SCOTLAND was blighted by poverty even before the pandemic, and, unless the . Scottish government takes urgent action, it will significantly miss child-poverty targets, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) warns. “Stop walking and start running,” it tells the Scottish government.
The JRF report Poverty in Scotland 2021 was published this week. It identifies the lack of an adequate social-security system, and difficulty in gaining work that provides enough income, as the biggest areas for immediate action. One in four children are living in poverty, and the biggest risk factor is being in a workless household.
The respondents were members of the End Poverty Scotland Group, who were in paid work, studying, and/or volunteering, and who each had personal experience of living on a low income.
The human cost of poverty is described as “shocking”: people in the most deprived communities are 18 times more likely to have a drug-related death, and four times more likely to have an alcohol-related death. The difference in “healthy life expectancy” for men in the most deprived areas is 25 fewer years in good health than men in the least deprived areas, the report says. For women, the figure is 21.
Poverty in Scotland has been increasing since about 2010-13, and deep poverty has reached almost the same level as 20 years ago. “Shockingly, the poverty rate for people in minority ethnic families is more than double that of people in white families,” the report says. Other groups identified at greatest risk include single parent families and renters.
Parties across the political spectrum in the Scottish Parliament set legal targets in 2017, notably to have less than ten per cent of children living in relative poverty after housing costs by 2030/31. The interim target of fewer than 18 per cent of children in 2024 is forecast to be significantly missed.
The Scottish government is called on to double the child payment and increase the scale and pace of programmes to help priority-group families. The UK Government must stop the cuts to Universal and Working Tax Credits, reverse the general inadequacy of social security, and bring forward an employment Bill that attacks the root causes of in-work poverty, the report says.
Download the report here