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Volume 2
SP Paper 267

LGC/S3/09/R10

10th Report, 2009 (Session 3)

Report on Child Poverty in Scotland

CONTENTS

Remit and membership
Report
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
INTRODUCTION
THE COMMITTEE’S INQUIRY

Call for evidence
Defining child poverty

CO-ORDINATION OF GOVERNMENT POLICIES ON CHILD POVERTY

UK Government policy
Scottish Government policy
Co-ordination of UK and Scottish Government policies
Conclusions
Recommendations

TARGETS FOR ERADICATING CHILD POVERTY

Government targets
Are the targets achievable?
The role of the Committee in scrutinising targets
Conclusions
Recommendations

THE ROLE OF SINGLE OUTCOME AGREEMENTS IN ERADICATING CHILD POVERTY

The Concordat
Single Outcome Agreements (SOAs)
Implementation of SOAs
Local authority approaches in England and Wales
Conclusions
Recommendations

EMPLOYMENT: SUPPORTING PARENTS INTO, AND REMAINING IN, DECENTLY PAID WORK

In-work poverty
Transition from benefits to employment
Low pay and a living wage
Sustainable employment
Skills/Training/Education
Childcare
Family support and kinship care
Conclusions
Recommendations

BENEFITS ADVICE AND UPTAKE

Provision of benefits advice
Conclusions
Recommendations
Uptake of benefits
Conclusions
Recommendations

OVERALL CONCLUSIONS

ANNEXE A: EXTRACTS FROM THE MINUTES OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND COMMUNITIES COMMITTEE

Volume 2

ANNEXE B: oral evidence and associated written evidence

ANNEXE C: OTHER WRITTEN EVIDENCE

ANNEXE D: COMMISSIONED RESEARCH

Remit and membership

Remit:

To consider and report on (a) the financing and delivery of local government and local services and planning; and (b) housing, regeneration, anti-poverty measures and other matters falling within the responsibility of the Minister for Housing and Communities.

Membership:

Alasdair Allan (Deputy Convener)
Bob Doris
Patricia Ferguson
David McLetchie
Duncan McNeil (Convener)
Mary Mulligan
Jim Tolson
John Wilson
Johann Lamont (Member from 13/06/2007 until 01/10/2008)
Kenneth Gibson (Deputy Convener from 20/06/2007 until 26/06/2008, Member from 13/06/2007 until 26/06/2008)

Committee Clerking Team:

Clerk to the Committee
Susan Duffy

Senior Assistant Clerk
David McLaren

Assistant Clerk
Ian Cowan

Committee Assistant
Fiona Sinclair

Report on Child Poverty in Scotland

The Committee reports to the Parliament as follows—

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Key Themes

In 1998/1999, there were 3.4 million children living in absolute and relative poverty1. In 1999, the UK Government set a target of halving child poverty by 2010 and eradicating it by 2020. The Committee acknowledges the fact that to date, 500,000 children in the UK have been lifted out of relative poverty since 1998/1999, with those in absolute poverty falling by 1.7 million over the same period. However, doubts were expressed as to whether the 2010 target could be achieved without further additional investment. It was also noted that the current recession will have an impact on child poverty but it is not yet clear to what extent.

The Scottish Government has committed to do all it can to help achieve these targets. The Committee welcomes this commitment and believes there must be collaboration between Governments as the levers for tackling child poverty are both reserved to the UK Government and devolved to the Scottish Government. The Committee recognises that there must also be collaboration at a local level between sectors and agencies, and through the sharing of best practice, to ensure that the strategies for tackling child poverty are integrated and make the best use of knowledge and resources.

The Committee recognises that work is a vital factor in helping to tackle child poverty as earning a wage will ultimately increase someone’s chances of springing the poverty trap. However, it is important to remove barriers to work and to create employment that is sustainable and worthwhile. The availability of affordable,

flexible childcare is also vital for working parents and therefore the issue of wrap-around childcare (not just nursery provision) should be examined as should concerns raised over allowances paid to kinship carers.

It is also clear to the Committee that people have to be well informed in order to be able to make decisions on a range of issues which may help lift them out of poverty (for example ways in which to maximise their income). However, it appears that there is confusion and a lack of consistency arising from the plethora of different bodies providing advice and therefore how advice is provided and how it is funded should be examined.

There are of course many ways in which the Scottish Government can play its part in tackling child poverty. In this regard, the Committee has made a number of recommendations, including that policies should be poverty-proofed so that their impact on poverty and on child poverty can be assessed during policy development.

The Committee intends to follow-up on the recommendations it has made in this report and to scrutinise the Scottish Government’s progress towards both eradicating child poverty in Scotland and meeting UK targets. It believes its recommendations, if taken forward, will have a positive impact in terms of heightening awareness of child poverty and tackling this blight on Scottish society.

Recommendations

Co-ordination of Government Policies on Child Poverty

The Committee will monitor, on an ongoing basis, the effectiveness of the engagement between the Scottish Government and the UK Government and of local initiatives in relation to tackling child poverty issues; and in this regard may seek to take further evidence as necessary from UK and Scottish Ministers (paragraph 40).

The Committee recommends that Scottish Government policies should in future be poverty proofed through poverty impact assessments, in the same way that policies are currently assessed for their impact on equalities (paragraph 41).

The Committee recommends that Scottish local authorities should develop a toolkit which will set out a policy process for developing a local approach to reducing child poverty (paragraph 42).

Targets for Eradicating Child Poverty

The Committee recommends that the Scottish Government should provide it with:

  • an indication of how much it considers it will cost to eradicate child poverty in Scotland;
  • regular updates on the development of indicators which will help to measure progress towards meeting child poverty targets; and
  • updates on progress being made towards meeting the 2010 and 2020 targets (paragraph 69).

The Committee will also monitor progress towards meeting targets for the eradication of child poverty through taking evidence from the Scottish Government following the annual publication of the Households Below Average Incomes statistics (paragraph 70).

The Role of Single Outcome Agreements in Eradicating Child Poverty

The Committee recommends that:

  • there should be a local outcome on tackling child poverty in each annual single outcome agreement;
  • the Scottish Government should provide the Committee with progress reports on an ongoing basis on the effectiveness of SOAs as a mechanism for ensuring that local authority services and spending are having a positive impact on tackling child poverty at a local level;
  • the Scottish Government should undertake further work on linking expenditure to outcomes and that this work should take account of local government and SOAs;
  • the Scottish Government should provide the Committee with ongoing progress reports on the impact that the Fairer Scotland Fund is having on tackling child poverty; and keep the Committee informed of progress once the period of the ring-fencing of the Fund has ended in 2010; and
  • the Scottish Government and local authorities should seek to improve and extend joint working and collaboration in tackling child poverty; and that a toolkit which sets out best practice for local authorities and a policy process for developing a local approach to reducing child poverty should be adopted. The Scottish Government should work with appropriate bodies including COSLA and the Improvement Service in taking this forward (paragraph 101).

Employment: Supporting Parents into, and remaining in, decently paid work

The Committee recommends that—

  • the Scottish Government should make representations to the UK Government to examine those elements of the benefits system which act as a financial disincentive to work, and to take steps to replace these to ensure that the benefits system at least maintains income during the transition from unemployment to employment;
  • the Scottish and UK Governments, local authorities should work together to enhance childcare provision in Scotland;
  • the Scottish and UK Governments should bring to bear any influence they can on employers so that they continue to develop innovative ways to improve family-friendly policies which will help parents juggle work and childcare; and
  • the Scottish and UK Governments adopt a more creative approach to the tax and benefits system to address the issues of those living with child poverty (paragraph 171).

The Committee looks forward to the publication of the Scottish Government’s analysis into what the public sector can do to tackle low pay and to scrutinising any Scottish Government policies that are brought forward as a result (paragraph 172).

The Committee will also examine the outcome of the Scottish Government’s local partners’ strategic review of child care accessibility which seeks to address gaps in provision (paragraph 173).

Provision of benefits advice

The Committee notes the Scottish Government’s review of advice services which is due to be completed later this year. It recommends that as part of this review, the Scottish Government should consider whether there should be more co-ordination of advice provision across the country (paragraph 197).

The Committee also recommends that the Scottish Government should review the funding provided to advice agencies (paragraph 198).

Uptake of benefits

The Committee recommends that—

  • the Scottish Government should urge the UK Government to consider targeted campaigns to encourage the maximum uptake of benefit entitlements, especially in areas where there is low take-up and where hard to reach and vulnerable groups are being missed;
  • the Scottish Government should invite the UK Government to identify why certain benefits are not being claimed in Scotland; the Scottish Government should work collaboratively with the UK Government to address this; and the Scottish Government should keep the Committee informed of progress being made in this regard; and
  • the Scottish Government should ask the UK Government to ensure those most in need receive the benefits to which they are entitled (paragraph 216).

INTRODUCTION

1. According to the latest figures available (2007/082) there are in Scotland:

  • 120,000 children in absolute3 poverty;
  • 200,000 children in relative4 poverty;

2. In 1999, the UK Government set targets for eradicating child poverty by 2020 and halving it by 2010. On 23 September 2008, the Prime Minister announced that the pledge to end child poverty would be enshrined in law through a Child Poverty Bill. The Bill is currently subject to consultation.

3. The Scottish Government has stated that it is committed to:

“sharing the UK Government’s long-term target to eradicate child poverty by 2020 and will continue to do all [it] can to ensure that Scottish policies and programmes make the maximum contribution towards the milestone of halving child poverty by 2010.”5

THE COMMITTEE’S INQUIRY

4. The Committee received a joint submission from Barnardos, the Child Poverty Action Group, Save the Children and the Poverty Alliance, calling on it to undertake an inquiry:

“Tackling child poverty is complex. It requires a cross-cutting approach across many government departments and needs to be delivered in partnership with local government. Thus, we believe that an inquiry should focus on two key areas:

  • supporting parents into, and remaining in, decently paid work; and
  • benefits and tax credits uptake.

Of particular importance is the need to examine whether current policies are reaching all children, and families, living in poverty. There is some evidence to suggest that current initiatives are not reaching those children living in the most acute poverty. Unless policies reach all those affected, child poverty will persist in Scotland.”6

5. The Committee held a round table meeting with these organisations and others involved in tackling child poverty in Glasgow on Wednesday 26 March 2008 to discuss the nature of an inquiry.7

6. The Committee is aware that a number of inquiries into child poverty have been held and reports published since it began its inquiry in 2008. The Committee’s focus however has been specifically on the problem in Scotland. In this regard, the Committee wanted to explore specifically:

  • the Scottish Government’s proposals for tackling child poverty and its relationship with the UK Government in this regard;
  • its own role and that of the Parliament’s in helping eradicate child poverty in Scotland;
  • how to ensure the effective monitoring of the UK and Scottish Governments’ progress towards targets; and
  • in what ways the Concordat between the Scottish Government and local government in Scotland, and the Single Outcome Agreement process to which each local authority is committed, might have a role in tackling child poverty.

