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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Meeting of the Parliament 12 September 2018

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Transvaginal Mesh, Suicide Prevention, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Social Enterprises (Child Poverty)


Contents


Social Enterprises (Child Poverty)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-13701, in the name of Patrick Harvie, on social enterprises working to tackle child poverty. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament congratulates the Glasgow-based social enterprise, ApparelXchange, which aims to promote reuse and recycling of school uniforms to reduce costs to families and prevent the waste of resources; notes that the social enterprise worked with a number of schools to run a successful series of summer pop-up shops across Glasgow offering reused items of school uniform; recognises that many families struggle to meet the costs of school uniforms, which it understands amount to an average of £130 per year; commends the team for diverting over 2,100 garments from disposal in landfill, which it understands made carbon savings equivalent to four return flights from Edinburgh to New York; considers that UK Government welfare policies have increased the number of children living in poverty; values the work done by the Child Poverty Action Group and others on the costs of the school day; considers that child poverty has a deeply damaging effect on young people’s education and life chances, and recognises both the valuable contribution that social enterprises make to tackling child poverty and the need for all levels of government to act positively to eliminate it.

17:04  

Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Green)

I thank colleagues who added their names to the motion and gave the opportunity to debate it. In a quirk of parliamentary timetabling, we might rehearse some of the arguments that we had yesterday in the debate on the social enterprise world forum, which was brought in Government time.

I lodged the motion to do two things: to raise awareness among members of the work that ApparelXchange, which is a smallish social enterprise in the south side of Glasgow, is doing, the wider application that its work might have throughout Scotland and the potential for that to be rolled out; and to place that work in the wider context of the scale and impact of child poverty in Scotland, with which we are all tragically familiar, and discuss the way in which ApparelXchange’s work can engage with that. That is the other purpose of the debate.

ApparelXchange is a relatively new emerging social enterprise that is dedicated to school uniform reuse. It recognises that school uniforms are, in financial and environmental terms, a costly part of school life. A large amount of material is used for a very short time before it ends up in landfill. ApparelXchange seeks ways to reduce those financial and environmental costs and to ensure access to high-quality uniforms for everybody in the schools with which it works. It works in partnership with particular schools, and it is working its way across Glasgow, starting in the south side. It looks to develop services that collect, sort, clean, sell and redistribute school uniforms in a way that ensures access to clothing that is compliant with each individual school’s uniform policy.

Since the start of this year, ApparelXchange has worked with four schools from its base at Shawlands arcade, and it has engaged with parents at parent-teacher evenings, organised collections and begun its series of uniform sales. All of that informs how it will seek to work with more schools in the future.

ApparelXchange has secured support from Firstport and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology’s climate-KIC business accelerator programme. They are investing in testing and developing the concept of ApparelXchange’s work. As I have said, I hope that that will be rolled out more widely.

Since I drafted the motion, some of the statistics have changed. ApparelXchange has now processed nearly 4,000 garments, so we can add one more flight to the carbon-equivalent saving that is mentioned in the motion. Over the summer, it held a number of big sales—it calls them “mega sales”—which attracted families from across the south side, and it has had good feedback on the accessibility of its service, the low price and high quality that it is able to provide, and the knowledge that the service is good in environmental terms. It is also launching its free uniform package to a relatively small number of people at first—to a number of foster children and asylum seeker and refugee families—and it expects demand for that new service to grow. I gather that, this week, it is looking to move to new, larger premises. It is clear that that is an opportunity with potential, and I hope that what ApparelXchange is learning about providing the service could be replicated and reproduced around Scotland.

I referred to our debate yesterday, in which a number of members mentioned projects in which social enterprise has a really good knack of joining up the social, environmental and economic priorities. The response to the financial and environmental costs of school uniforms is only one part of the wider work that needs to go on to address the costs involved in accessing basic education, which should be free to all.

The Child Poverty Action Group and Glasgow City Council, for example, have worked well on the wider issues of the costs of the school day. They have addressed the costs involved not just in clothing but in travel to school, school food, school trips, after-school activities and much more, and the need to identify ways of minimising costs to reduce the pressure on family budgets and ensure that all young people can gain access to the opportunities that education has to offer them, regardless of their family income.

Just this month, CPAG and NHS Health Scotland have launched a toolkit to support action on child poverty in schools.

I want to draw attention to the report of this Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee, which contained some useful recommendations about surveying education authorities to establish the extent of charges for in-school activities and the impact of that on low-income families, and about identifying ways to reduce the expensive or unnecessary parts of school uniforms that should not be required and which place unnecessary cost burdens on families.

