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Social Justice

Scotland aims to end child poverty with new “historic” bill

The Scottish Government unanimously backs new bill that will set statutory targets to eradicate child poverty by 2030

Scotland is to become the only part of the UK with statutory targets to tackle child poverty after unanimously passing new legislation in Scottish Parliament yesterday.

The Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill will set out four statutory goals which the government is expected to hit by 2030, including having less than 10% of children living in households that are in relative poverty (currently 22%) and less than 5% of children living in households that are persistent poverty.

This Bill will go even further and see statutory targets to reduce and ultimately eradicate child poverty

In 2015/16 one in four children in Scotland were living in relative poverty. Equalities Secretary Angela Constance MSP called the bill a “historic milestone” in the fight against poverty.

It was brought forward in response to the repeal of sections of the UK Child Poverty Act, to reinstate the use of a set of income-based targets. After a series of amendments were agreed, MSPs unanimously agreed to pass the bill, with the vote finishing 115 to nil.

Constance said: “With one in four children living in poverty, we need to take urgent action – both to help those children who are living in poverty now, and to prevent future generations of children growing up in poverty.

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“We have already announced a Tackling Child Poverty Fund worth £50 million. This Bill will go even further and see statutory targets to reduce and ultimately eradicate child poverty. This is in stark contrast to the action being taken by the UK Government, which has abolished its child poverty unit and child poverty targets.

The bill also sets out reporting mechanisms for progress towards the targets, with delivery plans to be published in April 2018, 2021 and 2026.

It places duties on the government, local authorities and health boards to report annually on what they are doing to reduce child poverty, and provides for the establishment of a Poverty and Inequality Commission.

“Meeting our ambitious new targets will be challenging and it will seem like we are often fighting with one hand behind our back in the face of the cuts, which are set to increase child poverty across the UK by around one million children,” Constance added.

“But the Scottish Government intends to take positive action to address child poverty and tackle the deep seated generational inequalities in our society.

“We want to work with local authorities, health boards and the third sector to ensure that in our modern, thriving country, children should have the best possible start in life.”

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