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Child Poverty

Volume 590: debated on Wednesday 14 January 2015

2. What change there has been in the level of child poverty in Scotland since 2010; and if he will make a statement. (906919)

Estimates of the number and proportion of children in relative low income are published in the National Statistics households below average income series. Those estimates are available for each financial year up to 2012-13, and they show that since 2010 the number and percentage of children in relative low income in Scotland have remained at 200,000 and 17% respectively.

It is incredible how complacent the Government are about the fact that child poverty in Scotland is increasing. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, it is set to increase by a further 100,000 by 2020 if the current Government’s policies are followed. Is it not about time that both the UK and Scottish Governments, who seem to be relaxed about that increase in poverty, got together and worked out how we can effectively use policy on distribution so that the poorest can benefit?

I am somewhat surprised at the hon. Lady taking the nationalist line on the IFS figures. I completely reject those figures about prospective increases in child poverty in Scotland. This Government are not complacent, but what our policies have achieved are a reduction in unemployment, an increase in employment and wage increases outstripping inflation. Work is the best way out of poverty, and that is what this Government’s policy is.

Does the Minister agree that with the number of workless households at its lowest level for a generation across the UK as a whole, the best way to help tackle child poverty is to get people back into work?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and a key figure that demonstrates our ability to deal with the issue is the record number of women in work in Scotland. I would have thought that politicians in all parts of the House would welcome that.

The Child Poverty Action Group says that more than one in five children in Scotland are living in poverty, which is far higher than in many other European countries, and that the number is increasing as the days pass. Can the Minister explain why child poverty is continuing to increase under his Government?

I do not accept the premise of an increase. The Scottish Government’s most recent report stated that we should not take a snapshot and should instead look at indications over a longer period. I agree with the hon. Member for Glasgow East (Margaret Curran) on one point, however: we have to see closer working together by the United Kingdom Government, the Scottish Government, local authorities and the third sector. That is the best way to achieve a reduction in child poverty.