Is 2017 the year Scotland will make poverty history?

Glasgow poverty web

New powers can create meaningful changes for low income Scots in 2017 campaigners say 

30th December 2016 by Robert Armour 1 Comment

Poverty campaigners are calling on the Scottish Government to use its newly devolved powers to make 2017 a positive year for low income Scots.   

With new powers over taxation and social security, ant-poverty campaigners say the new year has the potential to counteract years of austerity

The Poverty Alliance said there is now a clear drive to do more about poverty in Scotland and that it was now time to be ambitious. 

In 2017 legislation will be brought forward to create a new Child Poverty Act, a social security bill will be launched, a new Poverty and Inequality Commission will be established and the socio-economic duty will be implemented.

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “As the Poverty Alliance enters its 25th year, we have time to reflect on what we have achieved to date and what still needs to be done.

“The levels of poverty that still exist in Scotland are unacceptable. With more than 900,000 people living in poverty, and over half of them in working households, something needs to change."

He added: “We believe the new powers coming to Scotland provide the perfect opportunity to make a real difference in the fight against poverty.

“We are calling on the Scottish Government to use these powers to top up child benefits and means tested benefits for working age adults.

“While poverty is about more than money, it is ultimately putting money into people’s pockets that makes the most difference.

“We know that poverty is not inevitable so we should not accept it. Let’s make 2017 the year that we don’t.” 

Nuala Watt, a member of the Poverty Alliance’s Community Activist Group who has experience of using the social security system as a disabled person, spoke about what she thought the priorities for tackling poverty in the year ahead.

She said: “In 2017, we must continue working towards the improvement of social conditions on a European scale. Brexit has shown that in many ways we have lost our solidarity and we need to get this back if we are to tackle poverty. 

“At UK level, there is a need to continue to challenge cuts to social security and the use of sanctions. We should also advocate for free government helplines. The absurdly high cost of phoning the Department for Work and Pensions exacerbates poverty. Non-premium numbers could change this.

“In Scotland, we have a chance to re-think our approach to social security, and the Scottish Government have committed to designing a system based on dignity and respect.

“These values must be made meaningful. Too often interactions with the current social security system are needlessly complicated and often start from the position that people are trying to cheat the system.

“I hope that 2017 will be the year that public attitudes shift towards those reliant on social security, and that people recognise that social security is an investment in us all.”

23rd February 2017 by Ian

The assertion that DWP uses premium rate numbers is false. DWP changed theor premium rate 0845 numbers over to inclusive 0345 numbers on 17 March 2014.Calls to 03 numbers count towards inclusive allowances on landlines and on mobiles, on the same basis as calls to 01 and 02 numbers. This applies on all phones, including those on pay-as-you-go tariffs. Only if the caller exceeds the allowance, or chose to have no allowance, will the call be charged at a per-minute rate.Those who make more than a few minutes of calls per month will find a deal with an inclusive allowance works out far cheaper. Landline providers offer unlimited anytime calls for around £8 per month otherwise calls are charged at around 20p per call plus around 12p per minute. If you make more than 15 minutes of calls per week, the anytime inclusive deal works out cheaper.On mobile phones, the contrast is even more clear. For example, at 55p per minute a £5 top-up will last just 9 minutes but of you go for an inclusive pay-as-you-go call bundle, £5 can get 200 minutes and 300 texts and £10 can get 600 minutes and 1000 texts. Anyone choosing to pay a per-minute rate such that one hour of calls costs £33 has clearly chosen the wrong deal. Most mobile providers offer bundles with unlimited calls and unlimited texts for around £20 per month.It is imperative that essential government helplines where callers are unable to pay for calls on any basis, bundle or otherwise, are made free-to-caller. However, 'free' should not be the universal choice for all helplines. When a call is made to an 080 number the called party has to compensate the caller's phone provider for the fact that the caller paid nothing for the call. In the case of incoming calls from mobiles this fee can be up to around 8p per minute. In the case of incoming calls from BT payphones this fee is around 80p per minute.Changing all government helplines to freephone 080 numbers would mean the government pays tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of pounds per month to landline and mobile phone companies for calls which they currently carry (to 03 numbers) without levying a per-minute charge either on the caller or on the called party.For those people who chose not to have an inexpensive call bundle and who instead chose to pay a high per-minute rate for calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers, changing government helplines over to 080 numbers will do nothing to rescue the caller from the fact they are paying too much for calls to family and friends, retailers and traders, banks and insurers, doctors and dentists, and all of their other day-to-day calls.More education is needed to raise awareness of inclusive call plans covering calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers and in many cases mobile numbers starting 071-075 and 077-079.