Call for evidence

7. At its meeting on 30 January 2008, the Committee agreed its approach to the inquiry.

8. A call for written evidence was published on 23 April 2008 which sought views on the following issues in particular—

Targets – how to ensure effective scrutiny of progress made in achieving the target if halving child poverty by 2010 and eradicating child poverty by 2020.

Single Outcome Agreements – the role of SOAs and Community Planning Partnerships in relation to policy and service delivery.

The Committee’s role – how can the Committee ensure its scrutiny of progress is both regular and effective.

Employment – supporting parents into, and remaining in, decently paid work.

Benefits – practical issues around increasing uptake of benefits.

Equality – the issue of sections of society being left behind and remaining out of reach of policies to reduce poverty.

9. The Committee received 38 written submissions in response, copies of which can be found at Annexes B and C.

10. The Committee undertook a number of oral evidence gathering sessions, in which it heard from the following witnesses—

  • Lindsay Isaacs, Social Policy Officer, Citizen’s Advice Scotland
  • Jo Kirby, Advice Services Manager, The Action Group
  • Mark Lyonette, Chief Executive Officer, Association of British Credit Unions
  • Tam Baillie, Director of Policy, Barnardos
  • John Dickie, Head of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland
  • Robert McGeachy, Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Action for Children Scotland
  • Peter Kelly, Director, Poverty Alliance
  • Douglas Hamilton, Head of Policy and Research, Save the Children
  • Marion Davis, Manager for Development Policy and Training, One Parent Families West of Scotland
  • Margaret Doran, Executive Director for Education and Social Work Services, Glasgow City Council
  • Fiona Campbell, Head of Policy and Performance Review, and Andy Hamilton, Corporate Policy Officer, Falkirk Council
  • Rhona Cunningham, Manager, Fife Gingerbread
  • Shona Honeyman, Development Officer, Working for Families Glasgow
  • Laurie Russell, Chief Executive, The Wise Group
  • Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley, Director, Centre for Research on Families and Relationships
  • Jim McCormick, Scottish Advisor, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
  • Professor Paul Spicker, Director, Centre for Public Policy and Management
  • Keith Hayton, Hayton Consulting
  • Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing

11. From the outset, the Committee was keen to hear directly from those affected by child poverty. In this regard, it consulted young people and their parents at an End Child Poverty event (sponsored by Save the Children) which was held in the Scottish Parliament on 24 September 2008.

12. The Committee also commissioned research to enable it to reach parents and carers living in poverty to discuss the impact that poverty has had on them and their children. Keith Hayton, who was awarded the contract to undertake the research on the Committee’s behalf, held focus groups in Dundee, Glasgow, Stornoway and Stranraer. Sessions held in Stranraer involved kinship carers and young mothers who discussed issues relevant to them.

13. Keith Hayton told the Committee—

“I set up five focus groups, from Stranraer in the south to Stornoway. The groups were organised through local agencies that were in contact with parents and carers living in poverty, so I was able to get in touch with the right people. The report contains information about the groups, with details about income levels and so on. In total, the focus groups were attended by 58 people, about half of whom were single parents.
The other part of the research involved the use of the Scottish household survey in undertaking 30 face-to-face interviews with parents and carers. For the most part, those people lived in some of the more remote rural areas of Scotland.”

14. The research sought views on:

  • the policies currently in place which are designed to support parents into, and remain in, decently paid work;
  • practical issues around maximising the take-up of benefits; and
  • equality issues and the issue of sections of society being left behind and remaining out of reach of policies designed to reduce poverty.

15. A copy of the consultant’s report to the Committee is attached at Annexe D. The Committee is very grateful to Keith Hayton for his helpful contribution to the inquiry.

16. The Committee would also like to thank all of those who provided written and oral evidence, and the parents and children who participated in the End Child Poverty event and the focus groups.

Defining child poverty

17. Keith Hayton in his research report to the Committee indicated that child poverty is a function of family income and as such:

“although the terminology and the statistics often complicate and obscure the issue, child poverty in essence is very simple. It is a reflection of insufficient family income, as defined by some politically determined statistical norm, generally defined as 60 per cent of median household income.”8

18. The UK Government considers that:

“the poverty line is 60 per cent of median income level – where the median is the level of income after direct taxes and benefits, adjusted for household size, such that half the population is above the level and half below it.” 9

19. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing accepted this definition in oral evidence to the Committee.10

20. The complexities of defining child poverty more generally however are perhaps best summed up by politics.co.uk in one of its policy briefings:

“Child poverty, as with poverty itself is a complex notion to define precisely…a typical holistic measure of 'poverty' is the standard of life enjoyed by an individual, measured principally by their level of income, and then incorporating a number of factors, including environmental, social, material, health and educative indicators.

Child poverty is widely perceived as a particularly problematic and disturbing facet of poverty, as the innocence of youth and helplessness of children to change their situation generates particular social concern.

Poverty levels are the result of a complex and sometimes difficult to predict interplay between government policy, family efforts, labour market conditions, and the wider forces of social change.”11

CO-ORDINATION OF GOVERNMENT POLICIES ON CHILD POVERTY

21. The Committee acknowledges the difficulties that exist in tackling child poverty in Scotland given that the levers for doing so are a mix of delegated powers for which the Scottish Government has responsibility - for example employability and the provision of housing - and powers which are reserved to the UK Government such as responsibility for the benefits system and taxation.

22. As indicated, above, the UK Government’s policy is to halve the number of children in poverty by 2010, and to eradicate child poverty by 2020. The Government proposes to give effect to this by way of a Child Poverty Bill, which is currently subject to consultation. The Bill intends to:

“provide a clear framework for national and devolved governments, as well as regionally and locally, to tackle both the causes and consequences of inter-generational poverty. As child poverty is everybody’s business, the Child Poverty Bill will seek to enhance support at local level to build on excellent work and develop new approaches to tackling child poverty in every community.”12

23. In terms of the Scottish Government’s position on the Child Poverty Bill, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing told the Committee that while the Scottish Government would look at the Bill closely and would consider the outcomes of the consultation, there was a concern that it would not bring any further investment to tackle child poverty.”13

UK Government policy

24. The UK Government’s strategic priorities for reducing poverty are set out in Public Sector Agreement 914:

  • reducing poverty through work – making work a ‘sustainable route out of poverty’ and tackling barriers such as availability of childcare;
  • reducing poverty through raising incomes – predominantly delivered through a combination of Child Tax Credit, Child Benefit and reform of the Child Support Agency;
  • tackling poor living conditions – focusing on housing, fuel poverty and financial inclusion;
  • focusing delivery on at-risk groups – including lone parents, large families, black and minority ethnic families, and families with a disabled member;
  • engaging with users – including delivery partners such as local government and the third sector, and with parents; and
  • establishing clear governance and accountability mechanisms throughout the delivery system.

Scottish Government policy

25. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing explained to the Committee the Scottish Government’s policies which seek to tackle poverty generally—

“Last year we published Achieving Our Potential: A Framework to tackle poverty and income inequality in Scotland which, with The Early Years Framework and Equally Well: Report of the Ministerial Task Force on Health Inequalities sets out our approach to tackling poverty and income inequality. These policies represent a comprehensive attack on the poverty and inequality that blight Scottish society.”15

26. In addition to its anti-poverty framework other Scottish Government anti-poverty initiatives include:

  • the establishment of a Tackling Poverty Team to act as the central liaison point for the Scottish Government with the Department for Work and Pensions, working alongside the UK Government to maximise the impact of the welfare system for Scotland;
  • the funding of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) to run an initiative that provides second tier16 support on Tax Credits and other benefits and welfare rights advisors across Scotland; and
  • the funding of One Parent Families Scotland to run a Lone Parent Helpline. This helpline provides advice and signposting to lone parents on a number of issues such as income, childcare, education, housing, legal rights and employment.17

27. It was suggested in evidence that the Scottish Government could do more by poverty proofing its policies. Save the Children believed that poverty proofing—

“would allow us to consider developments such as business rate cuts, council tax reform and free school meals and say how they were impacting on and benefiting the poorest families. That is another thing that the committee could recommend so that the Government and local authorities progress their approach to child poverty in the coming years. Child poverty proofing new policies could be considered.”18

28. National Children’s Homes Scotland agreed—

“Policy memorandums outline the impact of new legislation on equalities, rural and remote communities and the environment. Why cannot consideration be widened to include children, young people and child poverty in particular?”19

Co-ordination of UK and Scottish Government policies

29. In its report on child poverty which was published in January 2008, the Scottish Affairs Committee acknowledged that a joined-up approach between Governments was essential:

“Our previous Report on Poverty in Scotland concluded that the best way of tackling poverty was through a joined up approach, integrating services provided by the UK Government, the Scottish Executive and local authorities. Although there is clearly more to be done, we are pleased that co-operation between these bodies appears to have helped to reduce child poverty in Scotland. Tackling child poverty requires combined effort and a genuine political will. We hope that the historically close collaboration between the UK Government and the Scottish Executive in this area will continue.”20

30. John Dickie of the Child Poverty Action Group told the Committee that—

“Although the Scottish and UK Governments are committed to ending child poverty, it is vital that Ministers work together to ensure that, when additional supports are considered or introduced, they provide genuine additional financial support for children and families. They both have a clear commitment to ending child poverty, and providing additional support to families is essential to delivering that, so they need to work together to find a way round those problems.”21

31. Professor Paul Spicker, Director of the Centre for Public Policy and Management expressed some concern about the levels of current co-operation. He was puzzled by—

“The relative lack of co-ordination that there has been between the Department of Work and Pensions, which has an employability role and a role in providing employability programmes, and the devolved Scottish Government.”22

32. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing told the Committee—

“We are absolutely committed to working co-operatively with the UK Government and stepping up our collective efforts on child poverty.”23

33. She indicated however that there were frustrations for the Scottish Government—

“Because many of our responsibilities and policy levers are influenced by levers at Westminster. For example, housing policy is completely devolved but housing benefit is completely reserved….it would make much more sense for benefits and the tax credit system to be devolved so that we can properly integrate our policies.”24

Conclusions

34. In order for child poverty to be tackled comprehensively and effectively, the Committee believes that this must involve close collaboration between the UK Government and the Scottish Government and their respective agencies given that the levers for tackling child poverty are both reserved and devolved.

35. There must be a joined-up approach to tackling child poverty, with connectivity not only between UK Government and Scottish Government policies, but also in local areas between different sectors (e.g. health and education).

36. The Committee welcomes commitments by the Scottish Government to work collaboratively with the UK Government, although it notes its cautious approach to the Child Poverty Bill.

