Nicola Sturgeon is to bring forward Scotland’s first-ever child poverty bill, in a move that could allow the Scottish government to reintroduce the statutory child poverty targets abolished by the UK government earlier this year.
Campaigners welcomed the plan put forward by the first minister to enshrine Scotland’s child poverty strategy in law for the first time through the bill.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said: “This is excellent news in the drive to eradicate child poverty, given the UK government’s abandonment of statutory child poverty commitments. With one in five of Scotland’s children still living in poverty it is vital that the new bill includes ambitious targets as well as duties to measure and report on progress and a strategic framework that will hold national and local government to account.”
Announcing that a consultation setting out proposals for the bill would be published over the summer, Sturgeon said: “It is simply unacceptable that children are growing up in poverty and we must do all we can to tackle the inequality that still exists in 21st-century Scotland.”
She continued: “By repealing large parts of the Child Poverty Act 2010, including the income-based child poverty targets, the UK government has signalled that it does not see child poverty and the incomes of poor families as priorities. That is fundamentally wrong. With the introduction of this new legislation, the Scottish government is sending the message, in the strongest possible terms, that we profoundly disagree.”
Sturgeon also announced the reappointment of Naomi Eisenstadt as the Scottish government’s independent poverty adviser. Eisenstadt, the well-respected social policy expert and first director of Labour’s Sure Start Unit, said in an interview last year that she felt far more optimistic about the Scottish government’s willingness to tackle poverty than that of the Westminster administration.
Describing the proposed bill as a “positive, practical and constructive step”, Eisenstadt said on Wednesday: “This legislation will maximise the chances that all people living in Scotland lead productive and healthy lives. We need to stop the cycle of poverty and prevent the next generation of young people being born into poverty.”
The Conservative government’s Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 repealed elements of the Child Poverty Act 2010, which it also renamed the Life Chances Act, including the target of eradicating child poverty by 2020 and scrapping the duty on both the Scottish and UK governments to produce child poverty strategies and report on them annually.
The new legislation, which was passed in January, also attempted to make changes to the way that child poverty is measured, using broader measures of life chances rather than income. But these plans, which were opposed by child poverty campaigners, were blocked in the Lords and remain under discussion.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010