Will further devolution help to reduce poverty in Scotland?

Date: 13th January 2015
Category: Child poverty

Jim McCormick, Scotland's adviser to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, has examined the Smith Commission report and has highlighted that by omitting supporting with childcare costs, it falls short on poverty reduction.

Ten weeks after Scotland voted to remain in the UK, the Smith Commission reached agreement between the five parties at Holyrood on further powers to be devolved. It's the start of the next phase, not an ending. Draft legislation will follow in January 2015 and it will be for the next UK Government to enact the Smith plan.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation response set a central purpose test - will further devolution drive poverty reduction? It proposed further tests, including enhancing social and economic union, alignment with current powers and clearer incentives.

Jim McCormick explored the topics of in-work poverty, housing and childcare. In a blog published in December last year, he states that it is "remarkable that not a single mention of childcare is made in the Smith report."

He further states that "While substantial divergence at this point would be premature and expensive, there's one very significant omission: support with childcare costs. A better approach to controlling costs, improving flexible supply and raising quality has to be embedded in any poverty reduction strategy... the Commission offers the welcome power to design a coherent set of benefits and services for people who are disabled or sick. But as it stands, the Smith proposals land someway short of a great leap forward for poverty reduction in Scotland."

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is clear that children have a right to live their lives free from poverty. Articles 27 and 28 of the Convention assert that children have the right to a standard of living adequate to meet their physical and mental needs and detail the government's duty to assist those who are 'poor or in need'. In its 2008 Concluding Observations to the UK, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that UK governments 'Render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities.'