37. Policies and legislation are currently equality proofed by the Scottish Government to assess their impact on equalities. This is carried out through an equalities impact assessment.25 The Committee believes that Scottish Government policies should also be poverty proofed in the same way (through poverty impact assessments). This would allow an assessment to be made of a policy’s potential impact on poverty and child poverty, and will help to ensure that tackling poverty and child poverty are at the forefront of policy development. In terms of legislation, the Committee considers that the Scottish Government should give due regard to the impact of its legislative programme on all sections of society in terms of poverty and child poverty.

38. In terms of tackling poverty at a local level, the Committee is aware of a toolkit being used by local authorities in Wales which was produced by Save the Children and the Welsh Local Government Association with support from the Welsh Assembly Government.26 The toolkit was developed from work carried out with local authorities, relevant policy guidance and was cross-referenced with the Welsh Assembly Government’s planning guidance for its Children and Young People’s Plan.

39. The toolkit sets out a policy process for developing a local approach to reducing child poverty and can be used within an organisation or in partnership between local agencies. The process is set out in 8 steps, including:

  • drawing together an action plan which ensures that child poverty remains a priority locally;
  • establishing a group comprising key decision makers which will support the delivery of the priority actions identified for reducing child poverty;
  • consulting with stakeholders; and
  • establishing mechanisms for monitoring, evaluation and review.

Recommendations

40. The Committee will monitor, on an ongoing basis, the effectiveness of the engagement between the Scottish Government and the UK Government and of local initiatives in relation to tackling child poverty issues; and in this regard may seek to take further evidence as necessary from UK and Scottish Ministers.

41. The Committee recommends that Scottish Government policies should in future be poverty proofed through poverty impact assessments, in the same way that policies are currently assessed for their impact on equalities.

42. The Committee recommends that Scottish local authorities should develop a toolkit which will set out a policy process for developing a local approach to reducing child poverty.

TARGETS FOR ERADICATING CHILD POVERTY

Government targets

43. In terms of the UK Government’s targets for eradicating child poverty, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing told the Committee that—

“The [Scottish] Government is fully committed to working with all our partners to do everything we possibly can to help achieve the UK Government target of halving child poverty by 2010 and eradicating it by 2020. We believe in social justice, which is why we set ourselves the solidarity target of increasing, by 2017, the overall income and proportion of income received by the poorest 30 per cent of households.”27

44. Some evidence provided to the Committee suggested that there was a need to revisit this target and replace it with one that more accurately reflects poverty levels. Some suggested targets based on material deprivation, rather than income deprivation, would be more appropriate. COSLA, for example, argued:

”We need to work towards an outcome that, rather than seeking to have each family with children within a certain income bracket, demonstrates that each children’s health, education, socialisation and material needs are being fulfilled – regardless of the individual household income.”28

45. There was also comment that suggested the current measure was not sophisticated enough to ascertain how the poorest sections of society lives were changing. The Wise Group claimed that evidence suggested that current polices are having little effect on the very poorest children and their families living below 40% of median income.29

46. Glasgow City Council argued that the measure was not sensitive to variations in standards of living below this line and were:

“Concerned that the poorest children in Glasgow are not helped if the Scottish Government meets its target by only reaching those just below the poverty line”.30

47. The Council suggested that targets aimed at addressing aspects of economic inequality could provide an alternative proxy measure for child poverty. The Child Poverty Action Group also suggested that progress on tackling inequality should be judged on increasing the proportion of income held by eachof the bottom three deciles and that interim targets are set to assess progress.

48. In oral evidence, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing told the Committee that—

“Average earnings and income are a fundamental measure of poverty. The standard measure of poverty for the purpose of the target is relative poverty, which is defined as an income that is less than 60 per cent of median earnings. Not to have that as a key standard measurement would be absurd.”31

49. The Cabinet Secretary added that in terms of measuring progress towards eradicating child poverty, she had held discussions with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Stephen Timms MP)—

“About how we put together a basket of indicators that the Scottish Government can use to measure better our progress towards eradicating child poverty, and which we can usefully use to feed into any UK reporting. The UK bill proposes an annual report on child poverty, which we would want to feed our progress into. Income and earnings are a fundamental measure, but they are not the only factor that we should consider in determining whether we are making progress.”32

Are the targets achievable?

50. Concern about whether the targets could be achieved in Scotland was expressed by Save the Children at its End Child Poverty event in the Scottish Parliament in 2008:

“Although progress has been made and 90,000 children have been lifted out of poverty since 1999 in Scotland, this progress has now stalled. A further 60,000 children in Scotland need to be lifted out of poverty by 2010 to halve child poverty in Scotland. This will require significant investment in tax credits and benefits in the UK Government’s 2009 budget (£3b UK wide).

In addition, the Scottish Government will need to invest in maximising families incomes, through for example, the take up of benefits and supporting parents into, and remaining in, decently paid work. This includes addressing barriers to taking up employment, particularly childcare. Significant investment and commitment to improving the educational outcomes of the poorest children is also required.”

51. In its report Ending Child Poverty in a Changing Economy published in February 2009, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation considered that:

“Projections based on current policies suggest that child poverty will fall from 2.9 million to 2.3 million by 2010 – 600,000 short of the target.

To meet its target for 2010, the Government would have to invest an estimated £4.2 billion a year in benefits and tax credits above its present plans. The allocation of an additional £2 billion since 2006 has been offset by an unexpected rise in child poverty between 2004 and 2007 and the increased costs of the recession.”33

52. In March 2009, the Child Poverty Action Group in its report Ending Child Poverty: A Manifesto For Success commented:

“While some commentators have speculated that the 2010 target will not be met, failure is by no means inevitable. Independent analysis34 has suggested that an investment of somewhere in excess of £3 billion in family incomes would set the government on track to meet the 2010 target.”35

53. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing told the Committee that the 2010 target could only be achieved—

“By extra investment by the UK Government in tax credits and benefits, and the Scottish Government will continue to call for that.36

Impact of the recession on meeting targets

54. During the period of the inquiry, the UK moved into economic recession. The Committee was keen to know the impact this would have on meeting the targets. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing admitted to the Committee that—

“The challenge was already considerable and there is no doubt that the economic climate makes it more acute. Evidence…suggests that, although the overall figures might not be hugely influenced, changes will take place underneath. More children might fall into relative poverty because their parents have lost their jobs or found obtaining work more difficult, but more children might come out of poverty not because they are better off but because average earnings have fallen. The overall effect might be neutral, but that will not take us where we need to go at the pace at which we need to go.”37

55. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation in its report Ending Child Poverty in a Changing Economy agreed that the recession may have a neutral impact:

“Two effects of the recession largely cancel each other out. Some children will enter poverty as their parents lose their jobs. Others, with low-paid parents, could move out of relative poverty, as Child Benefit and tax credits rise faster than average earnings.”

56. The report did warn however that the recession could worsen the profile of child poverty—

“Proportionately fewer of the children in poverty will have parents in work, and more will be in severe poverty, meaning that both the level of hardship experienced and the cost of reducing child poverty will be greater. If these hardships are allowed to take root, the knock-on costs of child poverty experienced during the recession could be serious and long-lasting.”38

The role of the Committee in scrutinising targets

57. A group of organisations39 suggested to the Committee that a useful way of scrutinising targets would be to monitor progress annually, when the Households Below Average Incomes statistics are published. It was suggested that the Committee could ask the Scottish Government, and potentially the UK Government, to update it on progress and review progress with interested parties.

58. Professor Paul Spicker, Director, Centre for Public Policy and Management argued that the Committee needed to refer to a much wider range of indicators, of the type included in the Department of Work and Pension’s report Opportunity For All. But he warned that it may prove problematic to obtain these statistics as “Scottish statistics have consistently lagged behind other parts of the UK”.40

59. COSLA suggested that the Committee’s role in more general terms should be:

“One of pulling together a picture of activity underway across Scotland and promoting an outcome based measure of child poverty. This will make the achievement of any such target more meaningful on the ground in localities across Scotland who experience poverty in very different ways, be that fuel poverty, income poverty, or material deprivation.”41

60. Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships believed it was important for the Committee to listen to those affected by poverty—

“In addition to evaluating whether targets are met, evidence about people’s lived experiences is essential for determining progress toward eradicating poverty. It is important to develop a process that includes hearing these experiences.”42

61. The Church of Scotland also encouraged the Committee to:

“Work with the groups who have already contributed to this inquiry (and others) to ensure that the voices of the families behind the statistics are directly heard in this annual scrutiny.”43

Conclusions

62. The Committee acknowledges that since 1998/99, 500,000 children have been lifted out of relative poverty in the UK, with those in absolute poverty falling by 1.7 million in the same period.44

63. The Committee notes the comments made in evidence about the additional UK Government expenditure that is considered to be necessary if targets are to be met (these range from £3 to 4 billion per annum over the last few years). It is not clear to the Committee how much additional expenditure has been made available by the Government over the period specifically in order to meet its targets, however it does welcome the progress made and the significant number of children that have been lifted out of poverty since 1998.

64. The Committee considers that the current economic recession will have had an impact on child poverty, but it is not clear to what extent. It acknowledges that some of the evidence points to the recession perhaps having a neutral impact overall.

65. The Committee welcomes discussions that are taking place between the Scottish and UK Governments with regard to putting together a basket of indicators which will help to measure progress towards eradicating child poverty. The Committee would welcome progress reports from the Scottish Government on the further development of these indicators.

66. In terms of its own role, the Committee considers that it should have an ongoing monitoring role to check progress being made by the Scottish and UK Governments towards meeting child poverty targets.

67. The Committee agrees with the suggestions made in evidence that the Households Below Average Incomes statistics which are published annually by the Scottish Government could provide a useful indicator of progress being made. In this regard, the Committee will seek to examine these statistics each year and take evidence from the Scottish Government and others as appropriate.

68. In terms of the cost of eradicating child poverty in Scotland, the Committee would find it helpful to have an indication from the Scottish Government of how much it considers would be necessary for this to be achieved.

Recommendations

69. The Committee recommends that the Scottish Government should provide it with:

  • an indication of how much it considers it will cost to eradicate child poverty in Scotland;
  • regular updates on the development of indicators which will help to measure progress towards meeting child poverty targets; and
  • updates on progress being made towards meeting the 2010 and 2020 targets.

70. The Committee will also monitor progress towards meeting targets for the eradication of child poverty through taking evidence from the Scottish Government following the annual publication of the Households Below Average Incomes statistics.

THE ROLE OF SINGLE OUTCOME AGREEMENTS IN ERADICATING CHILD POVERTY

The Concordat

71. The Concordat agreement between the Scottish Government and COSLA which was signed off in late 2007 set out the terms of a new relationship between the Scottish Government and local government.45 The Concordat underpins the funding to be provided to local government over the period 2008/09 to 2010/11.

