Child Poverty Bill Published

Date: 20th February 2017
Category: Child poverty

For the first time since devolution, the Scottish Government will be responsible for meeting ambitious targets to reduce and ultimately end child poverty in Scotland. Under the new Bill, local authorities and health boards have a legal duty to report on action taken to reduce poverty.

The Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill was published on 10th February 2017 and it sets a series of statutory targets to reduce, and ultimately wipe out, what minsters call a "systemic problem". Studies show more than 200,000 children in Scotland are growing up in poverty.

The legislation sets an initial target of cutting the number of children in relative poverty to less than 10% by 2030, and in absolute poverty to less than 5%. As of December 2016, the rates stood at 22% and 21% respectively. Poverty has been shown to be the driver of inequalities from educational attainment to the health of children.

The government said it would publish a three-year delivery plan by April 2018, which will be updated every five years alongside annual reports to measure progress.

Launching the legislation in Dundee, the Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said: "It's utterly unacceptable that one in five children in Scotland live in poverty and this Bill sets out statutory targets to reduce and ultimately eradicate child poverty.

"Child poverty has been a systemic problem for decades. Tackling the immense challenge is an ambition all of Scotland - be that national and local government, health boards, businesses, the third sector or others - must work together to overcome.

"We're absolutely committed to tackling the deep-rooted causes of child poverty, addressing the needs of those living in poverty today and preventing future generations from those circumstances.

"This Bill is a major step forward as we look to give our children the best start in life, and it establishes a framework by which we can be held to account for our efforts. We look forward to hearing the views of the Parliament and of stakeholders on the proposals."

The government is working through recommendations set out by its independent advisor on poverty and inequality, Naomi Eisenstadt.

Ms Eisenstadt recently denied being put under pressure to water down her report after it emerged sections warning about cuts to local government funding were deleted from an early draft.

Scottish Labour said the bill was "well intentioned", but said it "looks like a parliamentary PR exercise".

The Scottish Greens meanwhile said the bill was "another good step forward", but said the government "need to go much further on boosting incomes in order to meet targets".

Campaigners have largely welcomed the Bill; Members of the End Child Poverty (ECP) coalition which include Barnardo's Scotland, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, Children First, the Poverty Alliance, One Parent Families Scotland and Children in Scotland had urged the Scottish Government to introduce legislation after the UK Government dismantled the UK Child Poverty Act 2010, scrapping the target to eradicate child poverty by 2020.

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance said:

"The publication of this legislation is very welcome. Too many children in Scotland have their lives blighted both now and into their future as a result of poverty. By taking a more strategic approach and setting realistic targets, we can ensure that Scotland becomes a leader in tackling child poverty."