NORTH Ayrshire Council has approved a new action plan to tackle child poverty, which has risen faster in the area than throughout Scotland as a whole.

Earlier this month, research released by the End Child Poverty Coalition covering 2020/21 showed North Ayrshire and Glasgow City have the highest percentages of children in poverty across Scotland’s local authorities, at 24.7% and 29.4% respectively.

The new Child Poverty Action Plan has been developed by the council’s Community Planning Partnership (CPP), and will utilise a multi-agency approach in partnership with communities, the private and the third sector.

The council’s cabinet has also agreed to set up a Tackling Child Poverty Board, chaired by Councillor Marie Burns, leader of North Ayrshire’s minority SNP administration.

The remit of the board – which will be informed by the Scottish Government’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan – will be to monitor and deliver a strategy for tackling the root causes of child poverty, and advise the council and its partners on how to best employ their resources and economic levels to help local residents achieve financial independence and escape poverty.

The cabinet also agreed to put North Ayrshire forward as a Pathfinder local authority to aid in the Scottish Government’s ongoing “Best Start, Bright Futures” initiative, which if successful, could see the area benefit from a share of the government’s £5 million Tackling Child Poverty Fund.

Councillor Burns commented: “Tackling deeply ingrained poverty, made worse by the current cost-of-living crisis, must be a priority for the council.

“We already have a range of measures to support struggling families including, for example, food provision, financial advice and an ongoing £500,000 investment to support families with reducing the cost of the school day. These existing measures will be carried forward in the new action plan.

"We also need to look at longer-term, sustainable approaches including our commitment to build 1575 energy-efficient homes to help tackle the threat of fuel poverty. In the short term, the council has agreed a £1.7 million pounds fund to provide energy advice and grants to support making existing homes more energy efficient.

“The board will also be working on how best to support people trying to get back into work. An example of this is the fund recently agreed by Cabinet to provide temporary travel passes for residents as part of a package of employability support.”

Burns added: “In taking this work forward, we intend to work closely with our communities to drive immediate and positive change and to challenge poverty across our six localities to help struggling families and to give our children and young people the best possible start in life.”

The End Child Poverty Coalition – comprised of groups including Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Save the Children, and Poverty Alliance – this month warned that child poverty remains “stubbornly” high in Scotland, with more than one in five children across the country living in poverty despite increases in Universal Credit.

Although Scotland has lower rates of child poverty than England and Wales, the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act requires the Scottish Government to ensure that less than 18% of children are living in poverty by 2023/24.

While the campaign group praised the Scottish Child Payment’s increase to £25 for all eligible under-16s by the end of the year, the campaign group has advocated that bridging payments paid in October and December be doubled.

Ed Pybus of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland commented: “Progress is being made, but as low-income families struggling to cope with spiralling prices know all too well, there is no room for complacency, and we need every level of government to do its best to meet Scotland’s child poverty targets.”