72. The Committee notes that most of the national outcomes that are contained in the Concordat should have an impact on eradicating child poverty. These include:

  • We realise our full economic potential with more and better employment opportunities for our people.
  • We are better educated, more skilled and more successful, renowned for our research and innovation.
  • Our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.
  • Our children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed.
  • We live longer, healthier lives.
  • We have tackled the significant inequalities in Scottish society.
  • We have improved the life chances for children, young people and families at risk.
  • We live our lives safe from crime, disorder and danger.
  • We live in well-designed, sustainable places where we are able to access the amenities and services we need.
  • We have strong, resilient and supportive communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others.
  • We take pride in a strong, fair and inclusive national identity.

73. Barnardo’s and Save the Children were concerned however that none of these indicators would be compulsory and that it would be left for local authorities to decide what indicators are then put into single outcome agreements. They were also concerned that single outcome agreements would mention poverty in general and measures to tackle this, but that fewer would actually mention child poverty specifically.46

74. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing told the Committee that—

“The overall concordat with local government—and I would contend, the single outcome agreements with individual local authorities and community planning partnerships—prioritises the tackling of poverty. The Fairer Scotland Fund…aims to regenerate communities by tackling individual poverty and helping people back into work. Those objectives should be and are at the heart of the agreements that local government has with central Government.”47

Single Outcome Agreements (SOAs)

75. Whilst national outcomes set out the overall aims for a better, fairer Scottish society, it is the specific measures to eradicate child poverty set out in SOAs which will be important.

76. North Lanarkshire Council agreed that child poverty needs to be tackled at a local level, acknowledging that:

“Scottish Local Authorities will be the primary means by which child poverty will be tackled. Progress on mutually agreed outcomes for Scotland cannot happen unless progress is made at a local level. Tackling child poverty is clearly both a national and local priority and, given the pervasive nature of child poverty, as an issue it cuts across several of the national outcomes.”48

77. Professor Paul Spicker of the Centre for Public Policy and Management acknowledged that—

“The test for local government should not be that it is eliminating poverty, because that is beyond its capacity. It should be, rather, that local government is making a significant contribution to improving the range of problems and issues associated with poverty.”49

78. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing told the Committee—

“Single outcome agreements are important in ensuring that, at a local level, the Government’s objectives are met. The agreements for the present financial year were the first of their kind so everybody accepts that there is a lot of learning to be had from them. About half of all the single outcome agreements had at least one proxy indicator for child poverty and they all had indicators that were connected to child poverty. For the next set of single outcome agreements….we have made clear to community planning partnerships through guidance on the agreements that prioritising Achieving Our Potential, the early years framework and Equally Well is of real importance next year.”50

79. Douglas Hamilton of Save the Children believed that there should be a local outcome on tackling child poverty in every SOA—

“If we had that, the agreements could be useful for comparing approaches across authorities so that they could learn from one another, and share experiences.”51

Implementation of SOAs

80. The Committee accepts that it is too early to say what impact the implementation of SOAs will have on child poverty. Local authorities did provide the Committee however, with descriptions of how their SOAs were addressing the issue.

81. North Lanarkshire Council’s SOA for example is focussed on reducing child poverty within National Outcome 5 (“our children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed”).

82. Falkirk Council included a range of measures within its SOA:

“Including reducing the concentration of deprivation within our council area and the number of people who are claiming particular benefits; increasing household income; and examining educational attainment and health inequalities.”52

83. Addressing child poverty is embedded within South Lanarkshire Council’s SOA:

“It has actions and targets set across a range of indicators specifically around reducing the number of people claiming unemployment related benefits; reducing the number of adults with no qualifications; and raising educational attainment and increasing involvement in lifelong learning.”53

84. One of Glasgow Council’s local outcomes is to “reduce the proportion of children in poverty.”54

85. A few of the non-local authority responses received by the Committee expressed the desire to ensure that the SOA process remained transparent. The Wise Group for example believed that there needed to be clearly set out actions on how each local authority would tackle child poverty.

86. The Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People considered that:

“SOAs should include robust mechanisms for measuring the impact of spending on child poverty levels.”55

87. John Dickie of the Child Poverty Action Group agreed, calling for—

“A robust mechanism between local authorities and the Scottish Government to allow us to see where the money is going and what impact it is having on children and families who are living in poverty.”56

88. The Committee appreciates that linking expenditure to outcomes is not just an issue in relation to child poverty but to SOAs and to Government policy more generally. The website Scotland Performs57 is designed to show how the Scottish Government is performing in relation to its national outcomes and therefore, local government outcomes also need to be taken into account.

89. Given that the purpose of Scotland Performs is to show progress towards achieving outcomes, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth was asked by the Finance Committee during its scrutiny of the 2009-10 Draft Budget how it could be developed in a way that would link expenditure to outcomes. While the Cabinet Secretary considered that this was a complex task, he indicated a willingness to explore the issue further. The Finance Committee recommended that further work should be undertaken in this area and progress reported to that Committee before the start of the 2010-11 budget round.

90. National Children’s Homes Scotland argued that the quality of services, and level of support, should be consistent across Scotland, so that there is no ‘post-code’ lottery. It also believed that more should be done by Community Planning Partnerships to engage young people, and organisations working on their behalf, in this process.58

91. Laurie Russell from the Wise Group said that the voluntary sector should have a role in the single outcome agreement process. He said that—

“The policy makers do not listen to delivery agencies as much as I would like. We research, examine and analyse the real experience of our clients, which helps to inform policy making. We have a good dialogue with some local authorities, but with others dialogue is non-existent…there is a feeling that community planning partnerships do not really talk to the third sector as much as they should.”59

Local authority approaches in England and Wales

92. John Dickie of the Child Poverty Action Group suggested that local authorities in Scotland might find it useful to consider the CPAG/Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion toolkit60 for child poverty that has been developed for use by local authorities in England—

“We think that toolkit could be useful to local authorities for understanding the relationship between child poverty and the services that local government is responsible for delivering, and to measure progress and demonstrate the impact of their delivery of services on child poverty.”61

93. As mentioned at paragraph 38 above, the Committee is also aware of a toolkit being used by Welsh local authorities which sets outapolicy process for developing a local approach to reducing child poverty in Wales.62

Conclusions

94. The Committee considers that the Concordat between central and local government should:

  • be used as a means of helping to tackle child poverty;
  • provide an impetus for doing so at both national and local level; and
  • help provide the linkages between national and local outcomes. The Concordat should also provide a framework within which national and local actions can be identified, and where outcomes can be measured.

95. If child poverty in Scotland is to be tackled effectively, then it is vital that there is co-operation and co-ordination between the Scottish Government and local government.

96. The Committee agrees with Save the Children that there should be a local outcome on tackling child poverty in each single outcome agreement so that approaches across local authorities can be compared, lessons are learned and good practice is shared. The Committee recommends that this is included in future SOA guidance from the Concordat Oversight Group to local authorities. The Committee would welcome progress reports on an ongoing basis from the Scottish Government on the effectiveness of SOAs as a mechanism for ensuring local authority services and spending are having a positive impact on local levels of child poverty.

97. In terms of best practice, the Committee was told in evidence of two tool-kits that have been produced for local authorities in England and Wales which set out policy processes for developing local approaches to reducing child poverty. The Committee considers such an approach may be of value to local authorities in Scotland and recommends that the Scottish Government should work with appropriate bodies, such as COSLA and the Improvement Service in taking this forward.

98. The Committee welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment through the Fairer Scotland Fund (amounting to £435m over three years and currently ring-fenced until March 2010) which is allocated to Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs) to help them achieve sustainable economic growth by:

  • regenerating disadvantaged communities;
  • tackling poverty by helping vulnerable people and groups; and
  • overcoming barriers to employment.

99. It also welcomes the fact that CPPs are aiming to use the fund as a catalyst to accelerate the achievement of outcomes for the most disadvantaged areas and vulnerable people, the results of which will be tracked through SOAs.

100. The Committee would find it helpful to receive progress reports from the Scottish Government on the impact that the Fairer Scotland Fund is having on tackling child poverty. It would also be helpful for the Scottish Government to keep the Committee informed about progress once the period of ring-fencing has ended in March 2010.

Recommendations

101. The Committee recommends that:

  • there should be a local outcome on tackling child poverty in each annual single outcome agreement;
  • the Scottish Government should provide the Committee with progress reports on an ongoing basis on the effectiveness of SOAs as a mechanism for ensuring that local authority services and spending are having a positive impact on tackling child poverty at a local level;
  • the Scottish Government should undertake further work on linking expenditure to outcomes and that this work should take account of local government and SOAs;
  • the Scottish Government should provide the Committee with ongoing progress reports on the impact that the Fairer Scotland Fund is having on tackling child poverty; and keep the Committee informed of progress once the period of the ring-fencing of the Fund has ended in 2010; and
  • the Scottish Government and local authorities should seek to improve and extend joint working and collaboration in tackling child poverty; and that a toolkit which sets out best practice for local authorities and a policy process for developing a local approach to reducing child poverty should be adopted. The Scottish Government should work with appropriate bodies including COSLA and the Improvement Service in taking this forward.

EMPLOYMENT: SUPPORTING PARENTS INTO, AND REMAINING IN, DECENTLY PAID WORK

102. The UK Government’s report Ending Child Poverty: Everybody’s Business stated that:

“Work is the surest route out of poverty but not an immediate guarantee: a combination of low wages and/or low hours in low skilled jobs may mean that working families remain in poverty. Parents may face constraints that limit their ability to earn a sufficient income or progress in the workplace.”63

103. In his research report to the Committee, Keith Hayton concluded that:

“Work as a solution to poverty is complex…it is clear that for some, work, even with tax credits, is not a solution to child poverty…even those who do enter the labour market, work is unlikely, for many, to mark the start of a progression out of poverty.” 64

104. He added that many jobs are low paid and low skilled and that ultimately “taking these jobs may, in fact, be a way of perpetuating poverty.”

