Any reduction in Scottish child poverty welcome, but overshadowed by forecasts of massive surge

June 13, 2013

Responding to today’s publication of official 2011/12 child poverty statistics for Scotland and the rest of the UK, John Dickie, Head of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said:

“Any reduction in child poverty in 2011/12 is welcome but is overshadowed by frightening Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) forecasts (see note below) of a massive surge in child poverty as UK tax and benefit changes kick in.

What’s more across the UK two thirds of children living in poverty are now living in working families, giving the lie to false claims that ‘worklessness’ and ‘welfare dependency’ are the main causes of poverty. The promise that work would be a route out of poverty has not been kept. Across the UK there are 5 million workers on less than the living wage, the real value of the minimum wage has been cut and working tax credits have been slashed. Wages for those at the bottom are getting worse, whilst wages for the wealthiest continue to rise, and that simply isn’t fair.

It is more vital than ever that UK government rethinks it’s lack of support for families, but here in Scotland we need government to ratchet up its use of devolved powers to not just mitigate damaging UK policies but build on promises to, for example, widen free school meal entitlement, ensure working parents receive a Living Wage and improve access to childcare.

Behind these statistics are tens of thousands of children across Scotland whose life chances are being damaged because their families just don’t have the resources they need to give their children a fair start in life. Across the UK that damage costs us all £29 billion a year, a figure that academics estimate will rise to £35 billion if child poverty increases as projected.”

Ends

For further comment contact:

John Dickie, Head of CPAG in Scotland, on 0141 552 3656 or 07795 340 618

Notes to Editors

  • Official Scottish child poverty figures published today for 2011/12 are available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/06/2493/downloads . “The percentage of children living in relative poverty fell from 17 per cent to 15 per cent between 2010/11 and 2011/12, this represents a reduction of 20 thousand children to 150 thousand children. This change is not statistically significant. This continues the decrease in the rate of relative child poverty in Scotland, with a decrease from 20 per cent in 2009/10 to 15 per cent in 2011/12. The percentage of children living in combined material deprivation and low income fell from 12 per cent to 8 per cent in 2011/12. This represents a reduction of 40 thousand children, to 80 thousand children. This change is statistically significant.”
  • The most recent modelling (May 2013) by the Institute for Fiscal Studies forecasts that the proportion of children living in poverty in Scotland will increase from 2011/12 to 28.4% by 2020 (after housing costs - 22.7% before housing costs)(see www.ifs.org.uk/comms/r78.pdf table B2)
  • The decrease on the headline measure of relative low income may be linked to falling median earnings. This is because uprating of family benefits in line with rising prices until 2011/12 has to some extent protected low income families when earnings have been rising more slowly than prices. This protection has now been removed as a result of UK social security cuts and the 1% cap on benefit uprating leading in large part to the forecast explosion in child poverty referred to above.
  • Prior to these latest figures the number of children living in poverty in Scotland fell from 330 000 in 1998/99 (31% of all children) to 220 000 in 2010/11 (21% of all children) (after housing costs, AHC - the measure which gives a better indication of disposable income)
  • Using the official before housing costs headline measure for tracking progress the proportion of children living in poverty fell from 28% in 1998/99 when 300 000 children were officially recognised as living in poverty to 17% (170 000) in 2010/11. In other words well over 100 000 children have been lifted out of poverty in Scotland alone[1].
  • Scottish Government produced its first child poverty strategy in March 2011 and its first Annual Report in March 2012. CPAG welcomed the overall aims and measures set out in the Scottish strategy. However key concerns include:

o the lack of clear indicators against which progress could be measured against the outcomes set

o the lack of robust mechanisms to enable, and hold to account, local authorities and their partners to demonstrate how they are translating the strategy into budget decisions and specific actions

o the need for more explicit explanation as to the impact of outlined policies and investments on children and child poverty.

  • It is vital that the Scottish Government acts to not only mitigate the impact of UK cuts on children and families but is also more ambitious in using the devolved powers at its disposal to prevent poverty and protect families.
  • CPAG is the leading charity campaigning for the abolition of child poverty in the UK and for a better deal for low-income families and children.
  • CPAG is the host organisation for the Campaign to End Child Poverty, which has over 150 member organisations and is campaigning for public and political commitment to ensure the goal of ending child poverty by 2020 is met.