Scottish Government pulls out of UK Commission on Social Mobility

14 Sep 15

The Scottish Government has quit the UK-wide Commission on Social Mobility and Child Poverty in protest at plans by UK ministers to exclude the children of in-work households from their definition of child poverty.

Alex Neil, the Scottish cabinet secretary for social justice, said this change would only hide the problem of child poverty and will do nothing to address it.

“The Scottish Government refuses to cut loose the 120,000 children [in Scotland] whose parents are working on low incomes and struggling to pay their bills,” Neil added. “We want to tackle child poverty not sweep it under the carpet.”

In a letter to Westminster work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, Neil also set out opposition to measures in the government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill. In particular, he highlighted concerns about the abandonment of statutory targets to reduce the number of children living in poverty, and its consequent refocusing of remedial effort on “worklessness” and “educational attainment”.

Neil called on Duncan Smith to repeal the sections of the 2010 Child Poverty Act that applied to Scotland so that the Holyrood administration could continue applying its own commitments to fight child poverty. He promised to work with stakeholders to build on the measurement framework already in place north of the border for identifying and tackling child poverty.

“If the UK Government insists on taking this approach then they must repeal Scottish elements of the Bill, as the Scottish Government cannot abide by legislation that fails to show the reality of poverty and ignores the working poor,” Neil’s letter stated. 

“As a result of this the Scottish Government will not be part of the new Social Mobility Commission but we will continue to co-operate with them in the future,” he said. “Developing our own approach will help us to find the most effective ways to address poverty and inequalities and continue our priority of creating a fairer and more equal society.”

Neil’s stance was welcomed by third sector campaigners in Scotland. Satwat Rehman, the director of One Parent Families Scotland, said: “Changes to the poverty measure used by the UK Government indicates it is moving the goalposts –scrapping legally binding targets it is not on course to meet, rather than implementing policies that would tackle the real causes of poverty.”

John Dickie, director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, added: “The UK Government’s abandonment of child poverty is a devastating blow to efforts to ensure that all our children grow up in families with the resources to give their children the best possible start in life.

“It is now vital that the Scottish Government’s child poverty strategy and ambitions are put on a statutory footing to protect and sustain the progress that has already been made.”

  • Keith Aitken
    Keith Aitken

    covers Scottish affairs for Public Finance from Edinburgh. He was formerly economics editor and chief leader writer on The Scotsman and now has a busy freelance career as a writer, broadcaster and event chair.

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