In June last year Nicola Sturgeon appointed Naomi Eisenstadt as an Independent Advisor on Poverty to the Scottish Government.
We wanted Ms Eisenstadt to take a wide-ranging look at the progress the Scottish Government has made on tackling poverty – and, importantly, on what more we could do in the future.
Ms Eisenstadt published her first report this week, containing fifteen recommendations that we will study carefully. The report recognises that, while still too high, Scottish poverty rates are consistently lower than in the rest of the UK. The report also identifies the successful action we’ve taken to tackle poverty so far, including fully mitigating the bedroom tax, setting up a welfare fund, supporting social housing and promoting the living wage.
The report calls for efforts to tackle in-work poverty through the extension of the Scottish Living Wage and the provision of free childcare for young children. Both of these are central to the SNP’s approach in government, and we will build on the progress that we’ve made should we be re-elected in May. We are on track to meet our target of having 500 accredited Living Wage employers – with over 440 signed up so far – and in the next parliament we will double childcare provision to 1140 hours a year for all 3 and 4 year olds and vulnerable 2 year olds.
To make sure that this is as successful as possible, Nicola announced £1m in funding for up to six early learning and childcare trials to test different delivery models – ensuring that we have evidence on the success of different approaches as we transform childcare over coming years. This was early action on one of the poverty report’s key recommendations.
The poverty advisor’s report also identified the cost of housing as key to tackling poverty, calling on the Scottish Government to build more social housing. Since 2011 we’ve beaten our target of delivering 30,000 affordable homes – including 20,000 for social rent. Over the next parliament we want to go even further, with £3bn of investment building 50,000 new affordable homes – 70% of which will be for social rent.
There is no simple solution to ending poverty. In government we’ve been able to make good progress, but there’s much still to be done. If re-elected later this year, we’ll continue to do all in our power to make sure everyone has the chance to get on in life, regardless of where they are from.
Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights