From news.gov.scot today:
‘Scotland is to become the only part of the UK with statutory targets to tackle child poverty after the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill was unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament. The Bill will:
- Set in statute targets to reduce child poverty by 2030
- Place a duty on ministers to publish child poverty delivery plans at regular intervals and to report on progress annually
- Place a duty on local authorities and health boards to report annually on what they are doing to contribute to reducing child poverty
- Establish a Poverty and Inequality Commission.’
This act is especially encouraging in that Scotland already has significantly lower levels of child poverty than the rest of the UK:
‘Once housing costs are taken into account, relative poverty ranges from one in five children in Scotland (21 per cent) to nearly twice this (37 per cent) in London’. (p113)
That twenty-one percent of Scotland’s children live in poverty is a monstrous blemish on the face of a democracy aspiring to much better. That it is higher everywhere else in the UK and nearly twice as high in our globalised golden capital does not excuse it, I know that. The current Scottish government makes nothing of such a comparison. It simply accepts that it is unacceptable and is now doing what it can to remedy the situation.
‘The trends in one of the key drivers of child poverty – employment – are also encouraging:
- The proportion of children in Scotland who live in workless households has decreased rapidly in recent years and is slightly lower than the UK average – only 10.9 per cent of children in Scotland live in workless households compared to 15.8 per cent in 2012 and 11.8 per cent in the UK as a whole;
- More than six out of 10 (62.5 per cent) children in Scotland live in households where all adults are in work, making Scotland the region with the most ‘fully working’ households in the UK – for example, only 54.6 per cent of children in England live in households where all adults are in work;
- Scotland has the second highest parental employment rate of any region of the UK: 83.2 per cent of people with dependent children are in work. This is driven by very high employment of mothers in couples; 79.6 per cent of whom are in work compared to 71.9 per cent in England. However, lone parents in Scotland have a relatively low employment rate – only 62.2 per cent are in work (compared to, for example, 69.8 per cent in the East of England and 69.2 per cent in Wales).’ (169)
‘State of the Nation’: Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, presented to House of Commons December 2015 at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/485926/State_of_the_nation_2015__social_mobility_and_child_poverty_in_Great_Britain.pdf
I appreciate that these are 2015 figures but have no reason to think that a further two years of brutal Tory rule in the UK and of SNP rule in Scotland will done anything other than to widen the gap. A number of recent actions by the Scottish Government designed to reduce inequalities seem likely to be having positive effects on levels of child poverty by reducing poverty among poorer parents:
58 000 baby boxes to help increase life chances and now Scotland will be the first country in the world to provide free sanitary products to ‘end period poverty’. This is the kind of country I want to live in.
80 000 lowest paid workers in NHS England still on poverty wages as NHS Scotland follows Scottish Government policy to pay a living wage to all public-sector employees
In the report, Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said:
‘With one in four children living in poverty, we need to take urgent action – both to help those children who are living in poverty now, and to prevent future generations of children growing up in poverty. We have already announced a Tackling Child Poverty Fund worth £50 million. This Bill will go even further and see statutory targets to reduce and ultimately eradicate child poverty. This is in stark contrast to the action being taken by the UK Government, which has abolished its child poverty unit and child poverty targets. Meeting our ambitious new targets will be challenging and it will seem like we are often fighting with one hand behind our back in the face of the cuts, which are set to increase child poverty across the UK by around one million children. But the Scottish Government intends to take positive action to address child poverty and tackle the deep seated generational inequalities in our society.’
Of course, setting targets is a ‘double-edged sword’. As we see regularly, with NHS targets, failure to hit targets even though performance is notably better than elsewhere in the UK, is easily used by our Unionists politicians and unprofessional media to attack the Scottish Government. Hopefully, it will be one target for 2030 (post-Independence) with no interim targets.