“Game-changer” policies needed to meet child poverty targets

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New figures show 240,000 children are locked in poverty in Scotland.

7th October 2019 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

Scotland needs new “game-changer” social policies if it is to meet the government’s child poverty targets, according to a new report.

Research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), published at the outset of Challenge Poverty Week, found the cost of housing has been the main reason behind lower levels of poverty in Scotland than in the rest of the UK.

But the report warns that without a long-term focus on boosting the supply and affordability of homes many more families could plunge into poverty.

The foundation, the leading authority on poverty in the UK, is now calling for the Scottish Government to use the full extent of its devolved powers to bring forward new housing, work and social security policies if it is to stand any chance of reaching its interim targets of reducing child poverty to 18% in 2023/24 and 10% by 2030.

The latest figures show that just over one million people in Scotland are locked in poverty, including 240,000 children, 640,000 working-age adults and 150,000 pensioners.

Although poverty rates before housing costs are very similar across the UK, after housing costs are taken into account, poverty is significantly lower in Scotland.

According to the foundation, 20% of Scots are in poverty after housing costs, compared with 22% in the rest of the UK. Among children, the poverty rate currently stands at 24% in Scotland compared with 30% in the rest of the UK.

JRF said the divergence in poverty levels is mainly driven by the lower cost of housing in Scotland, particularly within the social rented sector. In 2017, social rents were 14% lower for housing association tenants and 18% lower for council tenants in Scotland when compared with England.

Jim McCormick, JRF associate director for Scotland, said: “As a country we have rightly made a bold commitment to loosen the grip of poverty on children across Scotland. Over the last two decades, cheaper rents and a larger social rented sector in Scotland have been key to unlocking opportunities for families to achieve a decent life. But this success is showing signs of unravelling and cannot be taken for granted.

“The recent announcement of the Scottish Child Payment shows what can be achieved when we are bolder in our thinking and accept that only large-scale action will ease the pressure facing families trapped in poverty. While this new payment will start to turn the tide, it will not by itself be enough to enable every child to break free from poverty.

“As we mark Challenge Poverty Week, it is vital that ministers in Holyrood match their ambitious targets to solve poverty with the scale of action on housing, work and social security needed to make this a reality.”