The challenge to end poverty
October 7, 2019 by Aileen Campbell 1 Comment | Category Community and Place, Employability, Equality, Food Poverty, Fuel Poverty, Funeral Poverty, Generational Poverty, Housing, Welfare and Social Security
Tens of thousands of people in Scotland are at risk of being pushed into poverty if there is a ‘no deal’ Brexit. That is the stark analysis I presented to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Thérèse Coffey this week.
I warned her of the danger of pushing a further 130,000 people into poverty if the UK Government continues with a highly disastrous ‘no deal’. Sadly households and families on low incomes will suffer disproportionately.
I have set out a number of actions that the DWP could take, starting with ending the freeze on working age benefits, which is reducing spending in Scotland by up to £300 million per year.
Urgent changes are needed to Universal Credit which is already pushing people into debt and a reliance on foodbanks. They must also scrap the Benefit Cap, an unfair policy that affects a total of more than 3,300 Scottish households, the overwhelming majority of which have children.
It is outrageous that I am having to point out the steps that are needed, but it seems the UK Government are ignoring the risks.
This week, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston said Scotland is “on a very different trajectory than England when it comes to the social protection of its people”. He is right. We are determined to do things differently in Scotland. Our ambition is to end poverty and we’re backing this up with action.
The Scottish Government invested more than £1.4 billion last year to support low income households, including £100 million which we invest each year to mitigate the worst impacts of UK Government welfare cuts.
As we start Challenge Poverty Week, I am determined that we continue to lead the way on tackling poverty. While we continue to mitigate UK Government cuts and austerity, we must also use our powers to build a better, fairer future for Scotland.
In June I announced plans for our new, game-changing £10 weekly Scottish Child Payment. This stands to be one the most progressive policy proposals put forward since devolution.
When fully rolled out, the benefit could help up to 410,000 eligible under 16s and lift 30,000 children out of poverty. The first payments for eligible children under the age of six will reach families by Christmas next year – five months earlier than previously announced.
But we cannot end poverty through social security alone. That is why we invest heavily in affordable housing and I am proud we have delivered over 87,000 affordable homes since 2007. And we are on track to deliver 50,000 in this parliamentary term backed by £3.3 billion of investment. Housing is a key area where we can tackle inequalities. As is childcare.
We are expanding funded Early Learning and Childcare hours to 1,140 from next August for all 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds, saving around £4,500 a year per child for around 80,000 households.
Our massive investment, which will reach nearly £1 billion by 2021-22, has the potential to transform children’s education and give parents more opportunities to enter into work and training. And we are investing in a £22 million package of new support to help parents enter work and to progress through their careers.
For workers, Scotland has the highest rate of people in the UK earning the real Living Wage and we are continuing to make progress on our ambition to make Scotland a Living Wage Nation.
For families struggling to manage their finances we launched the Money Talk team through the Citizens Advice Network in Scotland. So far it’s helped low-income households save over £6 million.
Challenge Poverty Week is a chance for us to highlight the challenges and reality of poverty in Scotland, taking stock of the good work happening across the country and being proud of what we’ve achieved.
But it’s also about recognising we have further to go to deliver on our ambitions.