Summit tackles Scotland’s poverty premium

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Scottish Parliament event will explore how to improve financial support services in Scotland's poorest communities

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12th December 2017 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

Politicians, academics and social financial bodies have met in a bid to find a solution to Scotland’s poverty premium.

Scots living in poverty struggle to access bank accounts, overdrafts and affordable lending the event run by the Community Investment Coalition and Social Investment Scotland heard.

With an estimated 940,000 households in Scotland experiencing relative poverty, rising debt levels, interest rate rises and inflation are pushing many people into financial exclusion.

The event shone a spotlight on what action the Scottish Parliament can take to tackle financial exclusion in local communities.

Scottish Labour’s spokesperson for economy, jobs and fair work Jackie Baillie hosted the event at the Scottish Parliament.

She said: “Real wages are falling in Scotland as inflation continues to rise and too many families are being pushed into debt to make ends meet. At the same time we are facing a poverty premium where people in our most deprived communities are forced to pay more for a whole range of financial services. In turn, this can lead people into even deeper levels of debt.

“We urgently need to develop a twin strategy to lift wages and boost incomes in Scotland as well as increase access to responsible lenders and money advice services. Financial exclusion is a major social justice issue.”

Community Investment Coalition represents community financial service providers, such as Community Development Finance Institutions, Credit Unions and Social Finance Funds.

It argues more action is needed to support these organisations to expand and develop so they can meet the needs of families and businesses across the UK.

Jennifer Tankard, chief executive of Responsible Finance and director of the Community Investment Coalition, said: “Successful policy interventions to help tackle this need to be based on a good understanding of which communities are under greatest strain and so in greatest need of access to the services that responsible finance providers offer. We are delighted to bring this high-level group of influential politicians, academics and other experts together to explore what further action the Scottish Parliament can take to tackle financial exclusion.”

Speakers at the event include Keith Brown MSP, cabinet secretary for economy, jobs and fair work and Tom Mason MSP, Conservative Party spokesperson for financial sustainability, together with academic and policy experts.

Brown said: “Financial inclusion for all is a key element of our social justice agenda which is why the Scottish Government is working with the responsible finance sector to make this a reality.

“There are a number of organisations, including credit unions and community development finance initiatives, doing fantastic work across Scotland to promote and support the spread of accessible banking and credit for our most disadvantaged individuals and communities.

In light of the disappointing news of planned bank branch closures from across the banking sector, these organisations will play an important role in providing alternative banking and credit services for communities across the country.

“However, there is more to be done to build on this good work and ensure that a choice of ethical and affordable financial products and services are open to all. This event provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the challenges and opportunities around making this a reality.”

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