New study reveals skyrocketing housing costs, in-work poverty and the cost of the UK social security freeze
SCOTLAND’S ACHIEVEMENTS COMBATING POVERTY are under threat by multiple escalating factors which should be addressed in the Scottish Government’s upcoming draft Budget, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has argued in light of its new ‘Poverty in Scotland 2017’ report.
The social policy charity’s latest study has found that poverty in Scotland remains lower than in England and Wales and is roughly equivalent with that of Northern Ireland, and that falls in poverty among pensioners and families with children have been more sustained than elsewhere in the UK.
However, this record is now threatened by soaring housing costs, rising levels of in-work poverty and substandard housing.
READ MORE: “Damning” findings on causes of poverty shows the Scottish Parliament “has failed the poorest Scots on housing,”
The report shows that 37 per cent – more than a third – of the poorest fifth of the population spend more than a third of their income on housing, compared to 24 per cent in 1997/97.
The report also reveals a rise in in-work poverty, with 57 per cent of working age adults in poverty living in families where at least one adult is in work. Additionally, one in four part-working families – where one adult is in work and one is not – are now in poverty.
“The rising cost of housing and the challenge of low-pay and in-work poverty – as well as the impact of UK social security decisions – mean the country’s progress is in peril.” Joseph Rowntree Foundation chief executive Campbell Robb
The report further details that Scots on low incomes are more likely to live in substandard housing, given that one in four homes in Scotland do not meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard. Half the homes in the private rented sector do not meet this standard, and 51 per cent of the poorest in Scotland live in such housing, compared to 32 per cent of the richest. This gap increased from eight percentage points in 2008 to nineteen in 2015.
Commenting on the report’s findings, Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Scotland has a proud record in reducing poverty over the last 20 years, with significant falls in pensioner and child poverty. It has meant thousands of families across the country have enjoyed better living standards, financial security and better prospects.
“But Scotland stands at a turning point as the challenge facing families on low incomes changes. The rising cost of housing and the challenge of low-pay and in-work poverty – as well as the impact of UK social security decisions – mean the country’s progress is in peril.
“The upcoming Budget provides a chance to tackle the long-term drivers of poverty and fix the foundations for the next generation of families.” Joseph Rowntree Foundation chief executive Campbell Robb
“Scotland’s record shows progress can be made with sustained effort, but these findings highlight that these gains are fragile and need to be protected. The upcoming Budget provides a chance to tackle the long-term drivers of poverty and fix the foundations for the next generation of families.”
The JRF has recommended that City-Region and Growth Deals be used to help low-paid workers progress into higher-paying jobs via an Advancement Service; a boost to the Scottish Government’s rolling loans fund, so private landlords could make improvements such as increasing energy efficiency in their properties; and a top-up by the Scottish Government to such UK payments as child tax credit and Universal Credit, to ease financial pressures on families with children.
Ben Wray, head of policy at CommonSpace’s associated think tank Common Weal, also responded to the report’s findings, arguing that the Scottish Government should “stop subsidising property developers to build for rent and instead expand investment in public housing; get rid of the council tax and introduce a property/land tax that acts as a disincentive on investment in property for speculation and reduces land values; and set-up a proper system of rent controls which ensures the cost of rents are affordable for everyone”.
Picture courtesy of TED Conference
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