Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion in Scotland 2015
This study is the seventh in a series of reports monitoring poverty and social exclusion in Scotland since 2002. The analysis combines evidence from official statistics with supporting information about a number of anti-poverty actions and initiatives.
- The poverty rate for children and pensioners has fallen from 33 per cent for both groups in 1996/97 to 22 per cent and 11 per cent respectively in 2012/13. Over the same period, working-age poverty has risen from 19 per cent to 21 per cent.
- Among working-age adults, there has been a rise in the number in poverty among the under-30s by 29,000, and a fall of 67,000 among 30 to 64-year-olds.
- Around one in eight under-25s is now unemployed – at least twice the rate of any other age group.
- Men in Scotland have a lower life expectancy than men in England at all levels of deprivation, but the difference is greatest between the most deprived areas.
- Despite progress in raising attainment among S4 pupils (children aged 15-16) at all levels of deprivation, gaps in attainment are only closing slowly.
- Since 2010, there has been a large rise in the number of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants referred for a sanction. The monthly rate peaked at 16 per cent of all claimants in 2013.
- On average, one in six to seven jobseekers in Clackmannanshire, Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen and Angus are referred for a sanction each month, around twice as many as in North Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire and East Ayrshire.
- Employees with higher qualifications are almost twice as likely to receive in-work training as those with lower qualifications.
- Over the last ten years, the number of people in poverty in the social rented sector has come down sharply whereas the number in the private rented sector has risen sharply. The rise – but not the fall – is concentrated among people of working-age.
Challenges outlined by the report
Since 2010, ‘mitigating the effects of welfare reform’ has been a prominent idea in Scotland. The use of discretionary housing payment to offset the under-occupancy penalty, the Council Tax reduction scheme and the Scottish Welfare Fund answer some of these reforms directly. Initiatives taken within the NHS, by housing providers and by business answer it indirectly. But this study outlines significant remaining challenges. The greatest overarching challenge is to turn words into deeds on a big enough scale.
- In-work poverty. The Living Wage is only one part of the answer to in-work poverty and the challenge is to identify others including, for example, improved opportunities for in-work training for the lowest paid and the least qualified. Individual employers alone cannot provide the whole answer.
- The changing face of poverty. Younger adults, especially those who are working and/or renting from a private landlord, are more likely than in the past to be in poverty. The challenge is to meet their needs, especially around housing, and to find a language for doing so.
- Educational inequalities. The challenge is to bring education further into the debate on poverty, recognising that it is about more than just academic qualifications.
- The social disadvantage of disability. The challenge is to address this disadvantage, one face of which is shown by statistics on disadvantage in work. It is underscored by the much higher incidence of poverty among disabled people and their families.
- Sanctions. For as long as the system is administered as it now is, with the number of referrals and sanctions much greater than in the past, the challenge is to ensure greater access to hardship payments, with the Scottish Welfare Fund remaining a source of support for Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance claimants in crisis.