As a society, we recognise that care leavers have a right to care and love. Yet too many young people leaving care continue to face significant barriers to achieving a successful transition into adulthood that, in turn, make them more vulnerable to poverty.


As such, we look forward to hearing the Scottish Government set out the next steps in the delivery of a new Income Supplement benefit on Wednesday (26 June 2019). The policy is a key plank of their child poverty strategy and is to be delivered by 2022 and targeted at low income families.


Staf is supportive of the stated aim of the benefit – to lift the maximum number of children out of poverty – and echoes the call from 70 charities for it to be delivered as quickly as possible.


We are concerned, however, that the new benefit will not reach all young people leaving care or those that support them. While statistics on income or poverty levels amongst care leavers are not captured, we do know that these young people face a more challenging transition to adulthood.


We also know the impact of poverty on a young person can affect them throughout their lives. As Dr Gabor Mate said at the ACEs to Assets Conference in Glasgow earlier this month: “Poverty should be listed as one of the adverse childhood experiences.”


Equally, tackling poverty amongst care leavers supports them to fulfil their basic human rights. As Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland said today: “Child poverty is the most significant human rights issue facing children in Scotland. Living in poverty affects every aspect of a child's life, including their educational attainment and mental and physical health.”


Yet while care leavers aged 18 to 25 are covered by local Children’s Plans – as they receive a “children’s service” – they are not considered children in terms of the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017. This means that the Income Supplement, as proposed, will not necessarily reach this group of young people or those that may be continuing to care for them up to the age of 21.


The Scottish Government is also considering linking entitlement to Universal Credit for families. If it does so, this could exclude care leavers aged 16 to 18 who are more likely to live independently and be supported by their local authority rather than through DWP benefits.


We, therefore, call on the Scottish Government to the Income Supplement actively seeks to prevent and reduce poverty amongst care leavers.


This should be based on robust evidence so should be informed by new data on income and poverty levels amongst care leavers.


Tackling poverty is central to delivering our vision of a Scotland where the wellbeing and success of young people leaving care is indistinguishable from their peers in the general population. By considering poverty amongst care leavers, we hope the Income Supplement can help us take a step closer to realising this vision.


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