The context in which all that sits is, of course, the level of child poverty that exists in our society. As members across the chamber know, CPAG has worked hard to make sure that we are challenging the status quo in that regard. Scotland already has a higher rate of child poverty than much of Europe, and it is likely to rise in coming years. For example, the Institute for Fiscal Studies projects that, unless the United Kingdom Government changes its policies, the UK-wide rate of child poverty could rise to exceed one in three children in the coming years.

People continue to be paid poverty wages, which are still permitted under UK minimum wage laws, and our social security system is inadequate as a safety net against poverty getting worse, with welfare reform acting as a major driver of recent increases in child poverty. We need to consider the devolved aspects of the social security system and the opportunity that that gives us to go further than we have done so far. Members will be aware of the give me five campaign, which is run by a coalition of organisations that campaign on child poverty and are looking for a top-up of £5 a week on child benefit. We believe that the Scottish Government should be using its powers. The most recent legislation on social security gives the Government a duty to consider that action, and we will continue to make the case for the opportunity to use that power to lift 30,000 children out of poverty and to help to increase the income of families across Scotland, including those who are just above the poverty line. The Scottish Government has committed to introducing an income settlement for low-income families, and I know that the give me five campaign is committed to continuing to keep up the pressure to make the case that that income settlement should come in the form of a child benefit top-up.

I will conclude by returning to ApparelXchange and relating the experience of Izzie Eriksen, the founding director. She says:

“The families who’ve used our service over the summer have given us really important feedback. The most important thing is that there’s no one single reason why someone uses a service like ours. For some, it’s because it’s all they can afford. For others, it’s because we’re working in partnership with their school and the support that community aspect. And for some it’s because they recognise the huge levels of waste involved and want to do their bit to benefit the environment.”

I think that social enterprise is a huge opportunity to do much more on the prevention and alleviation of child poverty, and government also needs to play its part at every level—UK, Scottish and local.

I look forward to the debate and to the minister’s comments.

17:13  

Bill Kidd (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)

I thank Patrick Harvie for lodging the motion because it provides us with an opportunity to highlight the work of organisations such as ApparelXchange that operate in constituencies across Scotland to alleviate the burden on low-income families. It also provides us with the opportunity to engage with and examine the fundamental issue of child poverty.

Work that is done by social enterprises and charities is pivotal and changes lives. That work can be amplified by effective and ambitious legislation such as the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017, which was passed in the Scottish Parliament last year.

As Patrick Harvie has highlighted, AppareIXchange works with schools to encourage reuse of clothing. It is based in Glasgow and sells good quality second-hand school uniforms at low cost, with many items costing only £2.50. This innovative idea is not only good for the environment but, crucially, it takes financial pressure off parents as their children start the new school year.

I thank everyone who is involved in ApparelXchange—from the founder, Izzie Erikson to her hard-working colleagues and all the volunteers—for their dedicated work. I am sure that it is their dedication that has turned that start-up into a success so quickly. As stated in the motion, within the first five months—amazingly—uniform re-use saved the equivalent carbon of four return flights from Edinburgh to New York. I am pleased to say that ApparelXchange has also just started working directly with Blairdardie primary school in my Glasgow Anniesland constituency. Furthermore, that enterprise has provided families right across Glasgow with affordable school uniforms.

Transformational change comes when the work that is done by charities and social enterprises is echoed by decisions that are made in Government and in Parliament, when we share the ambition to eradicate inequality. It is our collective duty, here in the chamber, to tackle inequality and to stand up for what is right. If we put effective policy and strong legislation in place, which I believe we are doing, we can amplify that collective effort across the parties, and we can accelerate change.

From the Scottish National Party’s point of view, we have made it clear that our priority is the creation of an equitable society. That means that those who are born into economic disadvantage are provided with support in order rightly to move them on to a level playing field. We believe that reduction of poverty is about upholding human rights. Beyond that, we believe that it makes sense: fewer people living in poverty equates to a better-performing economy and a more prosperous nation.

The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 shows how Scotland is leading the UK in tackling child poverty. In March this year, the Scottish Government released the first delivery plan relating to that legislation. It is called “Every child, every chance—The Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2018-22”. One of the initiatives of the delivery plan is the school clothing grant of £100 per child per year towards school uniform costs, through the new national entitlement scheme.

An additional £1 million of Scottish Government funding to the fair food fund has also been given to tackle food insecurity outside term time. Of that, £150,000 will go to Cash for Kids to help community organisations to support children over the school holidays with activities and access to meals.

