“It’s incredible that a toddler born in Inverclyde is six times more likely to have these problems recorded than one in Aberdeenshire.
“Of course, many of these problems will be addressed and sorted out by the time a child attends school.
“But for others, it will create a huge disadvantage for the rest of their lives.”