The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published a briefing on how child poverty in Scotland has changed compared to England in the last decade. The good news is quite a bit, largely because more couples have moved into full working in Scotland. However, Child poverty in workless families in Scotland remains high, and changes to benefits from 2012 are likely to have increased it further.
The key points in the briefing are:
• In the ten years to 2011/12, the proportion of children in poverty in Scotland fell ten percentage points on both the ‘before’ and ‘after’ housing costs measures – about twice the fall in England (six and three percentage points respectively).
• Much of the fall in child poverty in both Scotland and England is due to a fall in the high poverty rate among lone-parent families. This is likely to be due to a net improvement in employment rates compared with ten years ago, and policies – both UK-wide and Scotland-specific – that have sought to address poverty in this group.
• Much of Scotland’s additional fall in child poverty is due to a drop in poverty among working-couple parents. This is partly due to this group’s shift towards ‘full’ working (where both adults are in work and at least one of them is working full-time). This has not happened in England.
• Despite this success, poverty for children in workless families in Scotland remains high. Changes to benefits from 2012 are likely to have increased it further. The Scottish Government only has limited powers to intervene on welfare reforms. However, moves such as absorbing the cut to Council Tax Benefit and replacing the abolished components of the social fund will have mitigated some of the impacts.
• Scotland’s challenge is to find a route out of poverty for the many families that experience periods when work is not an option (for example: due to ill-health, caring responsibilities, disability, skills).