Plans to tackle child poverty in Scotland have been published today, as new analysis shows that 80,000 children from working families are living ‘below the bread line’.
Scottish Government statistics show that over half of the children living in poverty, or 52 per cent, are from households where at least one adult was working. For two parent families with children living in poverty, this increases to nearly three quarters – or 72 per cent.
‘Relative poverty’ is where household income is less than 60 per cent of the average. For a couple with two children that means living on less than £20,500 a year.
‘Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland: Our Approach 2014-17’ was developed in consultation with the Ministerial Advisory Group on Child Poverty. The strategy aims to tackle the causes of poverty by addressing them early, through actions including:
- Maximising household resources through advice on welfare and benefit changes, help to find employment and managing debt.
- Improving every child’s life chances through actions on educational attainment, health and early years development.
- Making sure children’s environment is suitable through actions on housing, regeneration and community empowerment.
The strategy outlines measures to provide help for hard-pressed working families as well as those who are unemployed as pressures from Westminster welfare reforms increase.
While there has been a reduction in recent years, figures in the strategy show that child poverty in Scotland is set to increase to levels previously seen in 2003/04 due to the impacts of welfare reform.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched the strategy at Toryglen Community Hub, where she met Karen Hendry, a 36 year old single mum from the East End of Glasgow.
“Raising a child and working full time is very hard, things are very tight and making ends meet is difficult. Over the last number of years, whilst studying, I’ve made sacrifices for my family and managing on one wage, and even with tax credits and child support payments it isn’t easy.
“On three separate occasions I received emergency money from the Scottish Welfare Fund and this was literally life saving for me and my daughter. I often feel that there is too much week and not enough money.
“People should be aware of the stress that this puts on families, I constantly worry about money and I know my child suffers because of the welfare reforms. A lot of the time I feel as though I am working so hard just to survive.”
Ms Sturgeon said:
“We know that work can reduce the risk of poverty, but work is not always enough on its own.
“This strategy continues our preventative approach aimed at maximising household resources, improving children’s life chances and providing sustainable places.
“However we now have an increasing focus on mitigating against the harmful effects of Westminster welfare reforms. These changes to the system will not only impact on the most vulnerable in our society – they will also set progress back at least ten years.
“It’s frustrating, when so much work has been done, to see Child Poverty Action Group highlight 100,000 more children in Scotland will be pushed into poverty because of these unfair policies by 2020.
“In an independent Scotland we would have the powers to provide one of the most comprehensive child care packages in Europe which would allow more women to work. We would also be able to set up a commission to consider a new ‘Scottish Minimum Wage’ – which would at least rise in line with inflation.
“That’s why we need the full powers of independence to create a different approach – one that supports our most vulnerable, encourages people into the workplace and provides a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”
Whilst raising her twelve year old daughter, Karen worked full time in a nursing home. In July 2013 she graduated from University of the West of Scotland, Paisley with an honours degree in social policy and sociology and is now self-employed, running a craft business from her home.
Karen added: “When out of work and on benefits I felt as though I didn’t have enough support for basic needs, it’s the small things like not buying any new clothes, having family days out, holidays or treats that is the hardest on my daughter. I felt that meeting basic needs was a challenge, never mind anything else.
“However, I am very lucky because I have family and friends who help me out – especially over the Christmas period and when I need to pay for school trips. I couldn’t have survived without them.”