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Poverty Reduction Targets

– in the Scottish Parliament on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

4. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that it meets its poverty reduction targets. (S5O-04207)

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

Our tackling child poverty delivery plan, which is backed by a £50 million fund, outlines the actions that we are taking. They include committing £16 million to parental employment support, which will help parents to enter and progress in work; almost doubling funded early learning and childcare to 1,140 free hours; and introducing the new Scottish child payment, which will give £10 per week per child to the families who need it most. The first update on our tackling child poverty delivery plan showed that 48 of the 58 actions in the plan are in progress or are being delivered.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

Many of the actions have broad support across the political spectrum, and the Scottish child payment will be an important step forward. However, the Scottish Government’s projections of the extent to which it will reduce child poverty are based on an expectation of an 83 per cent take-up. Given that the Scottish Fiscal Commission has revised that figure downwards to 74 per cent, what is the Scottish Government going to do about that anomaly? Does it intend to reject that forecast and take additional measures to increase uptake, or is it going to revise downwards its expectation of how effective the policy will be?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

We are certainly not revising downwards what we want to see from the Scottish child payment. The Scottish Fiscal Commission is working on the information that it has at the moment. As we go forward, we will work with it to demonstrate to it what we are doing on benefit take-up, on publicity and in our work with stakeholders to increase that. I appreciate the work that the Scottish Fiscal Commission has done to create its forecast and I look forward to my officials working with it to demonstrate that we can do so much more than that as we move forward with this groundbreaking achievement.

Photo of David Stewart David Stewart Labour

The best start grant helps the Government to meet the poverty reduction target. What formula will the cabinet secretary use for future uprating of that grant? Will she report on the cumulative effect of any freeze in future upratings?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

The best start grant is one measure to support children in this area, but, as I mentioned in my first answer to Patrick Harvie, the Scottish child payment, which will come into force this year, will play an even larger part. If the best start grant had been increased by inflation, it would have gone up by about £10. Instead, the Scottish Government is introducing the Scottish child payment, which will see £520 going to a family if they are eligible.

We will, of course, take decisions on the uprating of the best start grant in each annual budget process. I note that, in its discussions with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work during the current process, Scottish Labour did not make a recommendation that money be spent in that manner.