In Scotland, 34% of families with a baby under one are living in poverty. That’s more than a third.

The first year of life is a time when development is vast, and babies are taking in the world around them; making sense of their surroundings and developing into the person they will become. But this is also the time when the harms of poverty are most acute.

Despite parents’ best efforts, poverty can act to prevent babies getting the social interaction and material goods they need to reach their full potential. You can’t get this precious time back or reverse the long-lasting consequences caused by poverty. And no child, or family, deserves this. That’s why our briefing, Better for Babies, highlights that supporting families, and getting it right in the first year, is so crucial. Ultimately, if we cannot protect our smallest and most vulnerable children from poverty, something seriously needs to change in our society.

We know that the systems that are supposed to help families are not working hard enough. Many families we support face low income, an inability to work and support themselves, and a lack of wider financial, practical, and emotional support. These circumstances are in direct conflict with costs attached to being a parent such as the inflated cost of childcare, high cost of essentials and low maternity pay. All this is on  top of grappling with the ongoing cost of living crisis.

It’s right, then, that the Scottish Government considers families with a baby under one as a priority group in iys efforts to meet the 2030 child poverty targets. We also welcome the policy measures that have been introduced which show an acknowledgement of how vitally important the early years are, such as policies to increase family incomes through Best Start Grants and Best Start Foods, the Scottish Child Payment; and help to reduce essential costs. In the most recent Programme for Government the First Minister put child poverty at the top of the agenda. But all of this is simply not enough to reduce poverty rates for babies.

In our briefing, we are calling on Scottish Government to:

• Work towards a minimum income guarantee for families with babies (and young children);

• Ensure families can make the best choices to enable them to balance employment with providing care for their baby;

• Progress action on joining up services that combine financial support with practical and emotional family support that meets the need of all family types.

If the Scottish Government wants to truly fulfill its ambition of Scotland being the best place in the world for a child to grow up, this must start with ensuring every baby has the best start in life, and this means being free from the harmful impacts of poverty.

It’s crucial that we make sure all babies develop the right building blocks for a happy, healthy life; it’s time to do better for babies.

Suzi Murning is Policy and Public Affairs Adviser, Save the Children Scotland