In-work poverty

105. The Committee notes that whilst being in work and earning a wage can help lift people out of poverty, there is some concern about the expansion of in-work poverty, a point acknowledged by Jim McCormick of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation—

“The implication is that moving into a job guarantees a move out of poverty. That is clearly not the case; indeed, we have already heard about the expansion of in-work poverty. That said, the chances of springing the poverty trap are higher if you are in work and earning than if you are not. It is all about odds and probabilities. Ultimately, your ability to move free of poverty is higher if you have a job - and even higher if there are two earners in the household.”65

106. He added—

“A high proportion of people who are in poverty in this country earn their poverty – they are in work. However, they are not moving forward.”66

107. The Department of Work and Pensions also acknowledged the extent of the problem of in-work poverty in its research report In-work Poverty – A Systematic Review:

“The 2008 Households Below Average Income statistics indicate that there are 1.4 million poor children in working households, the same number of children as in 1997. Furthermore, poor children are increasingly likely to come from a working family. Today, 50 per cent of all poor children live in families where at least one parent works. This compares with 40 per cent 10 years ago.”67

Transition from benefits to employment

108. The transition from benefits to employment created concerns for people. The Wise Group told the Committee of a survey undertaken by Working Links which said that—

“The biggest fear of people who are on benefits centres on the transitions from benefits to work and from work to benefits. They fear that there will be a period in which they will be disadvantaged. The system does not work as quickly as we would like.”68

109. Glasgow City Council referred to the hidden additional costs involved when moving into employment—

“There is concern that extra income generated by work is offset by ‘hidden costs' and drop-off in benefit entitlement that results in the extra expense of council tax, rent, prescription charges and school meals.”69

110. In his research report to the Committee, Keith Hayton considered that—

“For many who were currently on benefits, entering the labour market might bring marginal, or no financial benefits, due to the interaction of the low wages on offer, the loss of benefits and the costs of transport and childcare.”70

111. To prove his point, he cited the example of someone who had participated in one of his focus groups and who had received a benefits calculation from Jobcentre Plus. This found that he would need to obtain a job paying in excess of £18,000 a year to compensate for the benefits that he would lose by working, even when account was taken of Working Tax Credits.

112. The Glasgow Homelessness Network noted that the loss of housing benefit could also deter people from entering employment. They also remarked that the high costs associated with temporary homelessness accommodation, make it “exceptionally difficult” for many households to afford to work.71

113. The Scottish Affairs Committee in its report on child poverty acknowledged the problem—

“The high transitional costs experienced by parents entering the workplace, as well as the loss of key benefits, undermines the Government's efforts to raise incomes through making work pay.”72

Low pay and a living wage

114. It was suggested to the Committee in evidence that employment which provides a living wage could help tackle poverty and lift children out of poverty.

115. In this regard, the Child Poverty Action Group called on the Scottish Government to develop a living wage and set out how it will increase rates of pay at the bottom of the public sector pay spectrum, in order to set an example in tackling in-work poverty.73

116. UNISON suggested that the Scottish Government should—

“Insist on a living wage clause in contracts and on appropriate health and safety, equality proofing etc in these contracts and so raise wages across Scotland. This will lift many children out of poverty.”74

117. The Committee notes that Glasgow City Council had launched the Glasgow Living Wage at £7 per hour which would be a guaranteed minimum for all directly-employed Council employees.

118. According to feedback from contractors in London who have implemented the London Living Wage (launched in 2005), the following benefits to employers have already been noted:

  • easier recruitment and retention, reducing recruitment costs;
  • higher quality staff;
  • better attendance;
  • better productivity, motivation and loyalty; and
  • better quality of staff.75

119. In evidence, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing told the Committee that the Scottish Government was analysing what more the public sector could do to play a bigger part in tackling low pay, and would let the Committee know the outcome of that analysis when it was available.76

120. As outlined in a follow-up letter to the Committee from the Cabinet Secretary, the Scottish Government is responsible for setting the context for and approving pay remits for the staff in the Scottish Government, Executive Agencies and related departments, NDPBs and public corporations (such as Scottish Water). This policy does not apply to other parts of the public sector such as local government, the NHS and teachers. Additionally, the pay of those working in Scotland for UK departments (such as DWP, HM Customs and Revenue) is determined and approved by the UK Government.

121. Each year, once HM Treasury has published its pay guidance, the Scottish Government publishes its own policy on public sector pay as Scottish Ministers have delegated responsibility for civil service pay below the Senior Civil Service.

122. Although local government and NHS Scotland pay increases are determined through separate arrangements (the former by local authorities, the latter by an independent pay review body), it could be argued that the context for such increases is set by the HM Treasury pay guidance and subsequently, the Scottish Government’s policy on public sector pay.

123. In response to points raised in evidence regarding a living wage in the public sector, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing told the Committee in a follow-up letter that the lowest paid members of staff in the NHS receive £6.76 per hour (from 1 April 2009), which is above the minimum wage. She added that it was unlikely that any pay point in the NHS would be below £7 per hour from 1 April 2011. On public sector pay more generally the Cabinet Secretary stated that the Scottish Government’s policy on public sector pay for 2008-09 “encourages public bodies to take account of the solidarity target in the Government’s Economic Strategy by specifically considering the pay of their lowest paid staff.” She went on to say that although the 2009-10 policy has not yet been published, “tackling low pay will be an explicit objective of the SG pay policy for 2009-10.”77

124. In terms of whether the level set for the UK minimum wage could have an impact on tackling child poverty, it was suggested that there were more effective ways of doing so. For example, Jim McCormick of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation believed that—

“Although raising the minimum wage will have some impact on child poverty, it is a bit of a blunt instrument. There are probably other reasons for raising the minimum wage, but other steps might take us further in driving down child poverty.”78

Sustainable employment

125. It is important that work is sustainable if child poverty is to be tackled effectively. However, it was pointed out in evidence to the Committee that there were a number of barriers to sustainable employment, including poor wages, lack of available training and development opportunities, lack of affordable childcare and disincentives within the benefits system.

126. In terms of benefits acting as a disincentive, the Wise Group provided the Committee with the example of a member of its staff who had been unemployed for some time prior to gaining employment with the company. The company had wanted to promote the person but he could not take the job because he would have been worse off as a result of the tax credits he was receiving.79

127. Douglas Hamilton of Save the Children acknowledged the importance of sustainable employment and a cohesive approach to help end child poverty—

“Tackling the take-up of benefits will have a significant impact on the overall child poverty figures, but that must be aligned with addressing the issue of providing sustainable employment that pays a decent enough wage to lift families out of poverty.”80

128. Barnardo’s told the Committee that individuals must be supported in order for employment to be sustainable—

“For the most vulnerable families, the gap between accessing and sustaining employment can often be addressed at a local level using appropriate support to individuals in maintaining that employment. The issue is not just about wage level or accessing employment, it is about giving people the necessary support to sustain it.”81

129. Working for Families Glasgow believed that opportunities for career progression are vital if employment is to be sustainable—

“The route into employment might be through an entry-level job at the minimum wage, but we have to try to ensure that there is progression from there…we see sustainable employment as being something that allows people to enter the job market and progress through it; to increase their family income; and to become reliant on the income from their job, as opposed to any other income.”82

Skills/Training/Education

130. There was a call in evidence received by the Committee for policies to focus on young people to improve their educational attainment and skills and therefore break the cycle of disadvantage.

131. South Lanarkshire Council took the view that access to a wide range of work preparation and training opportunities are key aspects in supporting people to enter and remain in decently paid work.83

132. Falkirk Council told the Committee of a specific programme in its area, where it is piloting a 16+ youth training guarantee where, by 2010, every school leaver will be offered a positive transition to training, further/higher education or work.84

133. National Children’s Homes Scotland commended the Youthbuild scheme as a model which could help tackle the problem of youth unemployment. Youthbuild UK’s mission is to “promote engagement with young people to combat social exclusion, through the development of support services, and celebrate young people’s success.”85

134. On 17 November 2008, the Convener of the Committee visited a Youthbuild project in Greenock run by the charity 'Action for Scotland' which seeks to provide a range of training and support for disadvantaged young people that will lead to employment in the construction industry. The project receives funding from Inverclyde Council and the Fairer Scotland Fund. It seeks to address the barriers which participants may face in entering the labour market as a result of factors such as youth offending, lack of educational opportunities, abuse of alcohol etc.

135. The project is structured as follows:

  • participants are recruited;
  • they undertake a 5 week training period (and are paid a training wage of £60 per week);
  • they receive an 8 week work placement;
  • followed by 20 week subsidised employment with a building company with the wage paid by the building company being split 50:50 between the project and the building company; and
  • participants are subsequently supported into employment and also provided with on-going support once in employment.

136. Whilst training is important, both it and employment were further down the list of priorities for many people according to the Wise Group who told the Committee—

“Many of the clients with whom we work need to sort out the basic issues that they face in their lives, whether they relate to childcare, housing or benefits, before they can get their heads round thinking about training and employment, which they want to get into.”86

Childcare

137. The provision of childcare is vital for many parents when considering whether to go into employment as a route towards lifting their families out of poverty.

138. According to the evidence received by the Committee, parents need:

  • childcare that is suitable, secure, affordable and flexible;
  • “wrap-around” day care which suits working hours;
  • suitable low cost “after school hours” and “school holiday” facilities;
  • increased activities/opportunities for children who are outwith education for whatever reason;
  • ‘family friendly’ working policies; and
  • nationally recognised carer’s leave.

139. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing told the Committee that access to high-quality and affordable childcare is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s Early Years Strategy.87

140. The Early Years Strategy seeks to:

  • improve children’s health;
  • improve children’s social and emotional development;
  • improve children’s ability to learn;
  • strengthen families and communities; and
  • reduce barriers to employment – especially for lone parents, since work is the best route out of poverty. 88

141. The Committee notes the Scottish Government’s commitment made in the Concordat to make substantial progress towards a 50% increase in pre-school entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds. The entitlement to pre-school provision was increased to 475 hours per annum (equivalent to 38 weeks at 12.5 hours) from 412.5 hours and this will be maintained in 2008-09 and 2009-10. The entitlement will then increase to 570 hours (equivalent to 38 weeks at 15 hours) in August 2010.

142. The Committee acknowledges the increase in provision but also recognises that the issue of wrap-around childcare is wider than pre-school provision. The Committee also recognises that the provision and funding of childcare is a complex issue with a number of legislatures and bodies potentially having a part to play. Therefore, there is a need for local authorities, the Scottish Government and the UK Government to work together to examine the whole issue.