Collaboration with social enterprises directly improves the lives of children now. Crucially, what all that means is that children and their futures are—as they should be—being prioritised and protected. Together with social enterprises, we can work to reduce child poverty and give every child every chance for the best start in life.

17:17  

Michelle Ballantyne (South Scotland) (Con)

I begin by joining Patrick Harvie in congratulating his local social enterprise, ApparelXchange, on the work that it does. I would also like to take this opportunity to highlight the work of greening Gorebridge, which is a social enterprise’s project in my region. It collects good quality second-hand school uniform items from local residents and provides an exchange service where people can contribute a small donation, or nothing at all, so long as the clothes go to a good home. Not only does its work reduce carbon, water and waste footprints, it means more money in the pockets of local families. It is absolutely clear that social enterprises play an important role in our communities by helping vulnerable people and inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs. It is vital that we support their development.

I am going to go slightly off-piste now. I have a young 16-year-old by the name of Alex in my office this week on work experience from school. I asked him what he thought about child poverty and he wrote me some words, so I will use what he wrote for my speech today. This is what a 16-year-old boy said.

“This makes me think that it is time to step back and take a look at ourselves in this chamber. For too long, parties have played political football with this issue, cheering on when someone else commits a foul. The nuance and detail from a complex issue has been removed, an issue which cannot be solved through ideological policies or simply increasing spending. We need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture around poverty. Many different factors such as mental health, lack of family structure and falling education standards have been overlooked and left to the side while the situation continues to deteriorate.

Poverty looks like the school pupil who must work a part time job to help provide for his or her family. Poverty looks like the single mum who despite being in work still cannot earn enough to feed her children. Poverty can simply be a lonely pensioner who can only afford to heat one room in his or her house.

All parties have tried to tackle poverty in flawed ways, looking at a narrow view of what poverty is and failing to see that it doesn’t just affect individuals but entire communities. Too often there is a lack of communication between services, with multiple organisations visiting the same family without ever talking to each other or really touching upon what led them there. Managing, or even just containing families without offering them a chance to improve their lives.

Government after government has simply spent more and more money to try and fix child poverty through the welfare state and more money pumped into schools in the hope it will pay off. Yet it hasn’t worked. Child poverty in Scotland has been on the rise since 2007 when 200,000 children where in poverty and that number is expected to reach 400,000 by 2027.

Meanwhile, a stream of legislation has been introduced, at great cost, and with little effect. What these proposals fail to tackle are driving factors of poverty such as a broken family structure. These tax and spend policies have failed us consistently and repeatedly. They have failed to decrease the attainment gap in Scotland. They have failed to give adequate incomes to those in poverty. Even with high employment across the UK, 220,000 Scottish children will not receive nutritious meals this week as their parents don’t have the time or wage to create a proper meal.

A happy home life, working parents, a proper diet and a robust education; these are the things that provide a solid foundation for solving child poverty. This is something that starts in our communities, it starts in the classroom, not in a foodbank. By tackling the drivers of poverty, not the symptoms, we can fix this issue for good. It is time that we as a Parliament do what is right for the people of Scotland and focus instead on long term solutions. By reinforcing the quality of service provided by teachers, employment specialists and mental health professionals, we can prevent the cycle of children growing up hungry in families for good.”

I have not changed a word.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

For the Official Report, I take it that that was all in quotes.

Michelle Ballantyne

Yes, it was.

17:21  

James Kelly (Glasgow) (Lab)

I congratulate Patrick Harvie on securing the debate. As he said, we wait a long time for a debate on social enterprise to come along and then we get two in a row.

In many ways, this is a good debate, because it gives the practical example of a social enterprise working in Glasgow on a particular issue—school uniforms—and links it to tackling child poverty. Following on from yesterday afternoon’s debate, it is a focused and therefore useful debate.

As Patrick Harvie said, the work of ApparelXchange in Shawlands has been excellent and I am glad to hear that more progress has been made since he lodged his motion. The provision of school uniforms is a big issue for low-income families, particularly as some uniforms have a unique design that boosts their cost beyond the figure of £130 that was quoted in the motion. That puts a lot of families in a difficult position, with some going into debt or not being able to afford uniforms at all. The redistribution of school uniforms that is organised by the ApparelXchange social enterprise ensures that people are able to acquire uniforms at a lower cost and, as Patrick Harvie pointed out, it is more environmentally friendly. It is an excellent piece of work.

