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Child poverty in Scotland
Poverty is the most significant human rights issue facing children and young people in Scotland.
It affects all aspects of children’s lives, negatively impacting their health, education, family, relationships and aspirations.
Such effects often have negative consequences in adult life, reducing life chances for those who experience poverty in childhood.
260,000 children, over a quarter of children in Scotland – lived in poverty before the Covid-19 pandemic. We do not have the data for after this period, but expectations are that the figure has risen.
A decade-long increase in child poverty coupled with a cost-of-living crisis and the ongoing impact of Covid-19 threatens to push even more children into dire life circumstances.
What does the UNCRC say?
They have rights to the highest attainable standard of health, to extra support if they are a young carer, or disabled, or care experienced – groups we know who are disproportionately impacted by poverty.
They have the right to survive, grow, and develop and governments must do everything they can to prevent the deaths of children and young people.
The state has an obligation to use available resources to the maximum extent possible to fulfil children’s rights – and it is failing.
We have repeatedly reminded the Scottish Government that under the UNCRC, governments have clear obligations:
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 families.
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 in poverty.
Article 12 of the UNCRC says that children and young people’s views should be meaningfully considered on matters that affect them. However, this doesn’t tend to happen when policies are made that impact child poverty.
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 of the UNCRC says that children and young people’s human right to social security should be fully realised.
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 below this threshold.
Our position and recent work
Our office is clear that poverty is not inevitable; it is a political choice, a consequence of decisions made by the UK and Scottish Governments.
Children have told us that they feel poverty robs them of their childhood. They have told us that: “The most unfair thing is the government knows families are going through hard times, but they decide not to do anything about it.”
As a society, we cannot accept children going hungry, being cold and unable to learn and function daily as a part of our society. There are steps the Scottish Government can take to challenge poverty.
We have called on the Scottish Government to:
- Provide universal free school meal provision to both primary and secondary school pupils
- Double Scottish Child Bridging Payments.
- Develop long-term solutions to prevent poverty rather than just focus on short-term solutions to manage it.
- Take a rights-based approach to The Scottish Government’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2022-2026, ensuring children who experience poverty have their views heard and that the plan delivers what is needed.
- Address the concerning lack of access to youth work services which are vital lines of support for those with experience of poverty.
- Increase the Scottish Child Payment and oppose the UK Government’s plan to cut the £20 uplift in Universal Credit.
Along with the Children’s Commissioners for Wales and Northern Ireland, our office has called on the UK Government to:
- Increase the income of families in poverty, reform the social security system and target intervention.
- Safeguard children’s human rights immediately, threatened as a result of the ‘mini budget’.
- End the ‘discriminatory’ two-child limit on benefits.
We have also challenged regulators by writing to Ofgem to question its decision to raise the energy price cap without properly considering the impact on children in Scotland.
Our office also facilitated young people’s contributions to the Poverty and Inequality Commission’s report on child poverty. This was the first time children’s views had been included in this way. The report sets out the Commission’s comments on the Scottish Government’s progress towards meeting the child poverty targets.
Latest news and stories on poverty
As part of our work in defending children’s rights and in holding those in power to account, our office has produced a number of publications ranging from consultation responses, submissions to the UN, letters to Ministers and expert research.
Please browse below to view some of our latest publications on poverty. You can also explore our Resources section to view the many publications our office has produced over the years.