143. Tam Baillie of Barnardo’s told the Committee that the quality of childcare was a very important factor for parents—

“In freeing up and removing barriers to employment through providing child care, we have to consider the quality of that child care and the child’s education. I hope that whatever comes out of the early years and early intervention framework that the Government is currently working up, specific mention is made of the quality of care that is provided to our children and the support that can be given to our families in those early years. There is a definite tie up between freeing up families for economic activity and maintaining a balance in providing good care for our children.”89

144. Flexibility of availability was also important, an issue highlighted by Douglas Hamilton of Save the Children—

“It is ensuring that the childcare meets the needs of the parents and the children by providing it at the times and at the points in the year when they need it and in the places where they need it. It is not having a service that provides child care between the hours of 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock, which would be tough luck on parents whose shift pattern is 6 o’clock to 8 o’clock.”90

145. Shona Honeyman from Working for Families Glasgow agreed, adding—

“One solution is to have a far more flexible child care system that meets the needs of parents and children, that allows parents to work in jobs that they would like to do rather than in jobs that they have to do, that meets current child care needs, and that allows them to go through the education and training route into employment…with such a system people have a route out of poverty, rather than just a route from out-of work poverty to in-work poverty.”91

146. Some respondents considered that a lack of suitable childcare was particularly detrimental to some groups in society. For example, Citizen’s Advice Scotland said that parents with sick or disabled children often reported that the specialist provision they need is “simply not available or is prohibitively expensive.”92

147. Rhona Cunningham from Fife Gingerbread expressed concern about the level of priority afforded to childcare by local authorities in Scotland, citing the position south of the border where the Childcare Act 2006 (which does not apply in Scotland) places a duty on local authorities to provide adequate childcare provision for all parents who want to go into training, work or education.93

148. In response to a question from the Committee on this point, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing told the Committee that—

“One objective that the early years framework sets for local partners is to conduct a strategic review of child care accessibility and to use that to start to address the gaps that exist. That duty - if I may call it that - is similar to what the English local authorities are required to under the Childcare Act 2006. In the Government’s view, the longer term objective is to provide much better access to integrated pre-school and child care services in every community…I strongly believe that the UK Government needs to introduce a much simpler and more progressive scheme for supporting parents with child care costs.”94

Family support and kinship care

149. Family support and kinship care were also important, especially where access to child care facilities were not an option for a variety of reasons.

150. Quarriers considered that parents’ access to social and community support is critical to the resilience of individual families and children. They supported family centres as ideal places where a range of flexible advice and support services can be offered in a non-stigmatised, informal atmosphere.95

151. Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley, Director of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships warned—

“We know that caring responsibilities are highly gendered in our society, so any policy that encourages parents – lone parents, mothers and fathers – into work will create a care gap that statutory or voluntary sector services will not fill.”96

152. Under the Concordat between the Scottish Government and local government there was an agreement that there should be an allowance paid to kinship carers of ‘looked after’ children rather than having a system of discretionary payments. As at December 2008, it was reported that not all local authorities were making payments in complete accordance with Scottish Government policy (20 authorities out of 32 were paying allowances).97 Draft regulations currently being consulted on will require all local authorities to pay this allowance once the regulations come into force.

153. In his research report to the Committee, Keith Hayton reported that a focus group consisting of kinship carers had told him about the lack of financial support they receive and that they would be no better off under the Kinship Carers Allowance. They believed that they should be financially supported to the same levels as foster carers.98

154. The key criteria for payment of this allowance is whether a child is ‘looked after’ in terms of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. The main reasons for a child being looked after are where there is a supervision order in place following a children’s hearing or they are in foster care or residential care.

155. The Committee understands that kinship carers will not be covered if the child they are caring for is not defined as ‘looked after’. For example, if grandparents take out a residence order under section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, this does not give the child ‘looked after’ status. Similarly, if a relative or friend is caring for a child and there is no social work involvement, then they will not be eligible for the allowance. However a new permanence order under section 88 of the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 will come into force in September which will allow kinship carers to gain greater rights of residence without taking out a residence order and the child will remain classified as being ‘looked after’ and hence eligible for kinship care payments.

156. The Committee is also conscious that there is an issue about the effect of the benefits system whereby if the kinship carers allowance is paid it could result in a reduction or a loss of benefits.

157. It was felt by some in evidence that in the desire to get parents into work, the important task of parenting was often forgotten about. It was pointed out that parenting should remain a valid option for parents. The Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People told the Committee—

“…care must be taken to avoid any impression that full time parenting for children is not an appropriate option. Any vision for the future should ensure that staying at home with their children rather than going to work remains a valid and positive choice for parents”.99

158. Fife Gingerbread agreed, adding—

“Will the day ever come when being a ‘parent’ is a valued and respected role? Is it really in the child’s best interest to steer all parents into work and subsidise them to pay someone else (probably another parent who is themselves in receipt of a childcare subsidy) to look after their child? It is doubtful that a mandatory work reform is really about tackling Child Poverty.”100

Conclusions

159. The Committee recognises that work is a vital factor in helping to tackle child poverty as earning a wage will ultimately increase someone’s chances of springing the poverty trap. It is vital that employment is sustainable and is supported by a living wage and a benefits system that does not act as a disincentive to work. The availability of affordable, flexible childcare, is also vital for working parents.

160. The Committee believes however that it is too simplistic to think that work in itself will move a family out of poverty. This is borne out by the evidence which shows that in-work poverty is expanding.

161. Employment has to be sustainable. Taking a low paid job with no prospects of progression can, it was pointed out to the Committee, actually perpetuate poverty. It is vital therefore that employers provide the environment and the opportunities for employees to be able to improve their skills and learn new ones, and have opportunities to progress within their employment.

162. The availability of, and access to, a wide range of work preparation and training opportunities is vital if people are to enter employment and remain there. However, the Committee noted from the evidence that there were financial disincentives within the benefits system in this regard. For example, someone who receives a training allowance on the Get Ready for Work or Skillseekers programmes is no longer eligible to receive that allowance.

163. The Committee notes the move by Glasgow City Council to adopt what it considers to be a living wage for its staff. It also notes the feedback following the introduction of the London Living Wage which suggests that a living wage may also lead to benefits for an employer in terms of improved outputs and the retention of staff as well as helping to sustain employment which could have an impact on tackling child poverty. The Committee believes that maximising the incomes of young adults in particular will have a preventative effect on child poverty that is sustainable for years to come.

164. The Committee notes that the Scottish Government is analysing what more the public sector can do to play a bigger part in tackling low pay, and the Committee looks forward to examining the findings of the analysis, and to be informed as to what the Scottish Government intends to do in light of the findings.

165. The Committee appreciates the difficult decisions that parents have to make when considering whether to enter employment. The current benefits system can for example act as a disincentive to work where a loss of benefits may mean that someone will be worse off by working. If work means that a family will be worse off financially, then it is hardly surprising that families in that position choose not to go into employment. Benefits should not act as a disincentive in this way and the UK Government should review those benefits that do.

166. Another decision for parents is whether there will be access to childcare which is secure, affordable and flexible enough to fit their working patterns. The costs and availability of childcare are also major issues for parents to consider.

167. The Committee welcomes the Scottish Government’s plans under the Early Years Framework for its local partners to conduct a strategic review of child care accessibility and use that to begin to address the gaps that exist. The Committee also supports the need for connectivity between sectors (e.g. health and education) both nationally and locally to ensure that there are joined-up approaches and solutions to childcare problems which will help in the fight to eradicate child poverty, and provide Scotland with childcare provision with which it can be proud. The Committee acknowledges the complexity around the provision and funding of childcare provision and believes that there is a need for local authorities, the Scottish Government and the UK Government to work together to enhance childcare provision in Scotland

168. For those parents who choose to stay at home to look after their children rather than enter into employment, the Committee is sympathetic to the view expressed in some of the evidence it received that any vision for the future should ensure that staying at home with their children rather than going to work should remain a valid and positive option for parents.

169. The Committee notes the concerns expressed by kinship carers in evidence about the lack of support they receive and their call to be supported to the same levels as foster carers. The Committee believes there is a need for local authorities, the Scottish Government and the UK Government to work together with regard to this issue.

170. The Committee acknowledges that great strides have been made over recent years to improve the position of working parents who now for example have the right to request to take career breaks to look after their children, or work hours to suit their circumstances and through other family friendly policies such as part-time working, job sharing, compressed working hours etc. The Committee urges the Scottish and UK Governments to bring to bear any influence they can on employers so that they continue to develop innovative ways of improving family friendly policies which will allow parents to effectively juggle work and childcare.

Recommendations

171. The Committee recommends that—

  • the Scottish Government should make representations to the UK Government to examine those elements of the benefits system which act as a financial disincentive to work, and to take steps to replace these to ensure that the benefits system at least maintains income during the transition from unemployment to employment;
  • the Scottish and UK Governments and local authorities should work together to enhance childcare provision in Scotland;
  • the Scottish and UK Governments should bring to bear any influence they can on employers so that they continue to develop innovative ways to improve family-friendly policies which will help parents juggle work and childcare; and
  • the Scottish and UK Governments adopt a more creative approach to the tax and benefits system to address the issues of those living with child poverty.

172. The Committee looks forward to the publication of the Scottish Government’s analysis into what the public sector can do to tackle low pay and to scrutinising any Scottish Government policies that are brought forward as a result.

173. The Committee will also examine the outcome of the Scottish Government’s local partners’ strategic review of child care accessibility which seeks to address gaps in provision.

BENEFITS ADVICE AND UPTAKE

174. The Committee acknowledges that the benefits system has a key role to play in helping people lift themselves out of poverty.

Provision of benefits advice

175. A complex maze of benefits and entitlements exists which requires the availability of specialised assistance and advice so that people can be guided through it. People need to be well informed to be able to make decisions in relation to their entitlements.

176. As well as the complexity of the benefits system, concern was also expressed in evidence about the plethora of different agencies that provide benefits advice and the potential this has to create confusion in terms of who best to seek from. Providers of advice include the Department of Work and Pensions (e.g. Jobcentre Plus), local authorities, and the voluntary sector (e.g. Citizens Advice Bureaux).

177. Some believed that this has the potential to lead to a lack of consistency in terms of the advice provided across the agencies, and to inconsistent provision across the country. Citizen’s Advice Scotland told the Committee that some agencies only offered advice on certain benefits and did not take account of the whole spectrum of benefits which people may be entitled to. It cited Jobcentre Plus which it believes—

“considers only benefits versus income from employment and not costs that might increase through moving into employment, such as transport costs etc.”101

178. Keith Hayton told the Committee—

“We need to make people aware of all the options—not just the financial options…people should get advice in the round, not just advice about whether a decision will make them worse or better off financially. When advising people on how to move forward, we should look at their skills, qualifications and, possibly, health.”102

179. Some evidence called for a more holistic support in terms of benefits advice. Citizen’s Advice Scotland considered that there should be partnership working involving the co-ordination of resources and services.103 The Action Group, a voluntary organisation that has developed a range of services for people with support needs and learning disabilities and their carers throughout Edinburgh and the Lothians suggested that—

“It would be good to take a co-ordinated approach within a local authority area in order to map the available services and to identify gaps, and to implement a co-ordinated and robust funding system to fill those gaps.“104

180. On the other hand, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, whilst acknowledging these concerns, considered that there was a place for a range of advice services—

“We are not dealing with a homogenous group of people; we are dealing with people in different age and demographic groups and with different life circumstances.”105

181. Lindsay Isaacs of Citizen’s Advice Scotland supported this viewpoint—

“The different organisations that offer advice are not necessarily aiming for the same client group. We know that different people seek advice and support in different ways, and they take different routes to get to the same end point.”106

182. John Dickie of the Child Poverty Action Group called for the voluntary sector to be involved in the provision of advice services as he believed the sector had an important role to play—

“We still need an independent infrastructure of advice workers who can advocate on behalf of individuals to ensure that they get the benefits to which they are entitled. It is not an either/or situation. There is a role for central Government….in ensuring people are aware of their benefit entitlements. However, there is also a role for advice services at a local level in ensuring that people take up their entitlement as they become aware of it.”107

183. However, Keith Hayton, in his research report to the Committee, warned that while—

“Voluntary agencies were generally trusted more than statutory bodies…participants [in his focus groups] reported that their experiences of receiving advice, even from voluntary agencies, were not always positive and that advice was not always available at the point it was most needed.”108

184. Both Fife Council’s Children’s Service and Falkirk Council considered that it was important for the advice provided by agencies to be supplemented on the ground through those members of their staff who are in daily contact with families living in poverty. It was acknowledged however that this would only be possible with adequate resources.

185. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing told the Committee in a follow-up letter that a draft remit for a review of advice services with COSLA was currently being developed and that this was likely to include issues such as—

“Improving the quality of advice, how we can support the advice sector to be more joined-up, the geographical spread of information and advice services, delivery models and examples of good practice.”109

186. The Committee notes that the review is expected to conclude in Autumn 2009.

187. The funding of advice services was a concern for some. The Action Group, told the Committee that receiving consistent funding was an ongoing problem for its services:

“We receive no core funding from the council, so we must go to different charities and bodies for funding…funding is short term and seeking it is time consuming. Such funding does not allow us to build and develop a service that adequately meets all the needs of the people who come for assistance…long-term investment in income maximisation and welfare rights advice would be welcome because it is crucial to eradicating child poverty.”110

188. It added that the need for advice far outstrips its ability to provide it, indeed its waiting list was at least 10 weeks long and it was having to turn away new referrals.111

189. Citizen’s Advice Scotland expressed similar concerns. It told the Committee that in 2005/06, Scottish Bureaux had to deny 337 clients representation at social security tribunals because it did not have the staff or the volunteers to take this on.112

190. Some respondents believed that welfare benefits advice should be seen in the wider context of financial literacy initiatives. Dumfries and Galloway Council for example argued that interventions to increase financial literacy:

“might look at issues relating to credit unions, finding cheap power providers as well as targeted support for vulnerable people to access their rightful benefits.”113

191. Mark Lyonette of the Association of British Credit Unions Limited told the Committee that credit unions have a statutory requirement to educate their members in the wise use of their money, and that they were currently—

“considering opportunities throughout Scotland for individual bureaux and credit unions to work together more closely in a range of ways.”114

Conclusions

192. The benefits system plays a vital role in helping to tackle child poverty. The Committee recognises that the system is complex, therefore it is important that there are services available to people to guide them through this maze and offer them the best possible quality of advice so that they can make informed decisions about their entitlements.

193. There are a large number of advice agencies across Scotland. Some saw this in a positive way, believing that people access advice in different ways according to their individual circumstances. On the other hand, some saw the potential for public confusion and a lack of consistency in terms of advice provided. Given that not all benefits are claimed, the Committee is keen to examine further whether this can be partly attributed to there being too many agencies involved in providing advice and the quality of the advice they provide.

194. The Committee considers that it is important to be able to see what the benefits advice landscape in Scotland looks like and in this regard it welcomes the Scottish Government’s review of advice services which is currently underway. It looks forward to examining the outcome of the review following its publication later this year.

195. In the meantime, the Committee strongly believes that there is more scope for collaboration and joint working between agencies, better connectivity of advice provision services, and the sharing of best practice and information.

196. In terms of the funding of advice providers, the Committee received evidence that some are having to turn people away, simply because they are not resourced to be able to meet need. Clearly the implications of this are serious in terms of the potential for more people to fall into poverty through a lack of support available to them. It is vital therefore that these agencies are properly resourced. The Committee calls on the Scottish Government to review the funding it provides to these agencies to ensure that they are able to meet need.

Recommendations

197. The Committee notes the Scottish Government’s review of advice services which is due to be completed later this year. It recommends that as part of this review, the Scottish Government should consider whether there should be more co-ordination of advice provision across the country.

198. The Committee also recommends that the Scottish Government should review the funding provided to advice agencies.

Uptake of benefits

199. Citizen’s Advice Scotland reported that its services helped achieve:

“£48.3m for clients in confirmed financial gain…and a further £27m was negotiated in reduced debt payment.”115

200. It told the Committee that enquiries about benefits and tax credits represented its largest area of enquiry, accounting for just under one third of all enquiries last year.

201. Fiona Campbell, Head of Policy and Performance Review at Falkirk Council confirmed that—

“We know that 17,000 inquiries were made to our money advice service last year, as a result of which more than £6m went to families by way of additional benefits. We also know that 24,000 inquiries were made to our local Citizen’s Advice Bureaux, as a result of which £8.1m was generated for families. The amount of money is significant. During a 4 week period, health visitors giving low-level advice obtained £28,000 of benefits for families in need.”116

202. John Dickie of the Child Poverty Action Group considered that full or improved take-up of benefits and tax credits would have a significant impact on child poverty, adding—

“Official evidence is that £70 million worth of tax credits goes unclaimed each year and that 20% of families are missing out, so a significant amount of money that should be in the hands of families to support their children is not being received by them”.117

203. He added that—

“When families receive the benefits and tax credits that they are entitled to, it can have quite a dramatic effect on their wellbeing, including the wellbeing of the children.”118

204. It was suggested in evidence to the Committee that in order to ensure a better rate of benefits uptake, there needs to be a public awareness raising campaign, one which will target those who are not receiving their full entitlements. It accepts that this will not be easy, as benefits take-up is lower in vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups.

205. Citizen’s Advice Scotland suggested:

“In addition to the generic benefit advice and support offered by advice agencies such as citizens advice bureaux…significant inroads into child poverty could be made by targeted take-up campaigns, led and funded by the Scottish Government.“119

206. Douglas Hamilton of Save the Children suggested that initiatives had to be targeted at—

“particular groups who suffer most and who need that assistance most. We have suggested that there should be outreach services for those families living in severe poverty and that a more flexible approach within those services should be developed…we have to recognise that particular groups need additional support on top of the universal service.”120

207. John Dickie of the Child Poverty Action Group pointed out that the disability living allowance also went unclaimed and as a result children and families affected by disability are at particular risk of poverty.121

208. Another impact on the uptake of benefits, according to the evidence received by Keith Hayton in his research, was that the benefits system was felt to be too bureaucratic and penalised those who wished to progress, as benefits were at risk when people’s circumstances changed. He added:

“For means tested benefits, one of the greatest concerns was that benefits could stop for no apparent reason. Equally concerning were sudden, unexplained overpayments. Both made budgeting difficult and increased stress on those who were already in precarious situations.”122

209. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing told the Committee that as part of its Achieving Our Potential initiative, the Scottish Government has given a commitment to put £7.5 million into income maximisation over the next two years. In terms of other Scottish Government funded initiatives, the Cabinet Secretary said that it funded the Child Poverty Action Group second-tier advice project and One Parent Families Scotland.

210. The Cabinet Secretary also referred to the Scottish Government’s energy assistance package which would involve a benefits check being carried out on all applicants. She said that this would have the potential—

“To get people checked for benefits and to help more people get the benefits they deserve...”123

Conclusions

211. The Committee is concerned that not everyone is claiming benefits to which they are entitled. It was clear from the evidence that there is a low take-up in some areas, for example in terms of tax credits, and also where vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups are not claiming their entitlements. The benefits system itself, according to some of the evidence received, is too bureaucratic, with benefits being stopped for no apparent reason, and overpayments being made which later had to be clawed back. This leads to uncertainty and stress for those affected who might often be amongst the most vulnerable.

212. The Committee acknowledges that the UK Government is ultimately responsible for the operation of the benefits and tax systems. It believes therefore that the UK Government should seek to identify and address the reasons for low take-up. It should consider undertaking a programme of targeted publicity campaigns, perhaps in Scotland in collaboration with the Scottish Government. The Committee also believes that welfare support should be reviewed to ensure that help is reaching those most in need.

213. The Scottish Government cannot be complacent if child poverty is to be tackled effectively in Scotland. There must be cross-border co-operation and collaboration between Governments and agencies. The Scottish Government should continue to press the UK Government to address issues surrounding benefits advice and uptake, and to advise it on any Scotland-specific issues. The Committee would welcome regular updates from the Scottish Government of progress being made in this regard.

214. The Committee welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to put £7.5 million into income maximisation over the next two years, and looks forward to examining how this money will be spent in due course.

215. The Committee believes that full or improved take-up of benefits (including working tax credits and child tax credits) will have a significant impact on child poverty through improved well-being and income maximisation.

Recommendations

216. The Committee recommends that—

  • the Scottish Government should urge the UK Government to consider targeted campaigns to encourage the maximum uptake of benefit entitlements, especially in areas where there is low take-up and where hard to reach and vulnerable groups are being missed;
  • the Scottish Government should invite the UK Government to identify why certain benefits are not being claimed in Scotland; the Scottish Government should work collaboratively with the UK Government to address this; and the Scottish Government should keep the Committee informed of progress being made in this regard; and
  • the Scottish Government should ask the UK Government to ensure those most in need receive the benefits to which they are entitled.

OVERALL CONCLUSIONS

217. The Committee welcomes the progress that has been made over the last 10 years to eradicate child poverty in Scotland and in the UK. It also welcomes the UK Government’s decision to introduce a Child Poverty Bill, which underlines a continuing commitment to tackling this issue. The Bill is currently being consulted upon and the Committee looks forward to the publication of the consultation outcomes.

218. However, the Committee remains concerned that the 2010 target to halve child poverty may not be achieved. A number of issues were raised during the inquiry and the Committee has made recommendations to ensure improvements are made which could help towards eradicating child poverty. The Committee intends to continue to monitor the situation and seek regular updates following the publication of this report to ensure that the Scottish Government is held to account on this very important issue.

Annexe a: extracts from the minutes of the local government and communities committee

3rd Meeting, 2008 (Session 3), Wednesday 30 January 2008

Child poverty: The Committee considered a paper on child poverty and agreed to hold a roundtable meeting in Glasgow and to make a bid for the necessary funding to the Conveners’ Group.

11th Meeting, 2008 (Session 3), Wednesday 16 April 2008

1. Decisions on taking business in private: The Committee agreed to take items 4, 5 and 6 in private.

6. Child poverty inquiry (in private): The Committee agreed an approach to its inquiry.

16th Meeting, 2008 (Session 3), Wednesday 28 May 2008

1. Decision on taking business in private: The Committee agreed to take item 4 in private.

4. Child poverty inquiry (in private): The Committee agreed to participate in an event on the theme of child poverty, to be held in the autumn by Save the Children; to commission participatory research involving parents; and to give further consideration to producing material supplementary to the Committee’s report when it is published.