Patrick Harvie was also right to comment on the work of the Child Poverty Action Group, which has done so much over many years to highlight child poverty issues, including in relation to school uniforms.

That there are more than 200,000 children in Scotland in poverty is a massive issue for the Parliament—we have some important issues to address. The motion is right to look at the effect that the UK Tory Government’s welfare cuts have had, as there is no doubt that those policies have pushed more families into poverty and more kids into child poverty. The policies have had a direct impact on vulnerable families, and politicians and Governments have to take responsibility for that—I say that to members on the Tory benches.

The Scottish Parliament also has responsibility. Patrick Harvie mentioned the give me five campaign, which focused on the recent Scottish budget and increasing child benefit by £5. I am sure that that campaign will feature again in the forthcoming Scottish budget. All arms of Government have the responsibility for taking action to address these issues.

Social enterprises are more ethical and can therefore provide the conditions that help to tackle child poverty. One of the statistics that came out during yesterday’s debate was that 72 per cent of people who are employed in social enterprises are paid the real living wage. That has a big impact, particularly in somewhere such as Glasgow, where 150,000 are not being paid the real living wage. It makes a contribution to addressing child poverty.

Patrick Harvie’s debate has addressed some important issues. It has given us a good practical example, but there are wider political issues that all Parliaments need to address if we want to be serious about tackling child poverty.

17:26  

Angela Constance (Almond Valley) (SNP)

I, too, congratulate Patrick Harvie on securing the debate. It is particularly timely, given that the social enterprise world forum has this week come home to Scotland, giving an opportunity to showcase everything that is marvellous about the social enterprise movement in Scotland in terms of its contribution to our economy and to tackling poverty and inequality.

In yesterday’s Government-led debate, it was also acknowledged that locally led social enterprises can reach and support in a dignified manner families who are struggling. Although social enterprises do not exist to let government at any level off the hook, they bring something to the solution and certainly add more than a bit of magic.

Ultimately, it is core that poverty is about the lack of income and it is a political issue. On a positive note, however, Parliament has the united ambition to end child poverty and we have all signed up to ambitious statutory targets to do so by 2030. The contribution of social enterprise to that is reflected in the child poverty delivery plan that the cabinet secretary will take forward. The challenge for us all will be to ensure that, with the delivery of the plan and future plans, the actions are well evidenced and will have maximum impact in reducing child poverty.

Mr Harvie is also absolutely factually correct to point to the evidence that UK welfare reforms will drive 1 million more children across the UK into poverty by the end of the decade.

For the purpose of today’s debate, I will focus on two social enterprises in my constituency that were started up and are led by fabulous women. Like ApparelXchange, they are helping children to access school uniforms and other provisions and support. I also take this opportunity to invite the new cabinet secretary to my constituency to see for herself the invaluable work that is being done by Kidzeco and the School Bank West Lothian.

The School Bank West Lothian was set up in 2015 and has gone from strength to strength. The aim of the bank is to provide brand new school uniforms to children in families who are experiencing financial hardship, and to supply warm coats, shoes and other equipment that is required for the school day, such as school bags, pencils and pencil cases. There has been a marked rise in the number of referrals from May 2017 to August 2018; it now sits at 428 referrals and the number has increased by more than 50 per cent from last year. It is noticeable that more than 50 per cent of referrals come from families who are in work; they make up the largest single grouping of cases. Alarmingly, only 78 of the 428 referrals were eligible for the school uniform grant from the local council

To its credit, West Lothian Council gives eligible parents £120 in the form of a school uniform grant, which is the highest grant in Scotland. However, it is a one-off yearly payment that is offered to people who are in receipt of particular benefits or whose income does not exceed £16,000. The School Bank West Lothian says that, although the grant is generous, many children grow a lot between August and Christmas and outgrow the school uniform that has been purchased. As Patrick Harvie said, the average cost of a school uniform is in excess of £100.

Kidzeco is also an award-winning social enterprise. It is based in West Lothian, with its shops in Bathgate and Livingston set up for families who want to buy high-quality pre-loved children’s clothes, toys and equipment at an affordable price. Kidzeco is environmentally friendly and reuses, recycles and upcycles more than 5 tonnes of goods that would otherwise be sent to landfill every month. It has set up a range of other community support projects, and its KidzStart bags are nice, hand-crafted bags of everyday essential items for not just newborns but young children. The bags very much complement and build on the baby box.

