Devastating report finds young Scots most at risk of poverty

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Unemployment, a lack of social housing and inflation have all conspired to make young Scots most at risk of poverty, a new report finds

26th March 2015 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

A devastating analysis of poverty in Scotland reveals young adults are the most at risk of financial hardship.

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found that one in four of those under the age of 30 is in poverty.

And around one in every eight under-25s is unemployed, twice as high as any other age group.

But 43% of people in poverty live in working households, showing that work by itself is not an adequate route out.

The last 10 years has also seen a shift in housing costs and tenure. The average private renter now spends almost a quarter of their income on housing, compared to 18% of social renters’ income and 11% for owner-occupiers with a mortgage.

Over the same period the proportion of homes in the private rented sector has almost doubled to 15%.

Poverty in Scotland

  • Young adults under 30 are now at a higher risk than any other age group of experiencing poverty in Scotland 
  • Child and pensioner poverty rates have fallen from 33% for both groups in 1996/97 to 22% and 11% respectively in 2012/13
  • 920,000 people in Scotland lived in poverty in  2012/13, 230,000 less than 10 years before
  • The number of people living in poverty in the private rented sector has risen sharply, while falling in  the social sector and among owner-occupiers
  • Life expectancy in Scotland is still lower than in England: men in the poorest parts of Scotland live 3.9 years less than in the poorest parts of England 

Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Falls in child and pensioner poverty over the past decade in Scotland show that poverty can be reduced.

"But sustained action must be taken to stop a lack of high-quality work, and a shortage of affordable homes from trapping a generation of young people in poverty," she said.  

“All of us in government and local government as well as employers, housing providers and the NHS, need a shared focus to alleviate the impacts of poverty across all age groups.”

The Church of Scotland said the report showed there was a worrying level of neglect for the country’s young people.

Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, church and society council convener, said: “Much more must and can be done.

"As a society we are failing too many young people. We are letting down too many people on low pay.

"And the church, along with many others, is calling for a radical overhaul of the current sanctions system which is victimising some of the most vulnerable in our society as well as failing to effectively get people into paid work. 

“Through our association with the Poverty Truth Commission we are clear that the biggest single change that needs to happen is the direct involvement of people experiencing poverty in the efforts to eradicate it.

“The involvement of people who know about poverty from direct experience in the production of this report is therefore to be particularly welcomed.”

To reduce poverty JRF recommends

  • Encouraging employers to pay the living wage, and increasing opportunities for people in low-paid, insecure work to access in-work training
  • Building more genuinely affordable good quality homes in areas accessible to employment opportunities and halting the fall in the proportion of affordable social housing in the overall market
  • Government need to ensure all schools have access to timely attainment data so schools can develop effective approaches to reducing the attainment gap based on data and evidence. 
  • Sanctions should only be used as a last resort after all other means are exhausted. 

Citizens Advice Scotland, said it showed people are still struggling with the impact of the recession.

Keith Dryburgh, CAS policy manager said: “Most of the cases that Scottish CABs deal with are money-related, and many are about people who are living in poverty and unable to heat their homes or put food on the table,” he said.

"We would also agree that the numbers of young people hit by poverty is worryingly high.

"The reasons for this are complex, but there's no doubt that the UK government's austerity regime has hit hardest those who were already struggling to get by, pushing many over the edge and into poverty, while the support structures that are meant to help vulnerable people are not fit for purpose.

The Scottish Government’s social justice secretary Alex Neil said: “Within our current powers, the Scottish Government is making sure everyone gets the best start in life, through supporting families with extra childcare, tackling educational inequality through the £100 million Attainment Scotland Fund and legislating to make councils narrow the attainment gap.

“We also want to see more young people from the most deprived communities go to university by 2020.

“Yet many people with jobs remain in poverty - that’s why well-rewarded, sustainable employment provides the best route out of poverty.

“We pay the Living Wage and we encourage all employers to follow suit.”

JRF is writing the first evidence-based, costed, UK wide anti–poverty strategy for all ages to be published early next year.