Scotland has set in statute the ambition to eradicate child poverty through the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017, including four ambitious income-based targets to be met by 2030 and interim targets for 2023. In March 2018 we published ‘Every Child, Every Chance’, the first Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan due under the Act, backed by a £50m Tackling Child Poverty Fund. It sets out the concrete actions we are taking to 2022 to deliver progress against our ambition to eradicate child poverty in Scotland. We published our first annual progress report (for 2018-19) in June 2019, which shows we’ve been working hard to build the foundations for transformational change, as part of our determination to tackle child poverty by increasing the incomes and reducing the living costs of households with children.
The economy plays an important role in tackling child poverty. And tackling child poverty, in turn, has important economic – as well as social – impacts. Children in low income households face material hardship and social stigma, and tend to have lower educational attainment and poorer health, both in childhood and in adulthood. Reducing income poverty would itself have important and measurable effects both on children’s environment and on their development. Poverty wastes people’s potential, dragging down the productivity of the economy and reducing tax revenue. It also places significant demands on the Scottish Government’s budget.
Analysis published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) in 2016 estimated that around a fifth of spending on public services (such as health, education and justice systems) in the UK goes towards dealing with the social consequences of poverty. And this does not take into account social security payments to, and lost tax revenue from, people whose earnings potential has been damaged by the experience of poverty.
The Scottish Government estimates that £1.4bn of targeted support was provided to low income households in 2018-19, of which £527m went to low income households with children. This is in addition to the spend on universal services – i.e. services not targeted specifically to low income households, but which low income households also benefit from.