I want to put on record my thanks and appreciation to Tracy Murdoch, the founder of Kidzeco. I also thank the women who set up the School Bank West Lothian—Kirstin and Moira Shemilt, Rachel Annand, Mairi Harkness, Vera Tens, Rebecca Summers and Collette Moran—for everything that they are doing for West Lothian weans and to help families to put clothes on the backs of their children.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

You will get used to my wavy pen at some point, Ms Constance.

17:31  

Alison Harris (Central Scotland) (Con)

I will look out for your wavy pen, Presiding Officer.

I, too, thank Patrick Harvie for securing this members’ business debate, and I echo the sentiments of members who have spoken in the chamber by congratulating ApparelXchange and the work that it does in Glasgow.

It is a heartening thought now that the new school year is under way, with all the excitement that that brings for pupils, that the summer pop-up shops across Glasgow have made the transition for many families in that area easier and more affordable. The concept of the pop-up shops is an excellent idea on many levels.

As well as the recycling element, which ApparelXchange has described as diverting 2,100 garments—although I understand that that number has increased—from disposal in landfill, there is the unique service that allows parents to access school uniforms. The motion made me think back to my mum telling me about her school days, when my grandmother would make do and mend, and a uniform would last for the whole school year. I am sure that I am not alone in remembering children starting school with skirts that touched their ankles, and it was only when children left school that their blazers fitted. Compare that to today: we live in a much more disposable culture in which there is not the same tendency to make do and mend. We tend to throw away, possibly without appreciating the effect that that has on landfill sites and the associated costs.

It is an excellent idea that parents can access such initiatives that provide school clothing. We accept that uniforms cost money, and the costs are higher for families that have more than one child at school. Putting uniform aside, families also have the additional costs of the obligatory school shoes and school bags that they need to purchase. I would like social enterprises to run those types of pop-up shops in conjunction with schools and private enterprises, in order to help parents and families throughout the whole of Scotland.

Although this members’ business debate offers the chance to highlight the work of social enterprises, the key point remains that as elected representatives we need to ensure that the framework for tackling child poverty is intact. The Scottish Government’s target to reduce the child poverty figure to 10 per cent by 2030 is commendable, and I am pleased that the Parliament is dedicated to an ambitious target.

Poverty and the attainment gap need constant attention, and they need to be tackled with a multifaceted and joined-up approach. As part of that monitoring, in summer 2017 the Scottish ministers tasked a body of persons with providing advice on the reduction of poverty and inequality in Scotland. Subsequently, the Scottish Parliament passed what became the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 to establish the Poverty and Inequality Commission with functions relating to child poverty targets that were described in the bill. That was meant to promote efficiency, effectiveness and economy in the exercise of public functions for the two functions that were to be combined and delivered by a single body.

Article 2(2) of the Public Services Reform (Poverty and Inequality Commission) (Scotland) Order 2018 expands the commission’s functions accordingly. However, as my colleague Adam Tomkins said at stage 3 of the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill,

“we cannot successfully tackle child poverty by thinking only about income: we must also think about education, the employment prospects of families, parents and guardians, and the range of other issues ... That is why we welcome the more broad-brush, holistic and universal approach to an antipoverty strategy”.—[Official Report, 8 November 2017; c 29.]

I acknowledge social enterprise in the wider community and congratulate all those involved on giving their time and for their commitment and efforts. I welcome this members’ business debate and whole-heartedly support all my colleagues in their endeavours to reduce child poverty in Scotland.

17:35  

The Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government (Aileen Campbell)

Like other speakers, I am pleased that, coincidentally, this is the week in which Scotland welcomes 1,400 delegates from around the world to celebrate social enterprises at the 10th anniversary of the social enterprise world forum. It is apt that we recognise the work of ApparelXchange, which—as Patrick Harvie outlined—provides a much-needed service that tackles not only the monetary cost of school uniform but the costs to the environment of additional landfill. As is often the case, a social enterprise joins up the dots on a challenge and generates a solution.

I enjoyed hearing from Angela Constance, who did much work on child poverty and social enterprise, and I would be delighted to go to her constituency and visit Kidzeco. While I have the chance to talk about social enterprise, I will plug one in my constituency. It is perhaps not technically a social enterprise but it does a lot of work similar to that which we have heard about. It is Biggar’s WomanKIND Clydesdale, which does much work to ensure that people who are struggling get the support that they need in the discreet and dignified way that we know needs to happen more often.

