Negative and discriminatory attitudes towards people living in poverty blight lives of people across Scotland
Charities have welcomed a call for evidence on the impact of poverty-related stigma following warnings about the effects from politicians in Holyrood.
The Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group (CPG) on Poverty, which brings together MSPs from all parties with organisations working to tackle poverty in Scotland, has issued the call as part of its new inquiry into the causes, impacts of and solutions to poverty-related stigma.
The move comes after MSPs were told by experts that negative and discriminatory attitudes towards people living in poverty are continuing to blight the lives of people across Scotland.
At an evidence session held on Tuesday as part of the inquiry, MSPs heard evidence from Professor Imogen Tyler of Lancaster University, Newcastle University’s Professor Tracy Shildrick and Dr Greig Inglis of University of the West of Scotland.
The three academics, all of whom specialise in the links between stigma and poverty, told the inquiry that negative experiences of public services, including judgemental attitudes from staff, can entrench feelings of stigma and shame.
Stigma is created by a combination of factors, including media depictions of poverty and portrayals of people on low incomes as “undeserving” of support, and is directly linked to poorer mental health and lower levels of wellbeing, they warned.
The trio said the key to tackling stigma is to involve people with experience of poverty in the design of services, particularly the social security system.
The move has been welcomed by charities working with those in poverty.
Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “Too many people living on low incomes across Scotland face challenges and barriers because of the stigma associated with poverty. This can impact on the kind of support people are able to access, the treatment by public services, the media and the wider public, and most importantly on individual mental health and wellbeing.
“The Cross-Party Group (CPG) on Poverty’s new inquiry offers the opportunity to explore some of the drivers of poverty-related stigma as well as, importantly, what the solutions are. Critical to the success of the inquiry will be the involvement of people with experience of poverty, who will help shape the inquiry’s findings and key recommendations.”
MSPs are now asking for people and organisations from across the country to feed in their experiences and perspectives of poverty-related stigma, to help inform and shape their final report, which is due to be published in May.
As well as the call for written evidence, the group will also be holding further evidence sessions with people working in the media, as well as with people who have experience of poverty.
Pam Duncan-Glancy MSP, deputy convenor of the CPG on Poverty, said: “Stigma is not only unfair and causes real pain for people, it stops people accessing the essential support they need. That traps people in poverty.
“People in Scotland living in poverty need support and action, not blame and suspicion. They have seen far too little support for far too long.
“If we’re to reduce poverty in Scotland, we have to end the stigma of it, and take down all barriers to getting support.
“I am pleased the Cross Party Group on Poverty has created an opportunity to dig deeper on this. This will give us a clearer idea of how to break down barriers - and empower people to speak up and reach out when they require support.”