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Child Poverty 'Tipping the Scales' in Scotland

Fiona King, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Save the Children, outlines findings of a major new report ‘Tipping the Scales’ published today. This report was produced in partnership with the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF)

Today, Save the Children in Scotland has published new research making the economic case for bolder action to drive down poverty and invest in all families being financially secure. Not only will that support each family, but it will also improve public services and grow the economy in the long run. 

Tipping the Scales produced by IPPR for Save the Children Scotland and the JRF highlights the damning social and economic harm of poverty in Scotland. Informed by lived experience and new analysis from the IPPR, the report outlines how successive UK and Scottish governments' failure to eradicate poverty is costing the economy up to £2.4 billion a year, leaving the nation exponentially poorer. 

“Everything has gone up…extra money is managing us through [however] because everything went up, they [social security benefits] are not actually getting you any further than what you were previously”. 

- Focus group parent 

We know that children pay the price for poverty and that the impacts on those who experience it can be lifelong. But today’s report shows clearly that beyond the compelling moral case to tackle child poverty – there lies an economic case for doing more, and quickly. Every one of the 250,000 children living in poverty right now in Scotland is a child who is losing out on the opportunities they deserve. 

The evidence shows that people over the age of 30 who experienced poverty in childhood are eight times more likely to be unemployed than those who didn’t and will have around a 25% lower income. This is staggering and speaks to the fact that we must take bold and decisive action to invest in the lives of children in the here and now and to increase the country’s prosperity in the long-term. 

“When I go shopping, just a standard food shop, when I leave, I feel guilty because I have spent so much money only on food”. 

- Focus group parent 

The legally binding Child Poverty Targets agreed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament commit to reducing child poverty from one in four to one in ten by 2030. This nationally held aspiration is within our grasp. But today’s report shows that big shifts are needed. The reality is, as a country, we can’t afford to tinker around the edges any longer. We need transformational changes to prevent poverty, create fairness and opportunity and bake in equality. If we get that right, we can sustainably drive down child poverty, improving the lives of children across the country, but also see the long-term benefits to our economy and our society.

Following this report, we urge government to:

  • Urgently increase the Scottish Child Payment to at least £40 in this parliament to get money into the pockets of families who need it most.
  • Ensure people take up the social security payments they are entitled to which would close around a third of households’ financial insecurity gap – Collectively putting an additional £1.9 billion into the pockets of families now.

Today’s research warns of the dangers of the status quo. The Scottish Government can and must act now, so spend can be recalibrated to improve the lives of children, now and in the future. It’s time to prevent rather than perpetrate the problem and start tipping the scales in the right direction.