Scotland politics

Bill aimed at eradicating child poverty tabled at Holyrood

Children make their way home on a housing estate in Scotland Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The new bill aims to significantly reduce the number of children living in poverty by 2030

Legislation setting targets for the eradication of child poverty in Scotland has been tabled at Holyrood.

The Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill will set a series of statutory targets to reduce, and ultimately wipe out, what minsters call a "systemic problem".

Studies show more than 200,000 children in Scotland are growing up in poverty.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said this was "utterly unacceptable", adding that the government is "utterly committed" to tackling the problem.

The legislation sets an initial target of cutting the number of children in relative poverty to less than 10% by 2030, and in absolute poverty to less than 5%. As of December 2016, the rates stood at 22% and 21% respectively.

The government said it would publish a three-year delivery plan by April 2018, which will be updated every five years alongside annual reports to measure progress.

Poverty has been shown to be the driver of inequalities from educational attainment to the health of children.

What are relative and absolute poverty?

  • Relative poverty - the percentage of children living in households with a net incomes less than 60% of the current median household income
  • Absolute poverty - the percentage of children living in households with net incomes of less than 60% of median household income in 2010/11, adjusted for inflation

Launching the legislation in Dundee, Ms Constance said: "It's utterly unacceptable that one in five children in Scotland live in poverty and this Bill sets out statutory targets to reduce and ultimately eradicate child poverty.

"Child poverty has been a systemic problem for decades. Tackling the immense challenge is an ambition all of Scotland - be that national and local government, health boards, businesses, the third sector or others - must work together to overcome.

"We're absolutely committed to tackling the deep-rooted causes of child poverty, addressing the needs of those living in poverty today and preventing future generations from those circumstances.

"This Bill is a major step forward as we look to give our children the best start in life, and it establishes a framework by which we can be held to account for our efforts. We look forward to hearing the views of the Parliament and of stakeholders on the proposals."

The government is working through recommendations set out by its independent advisor on poverty and inequality, Naomi Eisenstadt.

Ms Eisenstadt recently denied being put under pressure to water down her report after it emerged sections warning about cuts to local government funding were deleted from an early draft.

Scottish Labour said the bill was "well intentioned", but said it "looks like a parliamentary PR exercise".

The Scottish Greens meanwhile said the bill was "another good step forward", but said the government "need to go much further on boosting incomes in order to meet targets".

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