Scotland: poverty progress will be shortlived
Thursday 21 June 2012
I’m sure I wasn’t the only person in Scotland who was pleasantly surprised by the announcement this week that the headline figure for child poverty in Scotland had reduced to 17% of all children.
After many years when government policies have failed to have any impact on overall numbers of child poverty in Scotland, this has to be welcome news.
In a press release from the Scottish government this week, it states that the annual reduction in the child poverty statistics from last year’s 20% is not statistically significant.
While it may not be significant to the statisticians, the overall decrease over the past decade is immensely significant to the children and families who have been lifted out of poverty.
We’re talking about children who have been given the opportunity to make the most of not just their childhood, but the rest of their lives.
On the rise
However, as things stand at the moment, this may be the lowest figure we’re likely to see for many years to come.
Child poverty is set to rise over the next eight years as a result of government decisions and cuts on public spending, which will wipe out all progress the country has made since 1998. The figures from the Institute of Fiscal Studies show us that there’s little reason to celebrate this apparent drop.
In 1998, 30% of Scots children were growing up in poverty and the reduction hasn’t happened by accident.
There has been specific policy and spending decisions made at Westminster and Holyrood, and priority given to tackling child poverty.
Although progress has not been nearly as fast as is needed, it’s a demonstration that the lives of children can be improved when there is the political will and commitment to do it.
Political commitment needed
It is more important than ever to make sure that our politicians remain committed to achieving the goal of ending child poverty.
It would be appalling to give up now and say that as a country we can’t afford to improve the lives of our most vulnerable children and their families.
Poverty is about more than money. It’s about not having enough income to provide the basics that are fundamental to children’s standard of living and future life chances.
What would make these figures even more significant is if the UK and Scottish governments can make it their absolute priority to commit to action on behalf of the unacceptably high number of Scots children who still live in poverty – and make sure they have the chances that every child in our country deserves.