Loosening the Grip: An Agenda for Action

The Poverty Alliance 


On the first year anniversary of the Child Poverty Act, the Poverty Alliance has launched a new Agenda for Action, which can be read here, setting out some of the decisions we can take in Scotland to help meet Scotland’s ambitious child poverty targets.
The call comes as Professor Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, arrives in Scotland as part of a two-week inquiry into rising levels of poverty across the UK. 
For the first time in decades, poverty is on the increase in Scotland as more people struggle to get by. One million people in Scotland are now living in poverty, including one in four children. More than two thirds of children living in poverty are in families where at least one parent works.
In their Agenda for Action, the Poverty Alliance calls on policy-makers in Scotland to:
·       Ensure that everyone in Scotland is able to access their right to an adequate income, in particular by guaranteeing adequacy within the social security system and introducing a top-up to child benefit
·       Use public services to reduce costs and make all public services work for everyone, in particular by making the transport system work better for people on low incomes and ensuring everyone can afford to heat their homes
·       Challenge  negative or discriminatory attitudes towards people on low incomes, by training all Social Security Scotland staff and elected representatives in poverty awareness and launching a public campaign to change attitudes on poverty
·       Ensure that people on low incomes have their voices heard by involving them in the development of all anti-poverty policy.
Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance said:
“When the Child Poverty Act passed with the unanimous support of all parties in the Scottish Parliament, our political leaders sent a clear signal that in a just and compassionate society it is not acceptable that so many children are living in poverty.
“All levels of government have a responsibility to take action to reverse the rising tide of poverty. With 11 social security benefits now devolved or being devolved, the Scottish Government has a huge opportunity to ensure the support people receive enables everyone to have a decent standard of living, by moving towards meeting the Minimum Income Standard. These standards are based on what members of the public think is the minimum that is required to enable people to live with dignity.
“Increasing the value of the Best Start Grant and Carers Supplement have been welcome first steps. Additional measures are now needed to achieve the Act’s ambitious targets. A £5 top-up to child benefit should be among the Scottish Government’s top priorities for achieving the transformation required.”
Tracy Gilmour, former social worker and mental health officer and founder of the Warrior Mum Project in Kilwinning shared the challenges she faces raising children on a low income:
“I’ve been living on income support since I had to stop working because of my mental health 18 months ago. Living is perhaps a generous way of putting it when every day feels like a struggle for survival.
“The benefits I receive aren’t enough to meet my family’s basic needs and I carry around guilt at not being able to provide them with everything they deserve.
“The pressure and demands of daily life are a constant battle. It’s exhausting having to hide it from my two daughters and to constantly make excuses for why we can’t do things. A simple request for a school trip payment is enough to make me feel like we’re sinking and losing our grip.”
John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said:
“As the Poverty Alliance Agenda for Action makes clear it is vital that swift progress is made to deliver on the Scottish Government’s hugely welcome new income supplement.  An initial supplement must be introduced as quickly as possible, with resources allocated in the forthcoming Scottish Budget to begin delivery in 2019/20. An immediate £5 top up to child benefit could, for example, lift tens of thousands of children out of poverty.
In a week that the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights visits Scotland the Scottish Government’s commitment to the principle that social security is a human right is more important than ever. It is now vital that the detailed regulations that will underpin devolved benefits have clear regard to that principle and to international human rights frameworks.
Every week that passes sees more children pushed into poverty as UK welfare reforms hack away at the value of the vital support that families in and out of work rely on. A step change in the scale of investment here in Scotland is now needed to avert the government’s own horrendous projection of a future where 2 in every 5 children are living in poverty by 2030.”
Poverty Alliance will host a roundtable with the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights and anti-poverty organisations in Glasgow tomorrow.