Charities Say Executive Failing To Help The Poor

A new report, backed by a coalition of charities, has said Government efforts to relieve poverty have failed since devolution. The report, Voices Of People Experiencing Poverty in Scotland, calls on the Scottish Executive and Westminster to do more to tackle low pay and poverty – and allow asylum seekers the right to work.

It was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and backed by 20 Scottish charities, including Poverty Alliance, Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office, Save the Children, Citizens Advice Scotland, Oxfam UK Poverty Programme, Shelter Scotland and Scottish Refugee Council.

The vast majority of people approached for the study said that their circumstances had not changed since 1999, when the Scottish Parliament was established.

Asylum seekers, in particular, felt disenfranchised from society because they are barred from taking employment while awaiting the outcome of applications to stay in the country.

The report says the Executive concentrates on employment as a key route out of poverty, instead of ensuring workers are well paid, and should consider whether the national minimum wage is suitable for Scotland. The study also calls for regulation over advertisements for credit from debt managers.

In 2005, 900,000 people in Scotland were living on a low income, some 18% of the population, and 250,000 of those were children. Poverty was measured as those families below 60% of the median income, estimated to be £268 a week after housing costs for a couple with two children or £100 a week after housing costs for a single person.

The report says: “Quantitative research shows poverty rates for some groups have fallen significantly in recent years, most notably for families with children and for elderly people. Despite this, almost all participants in this research found it difficult to identify a general sense of improvement in their communities or in their own circumstances.

A Scottish Executive spokesman said: “We have already exceeded our first target to reduce child poverty by a quarter by 2004-05, which proves we are on target to meet the key pledge of eradicating it by 2020.”