Once more Reporting Scotland return to one of their favourite themes – child poverty – but contrary to their own editorial guidelines rely on one source and offer no contextual data to help viewers make sense of it. To make sure that what they offer is more than poverty porn and for the piece to be comprehensive, balanced and fair, would have been mention of these major initiatives, unique to Scotland and designed to moderate the effects of Westminster austerity:
People in crisis made more than 165,000 successful applications to the Scottish Welfare Fund in the last financial year, according to new statistics. The Fund paid out £35 million, including £10.4 million in Crisis Grants to people in financial emergency, such as those struggling on low incomes or benefits – a 14% increase on 2017-18. The money helped people with essentials such as food, heating costs and household items. A further £24.8 million in Community Care Grants helped those facing extreme financial pressures with one-off costs for purchases including beds, washing machines and cookers. The Scottish Welfare Fund is part of an annual package of over £125 million to mitigate against the impact of UK Government welfare cuts. Since its launch in April 2013, the Fund has paid out more than £200 million to support over 336,000 households, with a third of recipients being families with children.
Finally, we heard nothing of those Westminster austerity policies which have created these problems in the first place and which the SNP Government fights to compensate.
While it might be too much to expect greater detail in a bulletin, perhaps a fuller report could cover some of this?
Though today’s report from End Child Poverty shows that Glasgow does have one of the ‘top’ parliamentary constituencies for child poverty, before taking account of housing costs, Scotland has no entries at all when housing costs, as they would be in actuality, are considered:
Why is the situation regarding child poverty a bit better here?
In 2018, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation had this to say about the Scottish Government’s intentions to reduce child poverty:
‘The Scottish Government’s commitment to building a social security system that has dignity and respect at its core and offering routes into employment for those currently excluded from the labour market, could change the family incomes and prospects of thousands of children for the better.’
Differences with non-Scottish Parts 1: Less vulnerable to benefits cuts
‘The IFS found that low-income families in Scotland currently have a higher proportion of their income coming from earnings than low-income families in some (but not all) parts of the UK, so have a lower proportion of income that is vulnerable to benefit cuts compared with some of the hardest-hit regions of the UK.’ (Hood and Waters,2017). 2
Differences with non-Scottish Parts 2: Fewer large families
‘In addition, one key change to UK benefit policy – the two-child limit on tax credits and Universal Credit– will particularly hit families with three or more children born after 6 April 2017. The IFS analysis found that Scotland has proportionally fewer families with three or more children than elsewhere in the UK, and around half the proportions found in Northern Ireland and the West Midlands.’ (Hood and Waters, 2017). 3
Differences with non-Scottish Parts 3 and 4: Higher increases in median income and less relative poverty
Note: The predicted dramatic increases above neglect impact of further welfare devolution to SNP Government:
‘Many of the key drivers of changes in poverty have been felt UK-wide. However, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has supported some research that showed a clear rise in Scottish median incomes relative to the rest of the UK from around 2003/04 and a relatively bigger improvement in the relative poverty rate from 2004/05.’ (Bailey, 2014).
Persistent poverty refers to children who have been living in relative poverty in three out of the last four years – a measure of the number of children who have been in poverty for a prolonged period of time.
Differences with non-Scottish Parts 5 and 6: Stronger decreases in poverty rates and increases in employment
‘The research identified strong decreases in poverty rates for the working-age population compared with the rest of the UK, alongside improving employment rates, especially for families without children. Over the period from 2000/04 to 2008/12, Scotland saw a bigger reduction in out-of-work families compared with the rest of the UK and similar growth as the rest of the UK in ‘intermediate work intensity’ (‘partly working’ families). 8
Differences with non-Scottish Parts 7 and 8: Affordable rents and mortgage costs
‘The analysis also pointed to more affordable rent and mortgage costs relative to income than in England, with social rents being 20–25% lower in Scotland by 2012/13. As a result, poverty after housing costs, compared with before housing costs, rose by a smaller amount than in England.’ 8
SNP Government Initiatives
‘In the coming months, the Scottish Government will launch two strategies that could make a crucial difference for our society. The first is an action plan on halving the disability employment gap, and the second is an action plan on the gender pay gap that is due to be published by the end of the year. This could be transformational for tackling poverty.’ 9
TODAY, we hear of the ongoing commitment of the SNP government, despite the Westminster constraints, to go beyond words and to act:
‘Vulnerable families are set to benefit from new funding to support households in financial hardship. Seven projects aimed at tackling child poverty will receive a total of £450,000. The money is a part of the ‘Every Child, Every Chance’ Innovation Fund, which is jointly supported by the Scottish Government and The Hunter Foundation. The fund aims to support innovative approaches which could have an impact on reducing child poverty by 2030. The projects range from job training and a befriending service, to school-based mentoring and support for lone parents. One of the successful projects is Stepwell, a social business based in Inverclyde, which provides support to people in the local community with health and finance issues as well as training and employment opportunities.’