The Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill sends out a powerful message that Scotland is serious about tackling child poverty.
In 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child looked at Scotland’s record on children's rights and expressed concern at the repeal by the UK Government of the statutory targets contained within the Child Poverty Act 2010. The Committee recommended that the State Party:
“Set up clear accountability mechanisms for the eradication of child poverty, including by re-establishing concrete targets with a set time frame and measurable indicators, and continue regular monitoring and reporting on child poverty reduction in all parts of the State party."
“ensure clear focus on the child in the State party’s poverty reduction strategies and action plans.”
This Bill addresses that concern by introducing four income-based targets against which child poverty will be measured.
Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People's Commissioner said:
"Legislation alone cannot eradicate child poverty, but the Bill provides a good foundation for work at both national and local levels. This should be complemented by a range of policy and practice initiatives. Child poverty needs to be recognised as a significant children’s rights issue in Scotland and a sustained, systematic and human rights based approach at both national and local levels is needed to tackle and eradicate it."
Areas where Bill could be enhanced
Ahead of today's parliamentary debate, the Commissioner's office has produced a Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1 Debate Briefing to highlight children's rights issues and to detail areas where we feel the Bill could be enhanced. These are:
Statutory interim targets
We think interim targets around reducing child poverty should be introduced to the Bill to allow for effective review and provide a means of measuring progress towards the Scottish Government's 2030 targets.
Delivery plans and progress reports
We think further Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments (CRWIAs) should be carried out for each aspect of planning approach to help ensure:
- that potential impacts are assessed, and
- that children’s rights and views are taken into account at every stage.
Child poverty measurement framework
We think the current child poverty measurement framework should incorporate a wider range of evidence-based indicators than is currently provided.
Making use of the new social security powers devolved to Scotland
We think there is great potential for the Scottish Government to use its social security powers to further protect and promote economic, social and cultural rights within law, policy and practice in Scotland, including through top-up of child benefit.
A commission to scrutinise delivery and progress
We think an independent commission should be set up on a statutory footing to scrutinise Scottish Ministers' progress towards meeting the child poverty targets.
Read the Commissioner's full briefing.
Children and young people's views on poverty
In 2010 we worked with Save the Children to produce Learning Lessons, a report that explored young people's views of poverty and education in Scotland. In this report, young people expressed the view that having an education, a home, their basic needs met and a supportive family were essential to doing well in life:
"The more you have, the better the childhood you have, in my opinion. Because I’ve got mates that are minted and they’re just loving life. And then you see people like me, who don’t have a lot of money, while they’re walking about with new shoes and everything, and I’m still wearing ones from 2003."
— Learning Lessons, p. 22
Last year, we undertook some work with children around their understanding of food insecurity, Living is more important than surviving. It found that children were clear that food insecurity often stemmed from financial difficulties within families. They displayed a mature understanding of the role of food banks in society and agreed that every child has the right to food.
"Some people don’t have enough money to buy food and some people have to go to food banks and some people can’t go to the food bank because their families are ill."
— Living is more important than just surviving, p.10