Drive to close the gap could hit child poverty targets

Councils warn push to improve disadvantaged pupils’ attainment is diverting money from efforts to tackle child poverty

Drive to close the gap could hit child poverty targets

Scottish councils are warning that ambitious targets to tackle child poverty by 2030 risk being missed because of the focus on closing the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils.

Local authority umbrella body Cosla said ring-fenced funding to improve attainment had come at the expense of services that underpin how local authorities tackle the root causes of child poverty.

It added that youth work, family support, and financial advice for families were all at risk as a result of successive decreases to the local government settlement, coupled with mounting limitations on how councils could spend their budgets thanks to an increase in ring-fencing.

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According to Cosla, local government revenue funding dropped in real terms by 7 per cent between 2013-14 and 2019-20 at the same time as the Scottish government’s total revenue funding from Westminster only reduced by 2 per cent.

Meanwhile, Cosla says national policy initiatives like the Scottish government’s attainment challenge now account for 61 per cent of council budgets, as compared with 34 per cent in 2013-14.

To date, the Scottish government has invested about £500 million in its bid to close the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils 

Cosla resources spokesperson Gail Macgregor said: “In supporting families and addressing persistent, intergenerational issues, councils play a unique role at all stages of our lives.

“This is why the risks of not investing in local government are too great. We risk allowing an entire generation of children to grow up in poverty, unable to realise their full potential. Homelessness, persistent unemployment and hunger are all potential social costs as a result of declining budgets.

“Tackling child poverty needs a joined-up, long-term approach across all spheres of government. This will allow local authorities to make valuable local connections across services and focus on early intervention and prevention.”

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