All party leaders pledge to tackle poverty stigma

Syl leaders 2016 cropped

Pledge to combat stigma of poverty signed by leaders

10th March 2016 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Leading political figures have backed a series of pledges committing to tackle the stigma of poverty ahead of May’s Scottish Parliament elections.

All five leaders of Scotland’s main parties signed the pledges as part of Poverty Alliance’s Stick Your Labels campaign which seeks to change negative attitudes towards people living in poverty. 

Leaders from the SNP, Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party all committed to the pledges.  

The first pledge commits organisations to setting out what they will do to help tackle poverty. The second pledge is at the core of the Stick Your Labels campaign and it commits the parties to not using language which may stigmatise people experiencing poverty.

Finally, the third pledge commits organisations to take meaningful action to tackle stigmatising attitudes within their own organisations. 

The party Leaders join over 25 organisations across Scotland who have showed their support for the campaign. These include local authorities, COSLA, third sector organisations and the Church of Scotland. 

Attitudes towards the welfare state have hardened over the past 30 years - Peter Kelly

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “When we speak to people experiencing poverty, they almost always raise the stigma of living on a low income, and the judgement they can face from others.

“Attitudes towards the welfare state have hardened over the past 30 years, and we have seen an increase in the blaming of individuals for their poverty.

“It is therefore heartening to have all five party leaders in Scotland show their support for the campaign, and to commit to never using stigmatising language.

“The existence of poverty should shame us all, and we all have a role to play in not only tackling poverty but also in combatting the stigma that surrounds it.”

Party leaders say: stick your labels!

Ruth Davidson MSP, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, said: “The fight against poverty takes many forms and I’m happy to support the Stick Your Labels campaign. Negative attitudes towards people in poverty must be challenged and it’s heartening to see so many organisations joining together to do just that. I congratulate the Poverty Alliance on the work they have done since the campaign was first established and look forward to building on this work during the next Scottish Parliament term”. 

Kezia Dugdale MSP, leader of the Scottish Labour Party, said: "I am pleased to commit Labour to the Poverty Alliance's Stick Your Labels pledges. A key part of lifting people out of poverty is the language we all use in political debate. The hundreds of thousands of children in Scotland affected by poverty aren't responsible for their circumstances. In this election everybody must set out the positive steps we will take to give everybody the chance to get on in life, not stigmatise those living in poverty. Tackling poverty must start at the very beginning of a child's life. That's why we would more than double the value of the Sure Start Maternity Grant to £1030 for new mums. The new social security powers mean we can make different choices and don't have to carry on with a failed austerity agenda. Labour will also invest in our nurseries and primary schools to close the gap between rich and poor. For too many young people their ability to get on in life is determined at an early age by how much money their parents earn, rather than their potential, work rate and ambition. That's just not right. By using the powers of the Scottish Parliament we can lift people out of poverty and give everybody the skills and opportunities they need to succeed in life."

Patrick Harvie MSP, co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, said: "Given that Scotland is one of the most unequal countries in Europe, it's disgraceful that the media and right wing politicians still try to convince us that people living in poverty only have themselves to blame. Poverty is caused by a broken and oppressive system, and by changing that system we can achieve a fundamentally more equal society. It's also important to recognise that although wealth inequality is deep and structural, poverty and even destitution could happen to anyone. Family breakdown, mental health problems or other unexpected events can have profound consequences, and can bring their own additional forms of stigma. Holyrood will soon gain responsibility for aspects of the welfare system, and the Scottish Greens are committed to building a modern social security system which restores the principle that everyone’s dignity matters, and abandoning the divisive language of “strivers vs skivers” or “hardworking families" which are so often used to undermine the empathy that a decent society depends upon.”

Willie Rennie MSP, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: “I am backing the Stick Your Labels campaign and will stand to oppose unfair and unjust characterisations of people in poverty.  Our package of measures to tackle poverty will be effective and long term by giving people the tools to escape poverty and protecting those who need help in difficult times. That’s what a caring and compassionate society should be like.”

Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister and Leader of the Scottish National Party, said: “It is not acceptable that so many people in Scotland still live in poverty and tackling poverty remains one of our top priorities. I support the Poverty Alliance’s campaign to end stigma against people experiencing poverty. Every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and these values are at the heart of our approach to new powers over social security. With the delivery of new powers in Scotland, we have a real opportunity to transform the service people receive and to provide the protection and support that individuals need.”