Child poverty plan needs more focus on housing
Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Scotland deputy director Callum Chomczuk argues that the housing sector has a critical role to play in ending child poverty and making Scotland a country where everyone has the chance of a decent and secure life.
For the first time in two decades, child poverty is on the increase in Scotland; with 260,000 children among the almost 20% of the population living in relative poverty. CIH Scotland therefore welcomes the Scottish Government’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2018-2022, and supports its efforts to alleviate poverty through a broad range of measures.
We know that poverty levels are fuelled by a number of factors including a lack of secure jobs, childcare, the cost of essential goods, welfare reform, and crucially the housing crisis. As recognised by the First Minister’s independent poverty advisor last year, the lack of affordable housing is one of the major determinants of poverty. If we want every family in every community to escape poverty, then the solution involves increasing the supply of affordable and appropriate housing.
According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the poorest of the Scottish population spend more than a third of their income on housing and the proportion of their income going towards housing costs has increased over the last 20 years. While at the same time over 160,000 people are on housing waiting lists and over 6,500 children were in temporary accommodation last year.
There is, now, recognition of the links between housing and health, employment and attainment. As such, the Scottish Government has made a welcome commitment to the delivery of 50,000 affordable homes over this Parliament.
In addition, the recently-published Tackling Child Poverty Plan calls for work with the social housing sector to drive down costs and keeping rents affordable, as well as considering in the next Parliament what supply will be needed to address child poverty.
However, ending child poverty is about more than increasing affordable supply. It is about building the right types of home and in the right places for Scotland’s children and families.
We must end the experience of children living for prolonged period in temporary accommodation or in overcrowded homes. We must ensure that every child lives in a home that is safe, accessible, warm, dry, structurally sound, quiet, and has adequate space.
Housing needs to be located within easy access to schools and existing networks. Living in an area with the support of extended family and friends nearby could make a significant difference to the life of a child in poverty.
We know that families with disabled children are at higher risk of living in poverty and we also know that there is a lack of appropriate housing for those using wheelchairs, with 17,000 households on a waiting list.
Every family must have the right type of home, in the right location to meet their needs. Otherwise we are at risk of reaching the target, but still falling short.
CIH Scotland welcomes the commitment to 50,000 affordable homes, however, we want the Scottish Government to go further and take a cross-department approach, with every minister supporting the contribution of housing towards lifting children out of poverty.
We need all new and existing homes to be suitable for children and their families. This means having enough homes built to the right size and located in safe, accessible neighbourhoods so that every child has the chance of a decent and secure future.