Child Poverty

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 1st March 2007.

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Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour 12:00 pm, 1st March 2007

To ask the First Minister, in light of recent statistics, what steps are being considered to help raise children out of poverty. (S2F-2751)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

We are committed to tackling child poverty. Since 1998, 100,000 Scottish children have been lifted from relative poverty, so the target to reduce child poverty by a quarter by 2005 has been exceeded. Investment in education, skills and employment will make the most significant difference in the long term. We regularly discuss with relevant United Kingdom Government departments the next steps that we can take together to help people who are still living in poverty in Scotland.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

It cannot be denied that in Scotland we are on course to achieve Labour's commitment to end child poverty in a generation. However, the next stage is potentially the most difficult one: tackling the circumstances of children and families who are still in absolute poverty will be challenging. As work remains the best way of lifting whole families out of poverty, what additional measures will the First Minister take to target children in communities such as Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven, so that they can have the best possible start in life?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

There has been considerable improvement in the position, partly as a result of investment in the sure start programme and partly as a result of investment in our working for families fund, which Jackie Baillie was involved in establishing. Throughout the country, the biggest change in relation to child poverty comes through having a stronger economy, investment that leads to the creation of good jobs, and investment in education and skills, to give young people a better opportunity in life. Such investment should remain our absolute priority in this Parliament through devolution. The best way of tackling poverty in Scotland in the long term is through education, skills and employment opportunities, so that families are able to stand on their own two feet, make their contribution and ensure that the next generation can go even further. That remains an absolute priority commitment for the Executive and I am certain that it will do after 3 May.

Meeting suspended until 14:15.

On resuming—