Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Tacking Child Poverty in Scotland

The Campaign to End Child Poverty has today published new figures that provide a child poverty map of the whole of the UK, which identifies pockets of deprivation in Scotland. CRFR Co-Director, Kay Tisdall reflects on Scotland's record:

Scotland has a lengthy history of child poverty, compared to other parts of the UK and Europe more generally. This is fundamentally about inequality, about government policies, local and global economies, and not individual families' decisions -- the comparative research underlines this time and time again.

Individual decision do matter but too often there is an undue emphasis on supply (i.e. are individuals willing and ready to work) and to little, particularly in these times of recession, on demand (i.e. are there viable jobs to take up?). The welfare reform underway is going to make it even harder to 'make work pay' for many families.

We know the potential negative outcomes associated with children living in poverty, particularly when it is persistent and when associated with other risks. When we talk about individual family decisions, we need to remember that this means adult and parental decisions -- not children making decisions about income and employment. Children are in poverty through no decisions of their own, yet the impact on them is substantial. And I suggest it important to remember that, whether one thinks in terms of 1 in 5 or 1 in 10 children, that these numbers are very troubling.

Numbers may potentially go down for child poverty in Scotland. One hopes that the Scottish Government investment to date will have longer term effects, and that children's services will continue to have some protection despite general cutbacks. It is possible that, with relative measures of poverty, that as relative living standards go down so will poverty statistics -- but that is why one also needs to consider absolute measures of poverty. But with welfare reform and the recession, there are serious concerns about what will happen with child poverty in the short and medium term. One would anticipate that it will be very difficult to get down to one in 10 children without a very concerted effort at all levels of government.

This is where the Rights of Children and Young People Bill may help the Scottish Government, and all of us, keep centered on children's rights - which includes an adequate standard of living. If the Bill goes through, it should mean that we regularly 'proof' government policy to recognise its importance for children's lives - and policy is made with attention to their well-being.

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