Council chiefs say a step-change in approach will be needed to win the war against North Ayrshire's above average levels of child poverty.

Plans have been agreed by cabinet to establish a Child Poverty Board as it emerged child poverty in North Ayrshire for 2019/20 was at 27.9 percent – 3.6 per cent higher than the national average.

And council leader Marie Burns said a “step-change” was needed in the approach to make the plans work.

The Scottish Government’s second Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan covering 2022-2026 was presented to Parliament in March.

It is projected to deliver the lowest levels of child poverty in Scotland in the last 30 years.

This means that by 2023-24, the year of the Scottish Government interim targets, using current projections, it is anticipated that around 17 per cent of children will live in relative poverty, with more than 60,000 fewer children living in poverty since the Act was passed in 2017.

Key actions for the forthcoming year include:

Establishing a new board in North Ayrshire to tackle child poverty, chaired by the Leader of the Council and supported by various partners.

Supporting parents to progress to or improve employment.

Continuing to support families where disability is a factor through the Equal Programme.

Aligning schools’ PEF resources to interventions which have been effective in reducing the impact of poverty on learning.

 Further supporting activity in relation to care experienced young people.

Reviewing the Health Visitor and Family Nurse pathway and extending the action plan in relation to the national cost of pregnancy report.

Progressing support for New Scots young people and families.

Reviewing financial inclusion services.

Reviewing Out of School Care provision.

Giving additional support to vulnerable families and children impacted by fuel poverty.

Prioritisation of mental health and wellbeing in schools and communities.

Council leader Marie Burns said: “In North Ayrshire we are fully committed to becoming a fairer and more equal society.

“Our shared strategic approaches shape everything we do and we focus our work on tackling inequalities and creating a society where no one lives in poverty, where the economy is inclusive and where everyone has the same life chances to live fulfilling and healthy lives.

“Our ambition is shared by all our Community Planning Partners and is demonstrated in our partnership working and joint commitment to the priorities and actions.

“Our new annual Child Poverty Action Plan is key to our commitment to mitigating the current and lasting impacts of

the pandemic and to demonstrating our determination to reduce child poverty in the longer term in a climate of a cost-of-living crisis with rising food and fuel costs.

“Notable achievements this year include further progress in our cost of the school day work and collaborative approaches to continue to address the poverty related attainment gap. Innovative ways of tackling the rising cost

of home energy for residents have been developed, funded by the council’s investment fund.

“However, the stark reality is that child poverty is still increasing in North Ayrshire. To accomplish any of our aspirations we  need a step-change in how we work  to address it.”

Cabinet approved the North Ayrshire Child Poverty Report 2021-22 and Action Plan 2022-23 and agreed that the report can be submitted to the Scottish

Government and published on the North Ayrshire Community Planning Partnership website.

They also approved the proposal to develop a strategy to tackle child poverty, covering the period 2023-2 and approved the introduction of a “Tackling Child Poverty” Board to agree, monitor and deliver our local strategy in relation to the wide-ranging proposals within the Scottish Government’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, to be chaired by the ,council leader; and granting permission to propose North Ayrshire as a “Pathfinder” local authority in tackling child poverty, as described in the Scottish Government delivery plan.