Employment crisis fuelling dramatic rise in child poverty
A children’s charity has warned that the number of children living in poverty in Scotland is likely to rise dramatically in the coming months. Save the Children said 9% of Scots children were living in severe poverty, where household income was less than half the UK average.
The charity blamed a lack of job opportunities in deprived areas.
It said that in some areas 18 people were chasing every job, three times the rate for similar areas in England.
Most of the 90,000 children identified as being brought up in severe poverty were living in homes where no adult worked.
The findings showed that nearly half of Scotland’s 32 local authorities had a rate of severe child poverty that was above the Scottish average of 9%.
According to the research – compiled in November 2010 – Glasgow had Scotland’s highest proportion of youngsters in severe poverty at 18%, with more than 11 adults chasing every job.
In North Ayrshire, 14% of children were deemed to be living in severe poverty, with more than 20 people applying for each job vacancy.
Clackmannanshire recorded the highest number of job applicants per vacancy, with nearly 25 people going for every job. The area also recorded 14% of children living in severe poverty.
A spokesman for the charity said they feared that government cuts, rising unemployment, VAT increases and inflation would lead to more children being “forced into severe poverty in the coming months without urgent and concerted action”.
Douglas Hamilton, Save the Children’s head in Scotland, said: “Urgent action is required in Scotland’s most deprived areas or we will end up with a lost generation.
“Some of these children will grow up living in households with no working adults – they have never seen a parent or grandparent work and this becomes the norm.”
The charity called on the UK and Scottish governments to introduce an emergency plan of action and for councils to make job creation for parents and fair wages their key aims.
Mr Hamilton added: “Children up and down the country are going to sleep at night in homes with no heating, without eating a proper meal and without proper school uniforms to put on in the morning.
“No child should be born without a chance. It is a national scandal that 90,000 Scottish children are growing up in severe poverty.”
In response to the report, housing and communities minister Alex Neil said the Scottish government was supporting “thousands of families” by freezing council tax, giving free heating help, progressively abolishing prescription charges and extending free school meals.
He added: “We have also implemented a living wage of £7.15 for 200,000 public sector workers, the level proposed by the Living Wage Campaign.”
Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said his party was committed to a living wage to “lift people out of poverty so no one who is working suffers from poverty”.
Of the UK nations, Wales has the highest proportion of children living in severe poverty at 14%, followed by England with 13%, then Scotland and Northern Ireland which have 9% each.
To measure severe poverty, Save the Children combined both income and material deprivation.
According to the charity, this meant a single parent family with one child aged under 14 on an income of less than £7,000 or a couple with two children under 14 on less than £12,500.