There are currently 220,000 children living in poverty, and two-thirds of them are living in a household where someone works. Many of our members are working long hours to make ends meet: struggling to pay bills or unable to afford to take up more hours because of the high costs or unavailability of child care. Many would like to work more hours but cuts to public services mean that those hours are no longer available. Alongside this many are working unpaid hours to try and get the job done due to staff shortages.
Growing up in poverty has a detrimental impact on children and their life chances, Children who grow up in poverty are significantly less likely do well in school. Poverty therefore affects children long into adulthood. In order for our country to thrive we must ensure that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
We know that there are many causes of child poverty, and therefore tackling child poverty will require a holistic approach. It is also important that the children in child poverty are not seen in isolation. The Child Poverty Bill must be part of a wider anti-poverty strategy. Too often our approaches to addressing have been piecemeal and uncoordinated. There has been a failure to connect actions taken at the local and national levels, and lack of proper representation.
Useful national approaches, such as the Child Poverty Strategy or the Achieving Our Potential Framework, have not led to the change that should have been expected. The existence of a comprehensive national anti-poverty strategy does not guarantee success, but it does allow us to collectively identify all those changes that are required to reduce poverty. We must build on the work done as part of the Fairer Scotland consultation and complete work on the strategy. This strategy should be long-term, cover all groups and ages and should ensure that people can realise their fundamental human rights.
UNISON welcomes the decision of the Scottish Government to bring forward a Child Poverty Bill to restore the commitments in the Labour government’s Child Poverty Act 2010. This will be a useful step in tackling poverty. Eradicating child poverty will not only change the lives of those children currently living in poverty it will transform Scotland and result in substantial savings to the public purse where we currently spend millions of pounds dealing with the problems caused by poverty and inequality.
It is important though that the Bill does more than just set targets, we would hope that the Bill will set in place substantial programmes with appropriate funding to ensure that the laudable aims of the Bill are met.