Child poverty is an enduring burden in Scotland that is unfairly controlling our children’s health, childhood and opportunities.
An interactive map [external website] by the End Child Poverty campaign shows the level of child poverty in local authorities across the UK. The darker the shading, the higher the child poverty levels in that area.
It tells us is that child poverty is present in every local authority in Scotland. At its worst, it affects up to 1 in 3 children in a single authority area. In comparison to many other European countries, the prevalence of child poverty in higher in Scotland. That’s an unacceptable statistic.
We know that child poverty has been present in Scotland for many years, but current predictions show us that more and more of our children are likely to experience its devastating impact in the future if we don’t act now.
While child poverty knows no boundaries, it’s not inevitable.
Education is free, but a lot of school things are not (Member of the Children's Parliament, age 11)
Here at NHS Health Scotland, we’re collaborating to take action across many sectors and professions, not just health, to reduce the impact of child poverty. For example, by increasing family income and reducing cost pressures on families.
As part of this work, NHS Health Scotland co-ordinates a national network of local authorities in Scotland to combat child poverty in schools. It provides peer support of perspectives and learning around poverty-proofing the school day. While sectors can’t eradicate child poverty alone, schools are helping to make the most of household income by reducing costs.
NHS Health Scotland has been the catalyst for this collaborating network as part of our national leadership role for improving public health and reducing inequalities.
Good pace of change
What I’ve noticed about this network is the openness of exchange on what works and what the barriers are, and the pace at which learning is being implemented. It is already proving its value. Following one of the first sessions, Inverclyde Council reported positively on plans to put action into place after hearing of a success in Glasgow City Council relating to uptake of free school meals and the automation of school clothing grant for eligible families.
We know that some children and young people are experiencing stigma or feeling excluded or discriminated as a result of additional school costs, such as uniform and extra-curricular activities and there are countless examples of low cost, low resource solutions to reduce or remove these cost barriers. A lot of the changes are easily implemented, such as uniform exchanges, or breakfast and homework clubs.
CPAG Scotland recently developed a toolkit that supports consultation on school costs with whole school communities and highlights steps which schools and local authorities can take to reduce costs and support children and families on low incomes. You can download it here [external link].
NHS Health Scotland has also produced a short film on the cost of the school day. It shows a range of people, including teachers, parent councils and community planners, sharing their current experiences and insights on some of the impacts of poverty on school life and barriers to participation in it. Please watch and share the film in your families, schools and communities.
This week is Challenge Poverty Week – its purpose is to raise a voice to combat poverty in Scotland. I believe there is a profound national drive that is helping to fast-track efforts to loosen its grip. We know that there’s a collective will. Let’s use that effort to make long lasting change that will improve the lives of all of Scotland’s children.
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