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Understanding Child Poverty


Understanding Child Poverty


Growing up in poverty can have a profound and lasting impact on a child's outcomes - income poverty and material deprivation are strongly associated with poorer outcomes for children. This is not simply an issue of exclusion experienced as a direct result of a lack of material resources, but with a range of issues, such as stress and poor health.

The causes and effects of poverty and inequality are complex and multi-dimensional and require a range of interventions and responses. These must address the underlying causes of poverty, not just the symptoms. Poverty is about much more than a lack of income.

The quality of a child's home learning environment and their family relationships have a strong and direct impact on their later life chances. While many of these factors are strongly associated with poverty, income poverty is not an impossible challenge and many children from deprived backgrounds go on to have positive futures.

It remains vitally important to invest in eradicating child poverty and reducing inequality, including income inequality. Not only due to the cost to individuals, but also of the great cost to society caused by child poverty. Shifting resources into early intervention and prevention has a strong economic case, especially in respect to the first few years of a child's life.


Key Facts

Understanding Child Poverty

Key Facts


·  20% of children in Scotland live in relative poverty (same as the UK wide figure). The proportion of children in relative poverty in Scotland has fallen from 28% in 1998-99 and levelled off at around 20-21% since 2004/05.
·  Levels of absolute child poverty have also fallen substantially since 1999 (from 28% in 1998-99 to 10% in 2009-10).

·  The numbers of children in poverty, according to the low income and material deprivation measure, have not fallen substantially since the baseline year. The 1998-99 baseline is estimated at 19%, falling to 15% in 2009-10.

You can access here key  Child Poverty Statistics for 2009/10  which set out the variation of child poverty across households in Scotland.

Which children are living in poverty in Scotland?

It is clear that poverty is closely associated with particular groups of children in Scotland. It is also recognised that poverty is unevenly distributed throughout Scottish society and some groups are particularly at risk.

More women than men live in poverty and are more likely to work in part-time and low-paid jobs. A high percentage of lone parents are in poverty, the vast majority of whom are women. This impacts on the poverty levels of their children. As well as caring for children, women are also much more likely to have other caring responsibilities which may limit their capacity for paid work. The risk of poverty is also higher for children in families affected by disability, and in some ethnic minority communities. Although work is not always enough to remove children from poverty (poverty is present for one in ten children living in a household in which an adult works), the absence of work within the household is a key driver of child poverty in Scotland.

An evidence paper  has been produced to complement the Scotland's Child Poverty strategy which sets out a broad overview of Child Poverty evidence.


Understanding Child Poverty

The eradication of child poverty is a challenging goal. Below is an example of some of the issues that you may come up against in tackling child poverty locally.

Tackling poverty across service or organisational boundaries

Many of the most influential strategic and budgetary decisions and actions impacting on child poverty take place at a local level. For some Community Planning Partnerships (CPP) and other local delivery agents, this may involve the development of strategies and plans specifically focused on child poverty. Regardless of whether or not this approach is taken, a strategic approach to child poverty requires considering a very wide range of policies and resources through a 'child poverty lens'. This should be considered within the wider context of assessing the impact of policy and budget decision making on inequalities in society.

You can find help and advice in the  Influencing local action  and  Strategy and delivery  sections of the resource.

Preventive spend

To deliver the Scottish strategy effectively, the broader early intervention agenda must influence allocation of resources. This will inevitably involve difficult choices and redirection of resources from crisis intervention in order to enable a preventive approach. Maximising efficiencies from improved integration and innovative service redesign will also be required. This is especially challenging in a tight economic climate, but these circumstances only serve to make this agenda even more critical.

You can find help and advice in the sections on  Using Outcomes and  Influencing local action

Welfare Reform

In 2011 the UK Coalition Government announced its intention to replace key income based working age benefits with a Universal Credit. Welfare Reform is a matter wholly reserved to the UK Parliament however pracitioners and policy makers need to understand and be prepared for the impacts and the consequences of welfare reform for the people of Scotland.

See the following external links for help and advice

Reflective Questions

Understanding Child Poverty

Reflective Questions

Understanding your contribution

  • Does your team have a shared understanding of child poverty in your area and recognise their contribution to tackling it?
  • Do strategic managers and leaders in your organisation share your understanding and recognise how you contribute?
  • Are their opportunities for collaborative gain which could be seized? Who should you be working with?
  • How can you clarify and raise awareness of the local levers that contribute to reducing child poverty?
  • Can your team tackle child poverty strategically across your local area if the answer to any of these reflection points is 'no'?
  • What can you do to turn any negative responses to positive responses?

Improving your contribution

If you are looking to improve your contribution to child poverty outcomes the following broad questions may be useful to consider as a starting point.

  • Strategic planning  - Is there a clear and coherent picture of the services and organsations that help tackle child poverty? Bearing in mind local priorities and structures, what approach would allow you to work more effectively in a joined-up and strategic way? Can you identify any gaps?
  • Measuring impact  - Do your child poverty actions and milestones link with your local outcomes effectively? How can you get better at measuring the impact of the interventions that you have made and communicating the return achieved on the investment?
  • Funding and Sustainability - How can you continue to resource and sustain tackling child poverty activity as Scotland moves into a more constrained funding environment? Which services, organisations or managers support do you need to secure?
  • Networking and learning from others  - What lessons can you learn from the experience of others?



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