Once approved, the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill will mean for the first time in its history, the Scottish Government will be responsible for meeting targets to reduce and ultimately end child poverty in the country.
The move will also see Scotland become the only part of the UK with statutory targets to reduce the number of children experiencing the effects of poverty by 2030.
A survey by the End Child Poverty coalition last year found that more than 200,000 children in Scotland are living in poverty.
The draft legislation sets an initial target of cutting the number of children in ‘relative poverty’ to less than 10 per cent by 2030, and in ‘absolute poverty’ to less than five per cent. As of December 2016, there were 22 per cent of children in ‘relative poverty’ and 21 per cent in ‘absolute poverty’.
Under the proposals, the Scottish Government will publish a three-year delivery plan by April 2018, which will be updated every five years. It will also publish annual reports to measure progress.
Angela Constance, Scotland's cabinet secretary for communities, social security and equalities, said, It’s utterly unacceptable that one in five children in Scotland live in poverty and this Bill sets out statutory targets to reduce and ultimately eradicate child poverty.
‘Child poverty has been a systemic problem for decades. Tackling the immense challenge is an ambition all of Scotland – be that national and local government, health boards, businesses, the third sector or others – must work together to overcome.
‘We’re absolutely committed to tackling the deep-rooted causes of child poverty, addressing the needs of those living in poverty today and preventing future generations from those circumstances.
‘This Bill is a major step forward as we look to give our children the best start in life, and it establishes a framework by which we can be held to account for our efforts. We look forward to hearing the views of the Parliament and of stakeholders on the proposals.’
Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) welcomed the move by the Scottish Government, and also called for the restoration of the UK income-based, child poverty- reduction targets that were abandoned last year along with much of the Child Poverty Act. Labour MP Dan Jarvis recently introduced a Private Members Bill aiming to achieve this for the whole of the UK, but its second reading was postponed.
Ms Garnham said, 'Scotland is confronting child poverty. It has recognised the obvious need for income-based targets to drive action on child poverty and to measure progress by. At a time when the IFS is projecting a 50% increase in UK child poverty by 2020, it is clear that we need to do the same south of the border.
'Poverty hits children in England and Wales just as hard as it hits children in Scotland. Unless we restore binding targets and a reporting duty on Government across the UK, how will we know if what we do is making things better or worse for poor children, wherever they live in the UK?'