21st Meeting, 2008 (Session 3), Tuesday 2 September 2008

3. Decision on taking business in private: The Committee agreed to take items6 and 7in private.

7. Child poverty inquiry (in private): The Committee considered written evidence received and agreed witnesses.

22nd Meeting, 2008 (Session 3), Wednesday 17 September 2008

Child poverty inquiry: The Committee took evidence from—

Tam Baillie, Director of Policy, Barnardos;

John Dickie, Head of CPAG in Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group;

Robert McGeachy, Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Action for Children Scotland;

Peter Kelly, Director, Poverty Alliance;

Douglas Hamilton, Head of Policy and Research, Save the Children;

Marion Davis, Manager for Development Policy and Training, One Parent Families West of Scotland.

and then from—

Margaret Doran, Executive Director for Education and Social Work Services, Glasgow City Council;

Fiona Campbell, Head of Policy and Performance Review, and Andy Hamilton, Corporate Policy Officer, Falkirk Council.

28th Meeting, 2008 (Session 3), Wednesday 12 November 2008

Child poverty in Scotland Inquiry: The Committee took evidence from—

Lindsay Isaacs, Social Policy Officer, Citizens Advice Scotland;

Jo Kirby, Advice Services Manager, The Action Group;

Mark Lyonette, Chief Executive Officer, Association of British Credit Unions.

29th Meeting, 2008 (Session 3), Wednesday 19 November 2008

Child poverty in Scotland inquiry: The Committee took evidence from—

Rhona Cunningham, Manager, Fife Gingerbread;

Shona Honeyman, Development Officer, Working for Families Glasgow;

Laurie Russell, Chief Executive, The Wise Group.

30th Meeting, 2008 (Session 3), Wednesday 26 November 2008

Child poverty in Scotland inquiry: The Committee took evidence from—

Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley, Director, Centre for Research on Families and Relationships;

Jim McCormick, Scottish Advisor, Joseph Rowntree Foundation;

Professor Paul Spicker, Director, Centre for Public Policy and Management.

4th Meeting, 2009 (Session 3), Wednesday 4 February 2009

Child poverty in Scotland: The Committee took evidence from—

Keith Hayton, Hayton Consulting.

8th Meeting, 2009 (Session 3), Wednesday 18 March 2009

Child poverty in Scotland: The Committee took evidence from—

Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Frances Wood, Deputy Director Social Inclusion, and Samantha Coope, Team Leader, Tackling Poverty Team, Scottish Government.

Decision on taking business in private: The Committee agreed to consider the main themes arising from its inquiry into Child Poverty in Scotland at its next meeting and any draft report at a future meeting in private. The Committee also agreed to consider its work programme at its next meeting in private.

9th Meeting, 2009 (Session 3), Wednesday 25 March 2009

Child poverty in Scotland (in private): The Committee agreed the main themes arising from the inquiry.

12th Meeting, 2009 (Session 3), Wednesday 29 April 2009

Child poverty in Scotland inquiry (in private): The Committee considered a draft report and agreed to continue its consideration at a future meeting.

13th Meeting, 2009 (Session 3), Wednesday 6 May 2009

Child poverty in Scotland inquiry (in private): The Committee considered a draft report and agreed certain changes.

14th Meeting, 2009 (Session 3), Wednesday 13 May 2009

Child poverty in Scotland inquiry (in private): The Committee considered a draft report and agreed certain changes. A revised report will be circulated for agreement.


Footnotes:

1 Department of Work and Pensions: Households Below Average Income 2007-08 Dataset (which states that 1.7m children in 2007-08 are living in absolute poverty (calculated before housing costs) and that figure is down 1.7m from 1998-99 and that 2.9m children live in relative poverty (calculated before housing costs) and that figure is down 0.5m from 1998-99.

2Scottish Government: Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland 2007/08. Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2009/05/povertyfigures0708

3 No. and proportion of children in households whose equivalised income before housing costs is below 60% of inflation adjusted median income.

4 No. and proportion of children in households whose equivalised income before housing costs is below 60% of median income.

5 Parliamentary Answer (S3W-1135. 26 June 2007)

6 Barnardos, Child Poverty Action Group, Save the Children and Poverty Alliance. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

7 Save the Children, One Parent Families, CPAG, Barnardo’s, Poverty Alliance, Working for Families Fund and NCH Scotland represented at the round table meeting.

8 Report to the Local Government and Communities Committee. Keith Hayton, Child Poverty, p.7

9 Department of Work and Pensions. Opportunity for All 4th Annual Report (2002). Available at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/resourcecentre/archive/policy_strategy_publications.asp

10 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009, Col1824.

13 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009, Col 1822.

14 HM Government. PSA Delivery Agreement 9.
Available at: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/pbr_csr07_psa9.pdf

15 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009,Col 1821.

16 Support that is given to front-line organisations who work directly with specific client groups.

17Scottish Government Anti-Poverty Initiatives. Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/Social-Inclusion/poverty/17414-1/EAPI

18 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 September 2008, Col 1101.

19 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 September 2008, Col 1102.

20Scottish Affairs Committee. Third Report of Session 2007-08 HC277. Child Poverty in Scotland. Available at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmselect/cmscotaf/277/27702.htm

21 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 September 2008, Col 1104.

22 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 26 November 2008, Col 1450.

23 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009, ,Col 1822.

24 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009, Cols 1831-1832

26 Save the Children-Wales. Child Poverty Solutions-Wales. Available at: http://www.childpovertysolutions.org.uk/

27 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009, Col 1821.

28 COSLA. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

29The Wise Group. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee. 27 June 2008.

30 Glasgow City Council. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

31 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009, Col 1824.

32 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009, Col 1824.

33 The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report. Ending Child Poverty in a Changing Economy. Available at: http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/ending-child-poverty-changing-economy

34 Institute for Fiscal Studies – Micro-simulating Child Poverty in 2010 and 2020. Available at: http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/micro-simulating-child-poverty-2010-and-2020 .

35 Child Poverty Action Group. Ending Child Poverty: A Manifesto For Success. Available at:http://www.cpag.org.uk/manifesto/manifesto_2009.htm

36 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009, Col 1822.

37 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009, Col 1823.

38 The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report. Ending Child Poverty in a Changing Economy. Available at: http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/ending-child-poverty-changing-economy

39 Barnardo’s Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, NCH Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland, Poverty Alliance and Save the Children.

40 Professor Paul Spicker. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

41 COSLA. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

42 Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley, The Centre for Research on Families and Relationships. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

43 Church of Scotland. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

44 Department of Work and Pensions: Households Below Average Income 2007/08 dataset Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2009/05/povertyfigures0708.

46 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 September 2008, Col 1081 and 1085.

47Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009, Col 1837.

48 North Lanarkshire Council. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

49 Professor Paul Spicker. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

50 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009, Col 1835.

51 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,17 September 2008, Col 1085.

52 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,17 September 2008, Col 1119.

53 South Lanarkshire Council. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

54 Glasgow City Council. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

55 Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

56 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 September 2008, Col 1081.

58 National Children’s Homes. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

59 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 19 November 2008, Col 1412 and 1417.

61 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 September 2008, Col 1081.

62Save the Children-Wales. Child Poverty Solutions-Wales. Available at: http://www.childpovertysolutions.org.uk/

63 HM Treasury, Department of Work and Pensions and the Department for Children, Schools and Families, March 2008.Ending Child Poverty – Everybody’s Business. Available at: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/bud_bud08_child.htm

64 Report to the Local Government and Communities Committee. Keith Hayton, Child Poverty, p.4

65 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 26 November 2008, Col 1462.

66 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 26 November 2008, Col 1448.

67 Department of Work and Pensions. In-work Poverty – A Systematic Review. Available at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/report_abstracts/rr_abstracts/rra_549.asp

68 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 19 November 2008, Col 1429.

69 Glasgow City Council. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

70 Report to the Local Government and Communities Committee. Keith Hayton, Child Poverty, p.3

71 Glasgow Homelessness Network. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee, June 2008.

72 Scottish Affairs Committee. Third Report of Session 2007-08 HC277. Child Poverty in Scotland. Available at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmselect/cmscotaf/277/27702.htm

73 Child Poverty Action Group. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee, 30 June 2008.

74 UNISON. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee, June 2008.

75 Glasgow City Council website. Available at: http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/en/News/LivingWage.htm

76 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009, Col 1833.

77 Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing. Follow-up correspondence to the Committee

78 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 26 November 2008, Col 1463.

79 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 19 November 2008, Col 1422.

80 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 September 2008, Col 1096.

81 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 September 2008, Col 1106.

82Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 19 November 2008, Col 1420.

83 South Lanarkshire Council. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

84 Falkirk Council. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

85 Youthbuild UK website. Available at: http://www.youthbuild-uk.org/about.php

86 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,
19 November 2008, Col 1427.

87 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009, Col 1825.

88 Scottish Government. The Early Years Framework. Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2009/01/13095148/0

89 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 September 2008, Col 1087.

90 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 September 2008, Col 1109.

91Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 19 November 2008, Col 1410.

92 Citizen’s Advice Scotland. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee, June 2008.

93 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 19 November 2008, Col 1409.

94 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009, Col 1825.

95 Quarriers. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee, 27 June 2008.

96 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 26 November 2008, Col 1450.

97 Scottish Parliament. Official Report, 11 December 2008, Col 13310.

98 Report to the Local Government and Communities Committee. Keith Hayton, Child Poverty, p.4

99 Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

100 Fife Gingerbread. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

101 Citizen’s Advice Scotland. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

102 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 4 February 2009, Col 1633-1634.

103 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 12 November 2008, Col 1399.

104 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 12 November 2008, Col 1398.

105 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009, Col 1829.

106 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 12 November 2008, Col 1399.

107 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 September 2008, Col 1097.

108 Report to the Local Government and Communities Committee. Keith Hayton, Child Poverty, p.3

109 Follow up letter to Committee from Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, 28 March 2009.

110 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 12 November 2008, Col.1386.

111 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 12 November 2008, Col.1386.

112 Citizen’s Advice Scotland. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee (and Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,12 November 2008, Col 1388.)

113 Dumfries and Galloway Council. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee, June 2008.

114 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 12 November 2008, Col 1398.

115 Citizen’s Advice Scotland. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

116 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 September 2008, Col.1116.

117 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 September 2008, Col.1090.

118 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 September 2008, Col.1091.

119 Citizen’s Advice Scotland. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

120 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 September 2008, Col 1107.

121 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 September 2008, Col 1109.

122 Report to the Local Government and Communities Committee. Keith Hayton, Child Poverty, p.3

123 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 18 March 2009, Col 1828.

Volume 2