Scotland sees bigger fall in child poverty numbers

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Child poverty in Scotland fell by almost twice the level in England over a decade, new analysis in the run-up to the independence referendum has shown.

The proportion of children in poverty dropped 10 percentage points in the decade to 2011/12, compared with six percentage points in England, according to a report by the New Policy Institute (NPI) for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

Despite this success, the York-based charity warned progress had stalled as it published the first of three referendum briefings ahead of the vote on September 18.

More than half (54 per cent) of children in workless families in Scotland are in poverty, compared with 10 per cent of those in working families.

Changes to benefits are likely to have increased poverty for children in workless families further, the report says.

Tackling the issue must be a priority for governments at Holyrood and Westminster regardless of the referendum outcome, JRF Scotland adviser Jim McCormick said.

“Progress on reducing child poverty has stalled after a steady reduction and the rate is set to rise again,” he said. “The challenge for each side of the referendum campaign is to demonstrate how a country where no child grows up and remains in poverty can be achieved.”

The overall level of child poverty in Scotland was 17 per cent before housing costs in 2011/12, the analysis shows.

Much of the improvement in both England and Scotland is due to a drop in the poverty rate among lone-parent families, the report said.

Scotland’s better record is attributed to an additional reduction in poverty among working couples who have children.

There appears to have been a shift in this group north of the border towards both adults being in work, which the authors said had not happened in England.

Dr Peter Kenway, director of the NPI and report co-author, said: “This is probably due to parents in Scotland being better able to access suitable jobs with adequate pay and services such as childcare and transport.

“But how much credit policy makers, in either Edinburgh or in London, can take for this is unclear.”

JRF will publish two more briefings on housing and work in Scotland before the referendum.

John Dickie, head of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “This JRF briefing highlights the need to focus support on families who are unable to work as well as those in work.”

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