Poverty on the rise and could soar in Scotland

Poverty family

Many families in Scotland are struggling and the coronavirus is likely to make things worse, campaigners have warned

27th March 2020 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Poverty on Scotland is on the rise, and could soar as a result of the coronavirus – experts have warned.

Latest figures showed that the amount of young people living in poverty in three out of the last four years grew from 15% to 17%.

Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland: 2016 – 2019, produced by the Scottish Government, showed 19% of people were living in relative poverty after housing costs in 2016-19. Inequality is also a major issue for the nation - the top 10% of the population had 24% more income in 2016-19 than the bottom 40% combined.

Child poverty campaigners have warned the situation is only going to be exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis.

Director of the Poverty Alliance, Peter Kelly said:  "Today’s figures paint a shocking picture of poverty in Scotland, with one in five people living in poverty even before covid-19 hit. The figures also show that one in four children lives in poverty and two thirds of these children live in a household where at least one parent is in work. In the coming months, thousands more risk being plunged into poverty as unemployment rises. In just nine days, the DWP has already reported almost 500,000 new applications for Universal Credit. This is a huge concern when its inbuilt five week delay pulls so many into debt and deeper poverty.

“In our response to the crisis we have seen that our sense of compassion is alive and well as people rush to volunteer, donate, and protect neighbours and loved ones. But the crisis has also exposed the failings in our system of social protection and in our labour market. People have been shocked to learn the paltry sums available as social security payments and statutory sick pay, and the lack of protections available to workers on zero-hour contracts.

“In time this crisis will pass and we will return to normality. But that normality cannot include one in four children growing up in poverty. The UK Government has shown in the last week that it can take action that is just and compassionate. It must now go further in righting the wrong of poverty, by ending the five week for Universal Credit, increasing the value of social security payments including Child Benefit, ending the benefit cap and extending employment retention to the self-employed. The Scottish Government must also play its part by using its social security powers to their fullest extent, including by increasing the ambition and reach of the Scottish Child Payment in response to the unfolding crisis."

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said: “The longer children experience poverty the greater the damage to their health, wellbeing and life chances so it is especially worrying to see the increasing number of children living in persistent poverty. At a time of national crisis these are the children already most at risk from further shocks to family income.

“This is stark reminder of how important the hugely welcome new Scottish Child Payment will be, but the scale of the gap between the latest figures and the statutory target to cut child poverty to less than 10% by 2030, will mean far, far more is needed in the months and years ahead. At UK and Scotland level we need to build the social security system, create the labour market and invest in the public services that we know parents need to provide the best possible start in life for their children.

"Unless concerted action is taken now, this week's laid-off workers and their children will be adding to next year's poverty statistics.”

Dickie added that an additional £10 per child being added to child benefit would be the most efficient way to support families through the crisis.

Claire Telfer, of Save the Children, said: “These figures remind us that many families in Scotland were struggling before the coronavirus crisis. We are concerned these numbers could soar further as a result of the coronavirus crisis, plunging families into desperate situations.

“The government has already done a great deal to support households during this difficult time - but more must be done to help some families stay afloat.

“We urge the Scottish Government to use all of its powers to put money directly into the pockets of families. This should include cash payments for free school meals and topping up benefits that support low-income families. If we don’t act now, we risk even more families being locked in poverty.”