Scottish Child Payment ‘will not bring Scotland close’ to child poverty target
Scotland is predicted to fall well short of its interim target for reducing child poverty, according to the annual ‘Poverty in Scotland’ report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).
The Child Poverty Act 2017 sets the Scottish Government a target of bringing relative child poverty to less than 10 per cent by 2030, with an interim target of 18 per cent by 2023-24.
However, it is estimated that 26 per cent of children in Scotland will be living in poverty in 2023-24, with poverty set to rise rather than go down in the next few years, according to the JRF report.
Although the new Scottish Child Payment, which will be introduced in 2020, is expected to lower child poverty by three percentage points, the report concludes that it “will not bring Scotland close” to its 2023-24 interim target.
Overall poverty in Scotland has been rising since 2009-12, following a period following the founding of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 where it had fallen.
According to the latest official figures, just over one million people in Scotland are living in poverty, including 240,000 children, 640,000 working-age adults and 150,000 pensioners.
Although poverty in Scotland was lower between 2015-18 than in 1999-2002, the report warns that “poverty rates have started to shift upwards”.
And the report notes that lower rates of poverty in Scotland compared with the rest of the UK is due mainly to the difference in housing costs in Scotland, with little difference in the rates of poverty before housing costs between Scotland and the rest of the UK.
The most recent data shows that 20 per cent of Scots are in poverty after housing costs compared with 22 per cent in the rest of the UK, but the difference is greater for children, where the poverty rate is currently 24 per cent in Scotland compared with 30 per cent in the rest of the UK.
The difference in housing costs is due partly to higher percentage of Scots living in social housing rather than the private rented sector and partly to house prices being cheaper in Scotland than the UK average, both to rent and to buy.
Rises in social housing rents in England meant social rents were 14 per cent lower for housing association tenants and 18 per cent lower for council tenants in Scotland.
But the charity warns that without a long-term focus on housing supply and affordability this success “risks unravelling”.
The report says that the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment “shows how seriously the Scottish Government is taking its legal obligations on reducing child poverty”, but “more needs to be done” and the charity is calling for “game-changer” policies across housing, employment and social security.
Jim McCormick, associate director for Scotland at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “As a country we have rightly made a bold commitment to loosen the grip of poverty on children across Scotland.
“Over the last two decades, cheaper rents and a larger social rented sector in Scotland have been key to unlocking opportunities for families to achieve a decent life.
“But this success is showing signs of unravelling and cannot be taken for granted.
“The recent announcement of the Scottish Child Payment shows what can be achieved when we are bolder in our thinking and accept that only large-scale action will ease the pressure facing families trapped in poverty.
“While this new payment will start to turn the tide, it will not by itself be enough to enable every child to break free from poverty.
“As we mark Challenge Poverty Week, it is vital that ministers in Holyrood match their ambitious targets to solve poverty with the scale of action on housing, work and social security needed to make this a reality.”