Child poverty is the biggest human rights issue facing children and young people in Scotland.
It can severely affect a child’s development and have a negative impact on their health, education, family relationships and aspirations— both in childhood and adult life.
But poverty is widespread in Scotland. In 2015-2016, around 260,000 of children in our country were living in relative poverty after housing costs.
And after the coronavirus pandemic, things are now worse.
Child poverty during coronavirus
In summer 2020 we worked with the Observatory of Children’s Human Rights Scotland to conduct an Independent Children’s Rights Impact Assessment. It looked at how children’s human rights have been affected by coronavirus laws and policies in Scotland.
The Impact Assessment looked at nine different areas, including child poverty. It found that food insecurity was increasing for young people, and that lack of digital access had widened preexisting inequalities.
Our publications on child poverty
What does the UNCRC say about child poverty?
Several articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) are relevant to child poverty.
Article 3 of the UNCRC says that children’s best interests must be a primary consideration in all actions that affect them. This includes taking decisions around welfare and support that significantly impact on families.
Article 6 of the UNCRC says that governments must ensure the survival and development of a child to the maximum possible extent, which often doesn’t happen for children who are in poverty.
Article 12 of the UNCRC says that children and young people’s views should be meaningfully considered on matters that affect them, but this doesn’t tend to happen when policies are made that impact on child poverty. They should be: children and young people are often able to identify new approaches to tackling poverty and suggest ways in which they can best be supported.
Article 24 of the UNCRC says that children and young people have the right to the best health possible. This includes the right to adequate and nutritious food, which can be affected when children and young people experience food insecurity.
Article 26 of the UNCRC says that children and young people’s human right to social security should be fully realised.
Article 27 of the UNCRC says that every child has the right to a standard of living that allows them to develop physically, mentally, spiritually and socially. Poverty can mean children have a standard of living that falls below this threshold.
Special attention for the most vulnerable children
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has stated that while all children living in poverty are vulnerable, some groups are particularly so. These include:
- younger children,
- immigrant children,
- children with disabilities, and
- children living in single-parent households.
Any legislation designed to tackle child poverty in Scotland must therefore pay particular attention to the needs of these groups of children and young people.
What has our office done around child poverty?
The Children’s Future Food Inquiry
Our office sponsored the Children’s Future Food Inquiry, a project by the Food Foundation that aimed to find out the scale of the effect of food insecurity on children and young people in the UK, and which spoke to children and young people to get an idea of what needs to change.