A Bill proposed by the SNP Government to tackle child poverty was unanimously approved at its first stage by the Scottish Parliament.
MSPs agreed to the general principles of the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill, which will set statutory targets to reduce the number of children in poverty by 2030. It also includes a framework to monitor progress at a national and local level.
The SNP Government will publish a three-year child poverty delivery plan by April 2018, to be updated every five years, with annual reports to measure progress. The Bill is part of the SNP Government’s Fairer Scotland Action Plan, which sets out its strategy for tackling poverty and inequality in Scotland.
Equalities Secretary Angela Constance MSP said:
“This important Bill sets out our ambition to eradicate child poverty in Scotland, by requiring us to meet ambitious targets to reduce child poverty by 2030. Indeed, Scotland will be the only part of the UK with statutory targets to reduce child poverty.
“We have consistently said that one in four children in Scotland living in poverty today is completely unacceptable and we must take action to resolve this, which this Bill sets out.
“Child poverty eradication needs partnership working, which is why the Bill includes national and local reporting requirements and why it’s so important to hear the views of parliament and stakeholders.”
Added Cunninghame North MSP Kenneth Gibson:
“The Institute of Fiscal Studies forecast that across the UK child poverty will impact on over five million children by 2022, due to damaging policies introduced by the UK Tory Government. It has tried to sweep rising child poverty under the carpet by scrapping reduction targets, abolishing its child poverty unit and removing the child poverty component of its social mobility commission.
“This Bill is a major step forward as we look to give our children the best start in life. It builds on the significant long-term investments the SNP Government is making to give Scotland’s children the best possible start in life, including family nurse partnerships, the Best Start Grant, the Baby Box, a transformational increase in good-quality childcare provision, ensuring every P1-P3 is entitled to a healthy free school meal and putting extra money and teachers into schools in the most deprived communities.”
Director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland John Dickie said:
“This Bill is hugely welcome and when enacted will help drive further progress on child poverty and enable parliament, campaigners and public alike to hold ministers to account for the commitments they have made to end child poverty.
“We are delighted that Holyrood’s Social Security Committee listened to our evidence and agreed on the need for interim targets. They also agreed that government’s delivery plans must include details of how ministers full utilise new social security powers to boost family incomes, ensure families can access welfare rights income maximisation advice, how they will support parental employment and how housing and childcare provision will help.”
The Bill will now progress through Stage 2, where it can be amended at Committee before coming before the whole Parliament again to further amend and then agree or reject it at Stage 3 before seeking Royal Assent and becoming law.