Child poverty falling faster in Scotland than south of Border

CHILD poverty is falling in Scotland and at a faster rate than south of the Border, according to new figures.

A study by the Scottish Government's social research department found the proportion of children living in relative poverty in Scotland fell from 28 per cent in 1998 to 1999, to 21 per cent in 2007 to 2009.

It shows that in the years of devolution Scotland overtook England, with the decline south of the Border much more shallow - from 26 per cent to 22.

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However, after housing costs are taken into account, more Scottish households struggle to make ends meet.

More than one in four Scottish children lived in relative poverty after mortgages and rents had been paid - although this too was down from 31 per cent in 1998 to 1999.

Despite the improvements, the social research department made a number of recommendations to reduce child poverty further, particularly in boosting job opportunities.

It called for funding for work access initiatives, assistance for people moving into self employment and liaising with the private sector to boost jobs further.

The department also said more should be done to help ethnic minorities, agricultural workers, and large families and urged the Scottish Government to lobby for control of social security payments.

Anne Houston, chief executive of Children 1st, said: "While it is encouraging to see the number of children living in poverty in Scotland declining, the number still equates to one in five children.

"This is an unacceptable statistic. As fuel costs and other essential living costs continue to rise, it is essential that the Scottish Government does all it can to support families living in poverty."

The Scottish Government has already asked Professor Susan Deacon, a former Labour health minister, to look into children's quality of life.

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She warned that many children were living in families where "parenting practice has fundamentally broken down".

In March, she highlighted a raft of problems in the wider society, and a culture of fear that surrounds children, which harms their future chances.The Scottish Government said, despite the encouraging findings in its latest report, it recognised that more needs to be done.

A spokesman said: "While findings in this report are encouraging we are not complacent and remain determined to address the root causes of child poverty.

"That's why we launched Scotland's first ever national strategy to tackle child poverty earlier this year, which will see Scotland's poorest families benefit from help to increase their household incomes and improve their children's life chances."

The opposition warned more needs to be done to meet child poverty targets.

Ken MacIntosh, Scottish Labour's education spokesman, said: "It's good to see the difference the previous administration made to young lives, but the current government need to remember the target is to eliminate child poverty by 2020."

Jo Swinson MP, deputy leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, added: "We need to see more preventative action to make sure that every child can have the best start in life, no matter their background."