Longer-term joint planning is needed to tackle child poverty in Scotland, which has increased since the targets were set in 2017.
Scottish Government policies and spending remain more focused on helping children get out of poverty than on long-term measures to prevent it. More than a quarter of children in Scotland – 260,000 – lived in poverty before the Covid-19 pandemic. And the current cost of living crisis is likely to make the situation worse.
The impact of Covid-19 on data collection means child poverty statistics are only available up to 2019/20, halfway through the Scottish Government’s first child poverty plan. But even with the data, it would not be possible to gauge the success of the plan. Indeed, the Scottish Government has not specified the expected impact of the 2018-22 plan on child poverty levels.
The government’s second child poverty plan takes a more concerted approach to tackling child poverty, covering central and local government and their partners. But detailed joint planning is now needed to ensure policy actions are implemented and progress is measured. Policy development must also meaningfully involve the perspectives of children and families living in poverty.
Stephen Boyle, Auditor General of Scotland, said:
Poverty affects all aspects of a child’s well-being and opportunities and has wider implications for society.
The Scottish Government needs to work with partners to quickly work out the details of how the second child poverty plan will be implemented, monitored and evaluated.
Government policy takes time to have an impact on child poverty and so it is essential that ministers also act now to set out options to achieve their long-term goals in 2030.
William Moyes, Chairman of the Accounts Committee, said:
Councils have a key role to play in addressing child poverty through measures such as housing, education, childcare and employability. But there is little information available in the councils about what they do and its impact.
Better collection and sharing of information about the councils’ work on child poverty will help support learning and improvement across Scotland.