As a mother of two wee boys, I know how quickly kids grow out of their school clothes. I have an ever-increasing pile of school jerseys waiting for my youngest son to use when he goes to school. As is often the case, the second sibling does not get their own new stuff; they get the hand-me-downs from their older brother or sister. Not everyone has a bigger brother or sister or is able easily to go and buy or replace school uniforms. I know how lucky I am to be able to do that and ensure that my boys can take full part in the opportunities that are available to them. That chance is not available to every child, which is undoubtedly why we are all speaking passionately about the need to ensure that a fair chance to flourish is given to every child, not just the few who have the means to be able to take it.

That is why Patrick Harvie is right to contextualise the incredible work of ApparelXchange within the wider problem of trying to tackle child poverty. It is the role not only of social enterprises but of Governments to tackle that unfairness. Angela Constance was right to point out that social enterprises should never let Government off the hook. It is right that we do what we can as a Government. That is why, in March this year, we published our first tackling child poverty delivery plan, which sets out the concrete action that we will take up to 2022 to make strong progress towards a better future.

The plan is structured around the three drivers of child poverty reduction: increasing incomes from work and earnings; reducing household costs; and maximising incomes from social security and benefits in kind. It also outlines action to help children who are living in poverty to improve their lives and outcomes and prevent them from becoming the parents of the next generation that grows up in poverty.

Even in the short time since its publication, our plan has started to deliver tangible change. Members will be aware that we have established a new £100 national minimum school clothing grant, beginning in the 2018-19 academic year. We estimate that it will benefit 120,000 families this year alone and it means that, for the first time, all eligible families will have access to the same minimum level of financial support for school clothing regardless of where they live.

Aligned to that, we know that providing uniforms is only one part of the challenge that faces parents in meeting the cost of the school day. We recognise the work of the Child Poverty Action Group and others on voicing the reality that faces parents and children across Scotland. That is why we are supporting them to continue their work with schools and authorities to promote awareness of the financial barriers that pupils from low-income families face at school, the ways in which those barriers prevent full participation and can undermine achievement, and the practical steps that can be taken by schools and others to reduce and remove those barriers.

That is also why, in our programme for government, we have committed an additional £2 million-worth of funding to step up work to tackle food insecurity among children in Scotland. We will work with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, local authorities, the third sector, social enterprises and other stakeholders to build momentum, trial new approaches and develop a clear plan of action for the future to eradicate holiday hunger. Again, working together is often what is necessary to find the solution to some of the problems that are prevalent across the country.

That being said, despite all that work and all that effort from social enterprises and from this Government, supported by the Parliament, Patrick Harvie is right to point out that the UK welfare reforms are pushing more children into poverty. Although I really appreciated Michelle Ballantyne’s intern’s words, which were in many ways correct, I think that Michelle Ballantyne and her party would do well to take a step back themselves and look at just what the impact of the UK welfare cuts has been on families around Scotland.

Annual welfare spending will be cut by almost £4 billion in Scotland by 2020 and the Scottish Government’s projections show that, if we took no action, cuts and on-going austerity could lead to more than one in three children living in poverty in Scotland by 2030. Those statistics—£4 billion being taken out of social security, and also that if the Scottish Government did nothing, one in three children would be living in poverty by 2030—show that no social enterprise could cope with the impact of that. That is why it is important to recognise that it is not just the work of social enterprises to plug that gap; the Scottish Government needs to do what it can with the powers that it has at its disposal to try to mitigate the impact as best it can.

However, the UK Government and Michelle Ballantyne and her party also need to understand the impact that her party’s actions are having on families across the country. If we get that recognition—if we get that realisation—we may start to make that long-term impact on poverty that Michelle Ballantyne’s intern spoke about, which is so necessary for our country.

Yesterday, we spoke about rebalancing the economy and how we can do that through the use of social enterprises; we spoke about the value that we attach to human capacity and creativity and the talents that we have across our country. ApparelXchange shows that creativity and innovation; it shows that ability to reach out and connect with a community to tackle some of the entrenched problems that people are facing and to help them to be resilient enough to cope. If we empower more of our communities to do the same we can have the impact that we want, but everybody needs to play their part.

The Scottish Government is well up for trying to do what it can. It is straining every sinew to make sure that we can say with confidence that every child in this country is able to take up the opportunities that are rightfully theirs and to make sure that this country can be the best place in which to grow up.

However, we need to have the powers to be able to do that or we need at least to have the partnership and the recognition of the UK Government that its welfare reforms are damaging those opportunities for too many children across the country. Until that moment, we will continue to work in partnership with social enterprises, support their innovation and creativity, and ensure that every child has a fair chance to flourish. Again, I congratulate Patrick Harvie on bringing the motion to the chamber for debate.

Meeting closed at 17:43.