Scottish Government set ambitious new targets to tackle child poverty

Ambitious new targets which could reduce the number of children living in “persistent poverty” to less than one in 20 by the year 2030 have been announced by the Scottish Government.

The latests statistics showed that in 2014-15 22% of children – some 220,000 youngsters – were classed as living in relative poverty after their family’s housing bills were taken into consideration.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance branded the figure “simply unacceptable” as she launched a consultation ahead of legislation to tackle the problem.

The Scottish Government plans to bring forward a Child Poverty Bill next year which, if passed, would legally enshrine a series of new targets.

These set out that less than 10% of children should be living in relative poverty after housing costs by 2030, and that less than 5% should be suffering from the more severe form absolute poverty after housing costs.

The new targets set out that fewer than one in 20 children should be living in low-income homes that lack certain basic necessities by 2030, and that by the same year less than 5% of youngsters should be affected by “persistent poverty” – when a household has been in relative poverty for at least three years out of four.

The consultation was launched just over a year the UK Government announced that legal requirements to lift children out of relative poverty are to be abolished – an approach criticised by the SNP government at Holyrood.

The new targets set by the Scottish Government measure poverty after housing costs have been met, despite the consultation stating this is “significantly more ambitious” than measuring income before housing bills.

It also said: “Our ambition is to eradicate child poverty and we will strive to deliver that ambition.

“We know that the UK Government’s austerity programme and the economic uncertainty caused by the EU referendum result make this an increasingly difficult challenge.”

Ms Constance, who launched the consultation on a visit to Dundee, said: “This Government has vowed to take action to tackle child poverty and we have already done a lot of work in this area but we want to go further.”

She added: ” Around one in five children live in poverty in Scotland. This is simply unacceptable in a modern, thriving country like ours.

“I want to be absolutely clear that we are serious about our ambition to eradicate child poverty and I want to work together with partners across Scotland to make that ambition a reality.

“It was great to see some of the vital work going on in Dundee this morning but there is much more to be done.

“With many people affected by poverty I would like to hear from a wide range of people and organisations in this consultation.

“With this consultation we are showing that we see child poverty and low income families as a priority.

“We will continue to strive towards equality of opportunity for everyone in Scotland and ending the cycle of poverty once and for all.”

Scottish Labour communities spokesman and deputy leader Alex Rowley said: ” The existence of child poverty in Scotland should be a source of shame to us all.

“Labour supports plans for a Child Poverty Bill but we can’t change Scotland without doing things differently.

“This Bill cannot be yet another entry in a long list of SNP laws which grab headlines but change nothing.

“The SNP need to recognise that hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to schools and local services will harm the poorest children in Scotland. These are the services that low-income families rely on the most.”

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