Skip to main content
Bookmark and Share

Influencing Local Action

Local Action

How can local action make a difference?

Local delivery will play a critical role in the implementation of the Child Poverty Strategy in Scotland. Many of the key levers to drive the changes needed in Scotland are at a local level. Providing appropriate local solutions and tackling issues is a shared agenda across central and local government, the wider public, private and third sectors and communities themselves. Successful delivery of this strategy depends on all of Scottish society playing a part in areas such as access to transport, facilities for play and recreation, child care or health services.

The Child Poverty Strategy has two key aims maximising household resourcesand improving children's wellbeing and life chances. There are a range of local services which span a variety of sectors which can have a major impact on Child Poverty and help us achieve our national aims.

View explanations of how local action can help tackle child poverty and case studies examples of how it can work in practice by clickling the links below.

Maximising household resources

  • Financial Inclusion and Capability
  • Employment and child care

Improving children's wellbeing and life chances

  • Affordable, good quality housing
  • Education
  • Transport
  • Leisure and recreation
  • Health

Making the case for Child Poverty

Making the case for Child Poverty

There are some strong arguments that can be made in support of taking local action to tackle child poverty.

Child poverty is bad for the individual and bad for society In addition to the significant human cost to families and children of allowing high levels of poverty to continue, research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation  estimates that child poverty costs £25 billion each year in costs to the Exchequer and reduced Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Tackling child poverty is a sound economic investment Child poverty has long-term social and economic costs. Effective preventative intervention helps to break recurring cycles of poor social outcomes, and prevent extensive and expensive responses from public services at a later stage. Investment in early and effective interventions translates into substantial savings to the public sector.

There are unacceptable levels of child poverty in Scotland  It is unacceptable that one fifth of children in Scotland are growing up in relative poverty, and that these children's future outcomes are so heavily influenced by their parents' economic circumstances. Levels of child poverty in Scotland have declined over the last decade. However, these reductions have stalled, and there has been little change in levels of child poverty since 2004/5. Clearly, further and faster progress must be made.

The current climate may impact negatively on child poverty  The impact of the recession may make tackling child poverty more challenging than ever. Reductions to welfare benefits, the continuing low demand in the economy and the impact on local services of constrained public finances are impacting on low-income families.Analysis by the institute of fiscal studies suggests that in 2012-13 the numbers of children living in relative poverty will increase by about 100,000 with an increase of 200,000 in absolute poverty.

Government and their partners have a legal duty to support equality.  The Equalities Act 2010  makes it a legal requirement for Government and its partners to make sure that all groups are treated equally and fairly. It is recognised that poverty is unevenly distributed throughout Scottish society. The risk of poverty is higher for children in families with lone parents (the majority of which tend to be women), affected by disability, and in some ethnic minority communities.

Child poverty is not inevitable When economic conditions are favourable and when policy is used as a tool to tackle poverty, child poverty can be reduced. Progress toward the eradication of poverty in Scotland is possible and has been achieved in recent years. 130,000 fewer children were living in poverty in Scotland in 2004/05, compared to 1996/97. Many other  European countries do not experience the levels of poverty and deprivation  that Scotland does.

Child poverty is a denial of a child's human rights In affluent nations such as Scotland, there are sufficient resources to ensure that children need not be denied access to what is typically experienced by the majority of citizens. Through the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, countries have committed to ensuring that children enjoy a decent standard of living - 'living in poverty' falls short of achieving this standard.

Getting the best from budgets and services

Getting the best from budgets and services

In the current economic climate we are all having to make tough decisions concerning budgets, service provision and support that is on offer. However, we need to make sure that the consequence of these tough decisions don't impact disproportionately on the most vulnerable children and families in our society.

What is poverty-sensitive decision making?

Poverty sensitive decision making helps to make clear the impact of decisions made by services and organisations on people experiencing poverty. Although it is hoped that more 'pro-poor' decisions will be taken as a result of this process the aim is not to introduce an overly restrictive bind on those responsible. Rather it encourages a decision-making environment in which the impact on child poverty is duly considered and any positive or negative impacts are recognised, evidenced and justified. If the decision has any negative consequences action to lessen the impact should also be considered.

What could be gained through poverty-sensitive decision making?

Poverty-sensitive decision making could be a stimulus for more effective anti-poverty work.

  • It suggests a high level of commitment to tackling child poverty and of an approach that is prepared to the address key issues by identifying and mitigating possible negative impacts in the future.
  • It widens responsibility for tackling child poverty (beyond field-based practitioners and those managing projects), to include those with 'backroom' administrative responsibilities, such as finance officers and treasurers. It is a means to demonstrate that tackling child poverty is everybody's business.
  • Establishing a culture whereby each decision is accompanied by reflection on the extent to which it impacts positively or negatively on child poverty may increase the probability that positive initial decisions or budget allocations are taken in future.
  • This drive to better understand the specific contribution to tackling child poverty of any particular budget line, project or organisation would heighten accountability and demand improvements in how child poverty impact is to be understood, measured and appraised.

You can view our more detailed 'how to guide' on poverty sensitive decision making here.

Key poverty info for others

Key poverty information people should know

If you are working to try and raise the profile of tackling child poverty in your service or organisation the following checklist may be useful to improve the knowledge and awareness amongst colleagues. 

Understanding poverty

  • Definition - UK Government's four tiered definition of child poverty
  • Concepts - Absolute poverty, relative poverty, material deprivation, persistent poverty, severe poverty
  • Measurement  -  Income thresholds, indicators, milestones
  • Causes - Social, political, economic, individual behaviour
  • Population  - Numbers living in poverty; Composition of population experiencing poverty; Risk rate of living in poverty
  • Policy  - What are the key (i) UK (ii) Scottish (iii) local strategies and policies to tackle poverty

Understanding how poverty is experienced

  • Cost of living - Cost of key essentials; proportion of income that is expended on essentials
  • Poverty premiums - Services that are more expensive to people living in poverty
  • Respect  - Understanding of the ways in which living in poverty can undermine the dignity and self-respect of those who experience it
  • Language - Understanding how to avoid describing poverty in a manner that is offensive to those who experience it
  • Barriers -  Knowledge and understanding of the barriers that make it more difficult for those who experience poverty to escape it.

Understanding how the local public perceive poverty

  • Knowledge  - Local knowledge of the facts of poverty
  • Attitudes - Inclination toward people experiencing poverty
  • Media Image - Dominant media presentation of poverty
  • Political Message - Key party positions/messages toward poverty

Reflective Questions

Influencing others

Reflective Questions

Which of the arguments in this section would you use to convince the following people that we should tackle child poverty in your local area?

  • Elected member
  • Finance Director
  • Head of a non poverty related service

What would be most useful for them to know based on the key poverty information section?


Poverty Awareness and Related Training

There are a number of organisations that offer poverty awareness and other poverty related training. Training can help staff who are dealing with people experiencing poverty to better understand the impact that this can have on the life of the individual and their families. It can also help identify ways in which to improve service delivery. A selection of useful links are higlighted below. This list is not exhasutive and there may also be a number of local organisations which offer similar services.

Child Poverty Training Module - Children's Workforce Development Council

Index of training and materials to reduce the impact of childhood poverty and disadvantage - Children's Workforce Development Council.

The Poverty Alliance

One Parent Families Scotland