Child poverty

Growing up in poverty is the biggest human rights issue facing children in Scotland.

It can severely affect a child’s development and have a negative impact on their health, education, family relationships and aspirations— both in childhood and adult life.

But poverty is widespread in Scotland. In 2015-2016, around 260,000 of children in our country were living in relative poverty after housing costs.

Because of this, a sustained, systematic approach at both national and local levels is needed to tackle and eradicate it.

Child poverty and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Several articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) are relevant to child poverty.

Article 3

Article 3 of the UNCRC says that children's best interests must be a primary consideration in all actions that affect them. This includes taking decisions around welfare and support that significantly impact on families.

Article 6

Article 6 of the UNCRC says that governments must ensure the survival and development of a child to the maximum possible extent, which often doesn’t happen for children who are in poverty.

Article 12

Article 12 of the UNCRC says that children and young people’s views should be meaningfully considered on matters that affect them, but this doesn’t tend to happen when policies are made that impact on child poverty. They should be: children and young people are often able to identify new approaches to tackling poverty and suggest ways in which they can best be supported.

Our office has produced a few examples of work that seeks the views of children and young people on issues relating to poverty. We’ve published:

Article 24

Article 24 of the UNCRC says that children and young people have the right to the best health possible. This includes the right to adequate and nutritious food, which can be affected when children and young people experience food insecurity.

Article 26

Article 26 of the UNCRC says that children and young people’s human right to social security should be fully realised.

Article 27

Article 27 of the UNCRC says that every child has the right to a standard of living that allows them to develop physically, mentally, spiritually and socially. Poverty can mean children have a standard of living that falls below this threshold.

Special attention for the most vulnerable children

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has stated that while all children living in poverty are vulnerable, some groups are particularly so. These include:

  • younger children,
  • indigenous children,
  • immigrant children, and
  • children living in single-parent households.

Any legislation designed to tackle child poverty in Scotland must therefore pay particular attention to the needs of these groups of children and young people.

Learn more

Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

UN Special Rapporteur Professor Philip Alston visited the UK in November 2018 to see how extreme poverty gets in the way of people’s human rights being realised. This is the evidence we gave to him ahead of his visit, about how poverty affects the human rights of our country’s children and young people.

Read our submission.

May 2017 speech to CPAG Scotland

This speech given by the Commissioner shortly after taking up his post lays out why child poverty is a human rights issue, touching on the impacts it has here in Scotland.

Listen to the Commissioner’s speech.

Children in Scotland's human right to food

Our page on the human right to food explains what the right to food is and how it isn't being met for all children and young people in Scotland.

Learn about the right to food.

Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill: MSP briefings

Our office produced two briefings for MSPs around the legislation for the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act as it was discussed in the Scottish Parliament.

Read our first MSP briefing on the legislation.

Read our second MSP briefing on the legislation.