It is simply unacceptable for any child to grow up in poverty in 21st century Scotland.
Yet we are faced with a Tory government that has scrapped UK-wide income-based child poverty targets and is imposing damaging welfare and austerity cuts which will see a further 1 million children pushed into poverty.
In contrast, we have introduced a new Child Poverty Bill to the Scottish Parliament, which will add to a range of actions the SNP is taking in government to tackle child poverty. Here’s just some of what we’re doing.
We have passed a Child Poverty Bill to introduce 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 It’s clear the UK Government does not see child poverty as a priority, having repealed large parts of the Child Poverty Act 2010, including targets to reduce child poverty. The legislation sets out new ambitious targets to reduce child poverty that are significantly more ambitious than the original targets scrapped by the Tory government.
The Child Poverty Bill will also require the Scottish Government to set-out a three-year plan to tackle child poverty by April 2018 - this will be updated every five years and annual progress reports will be published.
We have established a Poverty and Inequality Commission to provide advice to Ministers and monitor progress on tackling poverty and inequality.
In 2015, Naomi Eisenstadt was appointed Independent Adviser on Poverty and Inequality to the Scottish Government. We are implementing all of the recommendations made by the Poverty Advisor, which included action on the Living Wage, building more social housing and improving childcare.
Building on this success, in July 2017 a Poverty and Inequality Commission was established to provide ongoing advice to Ministers. The Commission is chaired by Douglas Hamilton, with Naomi Eisenstadt now serving as one of the Deputy Chairs. This Commission will become a permanent body from July 2019.
We are establishing 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.
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.
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 2020 we’ll nearly double provision to 30 hours a week - saving families more than £4,500 per child, per year.
Improved childcare has been identified by Heriot-Watt University research as the single policy that could do most to reduce income inequality.
We are working 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.
Read more about our action to raise attainment here.
With new social security powers, we will help low-income families meet essential costs of looking after young children.
A new Best Start Grant will be introduced from Autumn 2019 to increase support for new mums on low incomes at key stages in a child’s life. We will re-introduce payments for second or subsequent children too.
We are ensuring that every child gets the best start in life by entitling new parents to a Baby Box.
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.