Report examines government options for tackling child poverty in Scotland

A little boy sitting alone on the street steps

A new report identifying a range of policy levers available to the Scottish government to tackle child poverty has been released by the Fraser of Allander Institute.

The Scottish government is due to present its new plan to tackle child poverty in March. Around one in four children in Scotland currently live in poverty in Scotland, as the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 sets the target of reducing relative child poverty to one in ten by 2030/31 .

The University of Strathclyde Institute’s report, produced in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University’s Policy Evaluation Research Unit and the Poverty Alliance, examines measures such as: providing 50 hours of childcare per week, a significant expansion of child benefit and employability schemes and further increases in Scottish Child Payment.

The authors do not make recommendations and point out that the modeled social security policies are at a level that is not considered realistic or desirable. However, the analysis clarifies the scale of the challenge facing the Scottish government and the costs and benefits of different approaches.

Economic benefits

The modeling reveals that investing in poverty reduction can have significant positive economic benefits by stimulating demand for goods and services and increasing the size of the labor force.

The report also examines the costs. If income tax has to rise to pay for policies, this could have negative effects on the economy, although this could be outweighed by long-term economic benefits through improved prospects for children who do not grow up more in poverty.

In producing their report, funded by abrdn Financial Fairness Trust, the researchers incorporated the expertise of parents with lived experience of poverty into the economic modeling – the first time this has been done in Scotland.

Their contribution provided additional context and information that modeling work alone would never uncover. For example, parents living in poverty with children with disabilities highlighted the challenges of finding suitable and flexible employment and childcare that allows them to balance family responsibilities with employment.

Moral responsibility

Peter Kelly, director of the Alliance Against Poverty, said: “This is an innovative project bringing together economists, activists and, above all, people who have lived in poverty.

“Achieving our child poverty goals is a moral responsibility. With the milestones for tackling child poverty set to be achieved in 2023, we now need to see an intensification of action in various areas. As this report shows, there are bold policies that can stem and reduce the growing tide of child poverty. The Scottish Government’s next child poverty plan must embody this boldness.

Report author Emma Congreve of the Fraser of Allander Institute said: “Meeting the targets for reducing child poverty will mean structural change in our economy and our analysis shows some of the options available with associated challenges. Bold decisions will have to be made if the government is to fulfill its legal obligations.

The scenarios we have modeled will not be the policies the government chooses, but the next delivery plan must provide analysis that shows the impact of the policies that are proposed to be credible.

Rebecca Graham of abrn Financial Fairness Trust said: “At a time when the cost of living is rising, policy makers must use all the levers at their disposal to reduce the impact on children living in poverty. The government has tough decisions to make, but we will all benefit from a more financially just society.

See the report

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