Over 200,000 Scots children living in relative poverty

New figures which reveal 210,000 children are living in relative poverty in Scotland after housing costs have been paid, have been condemned as ‘unacceptable’ by Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil.

The latest Poverty in Scotland statistics showed that, after housing costs, 22 per cent of children in Scotland were faced with relative poverty in 2013/14.

Before housing costs, child poverty fell to 14 per cent in 2013/14, a total of 140,000 children. But there was no change in child poverty rates after housing costs, leaving one in five children still in poverty.

A household is described as living in relative poverty when its income is below 60 per cent of the UK median income.

The report also indicates that, after housing costs, 140,000 children were living in combined low income and material deprivation in that period, which was 20,000 more than the previous year.

While the overall number of people living in relative poverty after housing costs fell by 60,000, the statistics show 940,000 people were still living in relative poverty in 2013/14.

In 2013/14 income in Scotland increased, as a result of rising employment levels and people working more hours. Although, despite this rise, after housing costs were taken into account child poverty rates did not fall and material deprivation increased.

Across the UK, relative poverty before and after housing costs were unchanged from the previous year. And while child poverty in the UK before housing costs was unchanged, compared with a decrease in Scotland, child poverty after housing costs in the UK increased one percentage point to 28 per cent.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said: “These unacceptable levels of child poverty in Scotland show the shocking reality of the UK Government’s austerity agenda.

“Westminster’s approach of slashing budgets is having a damaging impact in Scotland with 210,000 children now living in relative poverty.

“While these figures are inexcusable, I dread to think how many more people will be pushed into distress and despair as a direct result of the UK Government’s proposed £12 billion cuts to the welfare budget.

“The report shows that while incomes have increased, changes to living standards have not improved for many families after housing costs are accounted for.

“The UK Government should call a halt to future cuts which will put more children into poverty.

“In 2013/14 350,000 families in Scotland relied on tax credits to boost their incomes with 500,000 children benefitting from this support. It is ludicrous for the UK Government to consider cutting this lifeline for thousands of families and will have a devastating impact on children.

“Despite challenges from Westminster we are tackling poverty head on and this week we appointed our first Independent Adviser on Poverty and Inequality who will be looking at what more we can do to address inequalities.

“Our £296 million investment in welfare mitigation measures, extension to childcare and our work to encourage employers to pay the Living Wage, is helping to increase income levels in Scotland.

“We have also launched a national discussion, calling on people with direct experience of poverty and exclusion to put forward their views on making a fairer and more equal Scotland.”

A 20 page easy-read version of the statistical report will also be issued in partnership with the Poverty Truth Commission. This includes quotes from people in poverty – to give the numbers meaning, and to highlight that poverty is about more than money.

Poverty Truth Commission co-ordinator Elaine Downie explained: “Too often people living in poverty are viewed as a problem or a series of problems – they are labelled as ‘Scroungers’, ‘Benefits Cheats’, ‘Undeserving’ – people to be pitied or people to be blamed.

“At the Poverty Truth Commission we know that the opposite is true. People living in poverty are first and foremost people. People who may have been sanctioned, people on the minimum wage who may have to rely on food banks at the end of the month, people who may have to struggle every single day – and people who understand their situation better than anyone else on the outside looking in. Stigma reinforces the idea that those living in poverty are always in need of help. This is both obstructive and untrue. Those experiencing poverty face countless barriers to improving their own situation, yet they possess the resilience, determination and capability to do so.

“The Poverty Truth Commission welcomed the opportunity to work with the Scottish Government on the report as we know the importance of seeing the stories behind the statistics. The importance of remembering that we are talking about people, not just numbers. And the importance of remembering that each of those numbers represents a person – a person with a name.”