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Austerity brews up a perfect storm of extreme poverty

This news post is over 9 years old
  1. ​Poverty is the result of political and economic decision making say charities

Half a million Scots are living in extreme or serious poverty – and find themselves in the eye of a “perfect storm” caused by austerity.

Scottish Government figures show that 510,000 people are living in deprivation – 330,000 working age adults, 100,000 children and 80,000 pensioners.

Shelter Scotland says this has been caused by a whirlwind of welfare reforms, low wages, rocketing living costs and job insecurity while the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) said this was the result of deliberate economic and political decision making.

The findings, based on a snapshot from 2012/13, are contained in a new report, called Severe Poverty In Scotland.

A household is defined as living in relative poverty with an income below 60 per cent of the UK median income - severe poverty is defined as living with an income lower than £11,500, or 50 per cent of UK median income, while extreme poverty is defined as lower than £9,200, 40 per cent of UK median income.

People across Scotland are being battered by a perfect storm. For many, the safety and security of home is under threat like never before

Alison Watson, deputy director at Shelter Scotland, said: “People across Scotland are being battered by a perfect storm. For many, the safety and security of home is under threat like never before.

“The high cost of housing is driving many more households into severe or extreme poverty, compounding their hardship. It’s time to put housing at the very heart of the political agenda in Scotland to ensure that everyone has access to a safe, secure and affordable home.

“We need to build at least 10,000 new homes for social rent and look to reform the growing private rented sector if we are to meaningfully tackle Scotland’s housing crisis and begin to address one of the core reasons behind widespread poverty which is bringing misery to thousands of families and individuals across the country.”

John Dickie, director of CPAG Scotland, said: “There is absolutely nothing inevitable about these levels of poverty. They are the result of political and economic decisions to tolerate low pay and insecurity at work and to cut the child benefits and tax credits that families both in and out of work rely on. We need to see politicians and employers at every level make different decisions, prioritise support for families and make work pay.

“The UK government must restore the value of child and family benefits as a matter of urgency and take a far more assertive approach to increasing the national minimum wage. Here in Scotland we need to promote decent pay, act to keep housing costs down and use all the powers at the disposal of local and national government to boost support for families and cut the costs they face.”

Social Justice secretary Alex Neil said: “It’s a disgrace that so many people live in such severe or extreme poverty, but it’s an unfortunate and inevitable result of the UK government’s failed austerity agenda and welfare cuts that are slashing incomes for some of our poorest households.

“With employment increasing and unemployment down, Scotland is outperforming the rest of the UK, yet the statistics show that a job is no longer any guarantee against severe or extreme poverty.

“That’s why we opposed cutting in-work tax credits and why the Scottish Government and its agencies are paying the living wage, encouraging other employers to follow suit.

“We have put tackling poverty and inequality at the heart of government, through policies like the council tax freeze, free prescriptions, expanding childcare provision, while we are mitigating the worst of the welfare cuts, by replacing income lost through the bedroom tax or council tax benefits cuts.

“That action is making a real difference and we will continue to make the argument for a fairer welfare system.”