The Levels Of Poverty In Scotland

Poverty is not only a social barrier, but also a physical barrier in people’s lives. Poverty is one of the main reasons for which society today is divided. This essay will explore whether poverty is a problem in Scotland. I will unveil the levels of Poverty within Scotland referring to Child Poverty, Food Poverty and Period Poverty as well as establishing Government Intervention which has been introduced to reduce poverty in these three areas. Poverty is defined as an individual’s basic needs not being fulfilled and/or they are below the poverty line.

McKendrick (2016) provides a broader definition of what poverty is. “Poverty might be understood as either inadequate outcomes, inadequate opportunities or inadequate resources.”

When investigating Poverty, three definitions of poverty can be established. These are absolute poverty; this type of poverty is when basic needs are not met for a family. Relative poverty; explains that during a certain period necessity cannot be purchased due to financial issues. The last type of poverty is persistent poverty; this is when people are in poverty for 3 out of 4 years. 

One way Poverty in Scotland in an issue is due to the increased rates of child poverty. Between 2014-2015 it was found that 800,000 people were in poverty in Scotland of which 160,000 of these were children. However, when considering housing costs, the figures of poverty increased to 940.000 people with 220,000 of these young people. Furthermore, 1 in 8 children were in poverty leading to inability of purchasing necessities after housing costs were deducted. When analysing these statistics, they suggest that Housing Costs and their high prices are a reason why so many people fall into a poverty. Comparing Poverty in Scotland with the UK, Glasgow Central had the 12th highest rate of child poverty at 45.06%. This suggests that child poverty is an issue in one of Scotland’s major cities. In January 2018 Glasgow City had 37,643 young people in poverty. In 2018, Glasgow populated 181,118 young people aged between 0-24 years old. This meaning that just over 1/5 of Glasgow’s youth population is in poverty. It is sometimes viewed the unemployment of parents could be a reason why a young person is in poverty, however this is false. The increased provision of zero-hour contracts in 2014 found that 6.7 million people were on zero-hour contracts and in work poverty in the UK Joseph Rowntree Foundation. People may adopt this working pattern to maintain family commitments however it causes denial of how many hours a person will work a week leading to uncertainty of income causing financial strain.

However, to tackle child poverty, the Scottish Government has created the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 where a strategy has been developed that by 2030, less than 10% of households should be in relative poverty and less that 5% in absolute or persistent poverty. The Government aim to do this by establishing close partnerships with the Children’s Parliament, publishing annual reports of poverty from local authorities as well as improving educational attainment. Education Secretary John Swinney stated that “Improving the education and life chances of children and young people is the defining mission of this Government. All children and young people, whatever their background or circumstances, deserve the same chance to reach their full potential” This Suggests that adequate education is a key commitment to the Scottish Governments delivery of tackling Child poverty.

The SNP government also launched the “Baby Box” scheme in 2017. A scheme where every new-born child is entitled to receive a box full of new born essentials needed for a good start in life. This has allowed for a universal start for every new-born without them falling straight into a poverty trap, as well as reducing the risk of cot death SNP (2017). In 2018, 52,065 benefited from the scheme. When evaluating these policies, it can be viewed that poverty is a significant issue, but these successful schemes are allowing for Child poverty to be reduced.

Food poverty has also become a significant issue in Scotland where many families have been unable to even purchase food necessities. According to the Trussell Trust (2018) in Scotland 170,625 emergency foodbank parcels were provided. When referring to the UK in 2013/14 and 2017/18 there has been 419,416 more food parcels were distributed. The increased number of emergency food parcels which were given is a clear example of how food poverty is an issue.

However, recently the Scottish Government introduced free school meals for P1-P3 children to tackle food poverty. This means every child between P1-P3 is given free school meals regardless of circumstance SNP (2018). Furthermore, it has also allowed for young people to better undertake their education, as well the prevention of health defects such as malnutrition. The SNP have also announced that by 2021 2, 3- and 4-year olds in nursery will also be provided with meals to eradicate food poverty. This would successfully tackle food poverty which affects young people in education.

However, is this policy effective? For many young people above P3 who receive free school meals can firstly become a target for exclusion. This could further affect a young person’s mentality as they are now made to feel ashamed of their outcome. As well as this, free school meals universally do not ensure that people who need these meals get them – for example many free school meals recipients may not attend school in the first due to poverty as they cannot afford a school uniform. This policy could also mean that individuals who do not require these meals are using up Government funds to their advantage due to this free facility available. Therefore, it could be argued that the Government requires an advanced approach to allow for food poverty to be tackled including an approach which helps those who are not in education.

In Scotland the issue of Period Poverty is also significant. Young Scot (2018) found in a Scotland wide survey with 457 respondents that 25.5% found it difficult to access sanitary products and 42.9% of these people stated it was due to financial issues. In 2017, MSP Monica Lennon stated that many young girls, women and some trans people find it difficult to obtain sanitary products, this either being due to the fact there is financial issues or that there is a lack of resources in educational institutions. She also stated that many young girls feel embarrassed when requesting sanitary products from a staff member.

In 2017, Plan International (2017) found in their UK wide research that 1 in 10 girls between 14-21 couldn’t afford sanitary wear, 15% of girls have struggled to access sanitary wear and 49% of young girls have all missed an entire day of school due to Period Poverty. This all states that poverty is still a problem in Scotland and due to the inability for females to buy these essentials they are depriving their education.

To tackle Period Poverty, The Scottish Government working with Monica Lennon MSP (Labour) passed legislation and created a £5.2 million scheme allowing for free sanitary towels in Schools, Colleges and Universities across Scotland. This has allowed for Period Poverty to be tackled for those in education preventing struggles of accessing these products. This policy tackles poverty in two ways, firstly by providing access to these essential female needs, and secondly ensuring that young people are not missing out on education allowing for the best outcomes possible. Scotland is the first country in the world to provide these free products and this can be valued as a successful scheme in tackling Poverty in Scotland.

On one hand, it can be argued that poverty is undoubtably still an issue in Scotland, the high rates of child poverty in Scotland backed up shocking statistics that Glasgow Central has the 12th highest child poverty rate in UK is clear indicator that poverty is still a problem. Other types of poverty such as fuel poverty are also a reflective part of the poverty problem in Scotland although not referred to. On the other hand, it can also be evaluated that Government policy such as free school meals and sanitary products are helping for those in education and young people in poverty.

Overall it can be evaluated that poverty is still an issue in Scotland, however, as established a large amount of poverty which affects young people and those in education is being tackled, but for the poverty problem to be tackled fully the government must create policy for wider sections of society such as the elderly, the poor and the homeless.

16 August 2021
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