Last week a national report suggested as many as 3.5 million children in the UK are experiencing poverty and emphasised the link between poverty, inequality and poorer outcomes.
This connection is not surprising, nor is it unknown. Many are familiar with the pattern and relationship between disadvantage and missed opportunities. What is less explored is how this has come to happen. How have we not made much, or any, progress in almost 50 years?
According to the Child Poverty Action Group nearly all local authorities have council wards where over 20 per cent of their children live in poverty. How can this be? Can we really call ourselves a developed country when increasing numbers of children and families are using food and clothing banks?
We know adverse economic pressures such as wage stagnation, higher living costs and changes to the welfare and benefits system, are making the lives of some of our most disadvantaged families even harder.
We, as a sector, need to look honestly and responsibly at the extent to which all children’s services – statutory and third sector – could work more effectively together to integrate and resource plans, services and support for these disadvantaged families.
Our recent members’ survey revealed particular concern over schools and education services, in the wake of cuts. A truly integrated and preventative approach to child poverty would recognise that education is the way out of poverty for individual children but also for our stagnating economy. Yet, it’s the learning opportunities that are being cut.
Scotland needs a refreshed approach to tackling child poverty, with a central focus on how we provide learning opportunities for our most disadvantaged children throughout the year. This will provide a route out of poverty for us all which focuses on maximising the potential of every child to contribute to a successful Scotland.
Jackie Brock is Chief Executive of Children in Scotland