It is projected that by 2030, 1 in 3 children in Scotland will be living in poverty as a result of Tory welfare cuts. That is not acceptable in 21st century Scotland.
We are determined to eradicate child poverty. To do so we have passed a new Child Poverty Act, published a new action plan and introduced a £50 million fund to step up our efforts to end child poverty.
Here’s our plan.
A Child Poverty Act has been passed that sets income based child poverty targets.
This is the first legislation of its kind to be introduced in Scotland. It’s clear the UK government does not see child poverty as a priority, having repealed large parts of the UK-wide Child Poverty Act 2010, including targets to reduce child poverty by 2030.
The legislation sets out new ambitious targets to reduce child poverty that are much more ambitious than the original targets scrapped by the Tory government.
The Child Poverty Act also requires the Scottish Government to set-out a three-year plan to tackle child poverty by April 2018 – followed by further five year plans and annual progress reports will be published. Read the first plan here.
We’ve also set up a Poverty and Inequality Commission to provide advice and monitor progress on tackling poverty and inequality.
A new £50 million fund to tackle child poverty
The new fund will provide £50 million over five years to support innovative approaches at the national and local level to tackle child poverty. Funding will be distributed based on advice from the Poverty and Inequality Commission.
We are joining forces with the Hunter Foundation and providing £5 million of a new £7.5 million Innovation Fund to support new grassroot projects that tackle poverty and £1 million to the Carnegie Trust to double the Affordable Credit Loan Fund which helps low income families access to affordable borrowing.
Transforming early learning and child care provision
We’ve increased free childcare and early learning provision from 12 hours per week to 16 for all three and four year olds and eligible two year olds. By 2021, we will almost double the number of hours of free early years education and childcare to 30 hours a week for vulnerable two year olds and all three and four year olds. This will save families more than £4,500 per child, per year.
Reforming education to close the education attainment gap between children from the most and least deprived backgrounds
We are investing an additional £750 million over five years to raise attainment in schools and we are radically reforming Scotland’s education system. We will also introduce an Education Bill to empower schools, teachers and parents to improve education.
Using new social security powers to help low-income families meet essential costs of looking after young children
A new Best Start Grant will be introduced from summer 2019 to increase support for parents on low incomes at key stages in a child’s life. We will reintroduce payments for second and subsequent children too.
We also intend to introduce a new Income Supplement to provide financial support to the families that need it most by 2022.
Investing £100 million every year to mitigate the worst impacts of Tory welfare cuts.
We have reversed the Tory decision to cut support for Council Tax by introducing Council Tax Reductions and expanded this to more families with children.
While the Bedroom Tax is pushing up rent arrears in debt in other parts of the UK, we have fully mitigated it in Scotland and will scrap it as soon as can.
And over 265,000 households in crisis have been helped to buy essentials such as nappies, food and cookers through our Scottish Welfare Fund since it was established in 2013.
Free school meals and help with the cost of school uniforms
All children in primaries 1 to 3 now benefit from free school meals, saving families around £380 per child per year. We will also expand free school meals to all children that benefit from the expansion of childcare provision.
We’re also investing £1 million in efforts to ensure children get a healthy meal during school holidays, in addition to the £1 million we already invest in tackling food insecurity.
And we will set a national minimum level of support that councils should provide through School Uniform Grants.
Supporting parents into work and maximising incomes
We will invest £12 million in new support for parents’ employment. This will be developed alongside Scotland’s new devolved employment service, Fair Start Scotland, which will begin work on 3 April 2018.
Almost two thirds of children in relative poverty live in households where at least one adult is working. So to maximise the incomes of all families we will invest £3 million in a Financial Health Check guarantee and provide £500,000 to support income maximisation advice in the health service.
A Baby Box for every child
The Baby Box was introduced in August 2017 and offers essential items for a child’s first weeks and months. First introduced in Finland, the baby box has a proven record in tackling deprivation, improving health and supporting parents.